When Spam Attacks!
A Barracuda firewall takes a big bite out of
Eastside Christian School’s spam problem.
4 Gateway Security
There was a period of time last summer when the 100-member staff of
instructors and church administrators at Eastside Christian School collectively
averaged more than 20,000 pieces of incoming e-mail each day.
Luckily, this overwhelming abundance, which clearly would have clogged
the inboxes of the staff, was reduced to just 2,000 or so legitimate messages.
The church’s staff can thank a highly effective gateway security solution
deployed by the Marietta, Ga. school for the reduction in spam.
Previously plagued by significant spam issues, the 350-student school has
found both peace of mind and a solid security plan with the Barracuda
Spam Firewall. For Eastside Christian, the Barracuda’s ability to optimize
the processing of each incoming e-mail and maximize performance by
sorting through millions of messages per day makes it a good fit for them.
The Barracuda is joined on the frontlines by a multi-threat
security appliance and Norton Antivirus loaded on every server
“It’s like having three layers of offensive linemen,” explains Bill Bailey,
business systems administrator for the school and church. “The bad guys
never get to the quarterback.”
The Ongoing Spam Threat
With e-mail being such an indispensable tool to education institutions for
communication between students, parents, faculty and administrators, the
importance of safeguarding content has never been more critical. Among
higher education institutions, students rely on e-mail for key functions such
as e-learning, registering for classes and communicating with professors on
homework projects or upcoming exams.
Yet it is the K-12 institutions in particular that face the unique challenge
of preventing explicit e-mail content from reaching students, while keeping
e-mail productive and effective for administrators.
Unfortunately, Eastside Christian School is not alone in its quest to slay
spam. A 2004 MessageLabs Intelligence Email Security Report revealed that
more than 73 percent of some 12.6 billion e-mails scanned were identified
as spam — and the number is steadily climbing.
Spam messages sent daily worldwide reportedly jumped from 7 billion
in 2002 to 23 billion in 2004, according to a report from IDC, a global
provider of market intelligence, advisory services and events. In the
document, Internet service providers and antispam companies report that
these uninvited messages currently represent a staggering 50 percent to 95
percent of all inbound Internet e-mail.
Even worse, the nuisance comes at a staggering price tag for U.S.
organizations. In 2005 alone, spam rang up an estimated $17 billion in
lost productivity costs, coupled with the expense of measures to fight it,
according to Ferris Research based in San Francisco.
Setting E-mail Thresholds
At Eastside Christian School, the Barracuda is currently blocking close to
90 percent of the organization’s incoming e-mail, Bailey reports. Providing a
powerful, easy-to-use and affordable solution with protection against spam,
viruses, spoofing, phishing, spyware and denial of service (DoS) threats, the
integrated hardware and software solution was selected by the school in
large part because of its easy manageability.
With a built-in scoring system that allows the administrator to rate
incoming mail on a threat basis of 1 to 10, the Barracuda is able to deftly
Bill Bailey target incoming spam and avoid legitimate messages. Whether an e-mail
Business Systems Administrator is granted or denied access is determined by a variety of user-established
Eastside Christian School thresholds, such as particular content, intent or banned words.
Marietta, Ga. “My thresholds are pretty tight. I don’t allow anything over a 3.7 to go
through,” Bailey acknowledges. “It’s great being able to set the parameters
to block any piece of mail that scores at whatever level you set it to.” 4
Gateway Security 5
When a message is snapped up by Eastside Christian’s IP reputation analysis, sender authentication, recipient
firewall, the intended recipient will receive the message with verification, virus scanning, user-specified rules, spam
a “suspected spam” warning attached, provided the e-mail is fingerprint check, intent analysis, image analysis, Bayesian
rated between 2.7 and 3.7. analysis and rule-based scoring.
For anything that ranks 3.8 or higher, the message is not Furthermore, unlike software solutions, the Barracuda Spam
delivered and a notification is sent back advising the sender Firewall reduces the load placed on the e-mail server by
that the e-mail was tagged as “suspected spam.” At that off-loading both spam and virus filtering. In addition, all
point, a legitimate correspondent can call the school to Barracuda Spam Firewall models include essential outbound
resolve the problem. filtering techniques such as attachment scanning, virus
“Then we just go in and find out why it was blocked,” filtering, rate controls and encryption. These features help
explains Bailey. “It’s very easy.” organizations ensure that all outgoing e-mail is legitimate and
With no software to install and no modifications required
Numerous Protection Features to existing e-mail systems, installation of the Barracuda Spam
Compatible with all e-mail servers, the Barracuda Spam Firewall is quick and easy, a fact that was especially appealing
Firewall can accommodate virtually any education or to Bailey.
government organization, whether small or large. A single Once installed, the system administrator uses the intuitive
firewall is capable of handling up to 30,000 active e-mail Web interface for monitoring and maintenance, with the
users, with the option of clustering together multiple units for Barracuda automatically updating with the latest spam and
even greater capacity and high availability.
virus definitions on an hourly basis, facilitating minimal
The Barracuda safeguards e-mail servers with 12 defense maintenance to the unit while eliminating administrative
layers, including network DoS protection, rate control, overhead. Updates are provided by Barracuda Central, an
Gateway Security Solutions
There are a variety of different solutions to bolster gateway that capture sensitive information, and those that are not
security. Which solutions are right for your organization? work-related or appropriate.
The vital process of properly securing your network begins • E-mail and spam filtering: Spam filtering, which can
at the gateway. In order to effectively keep unauthorized block unwanted e-mail from entering a user’s inbox, can
users at bay, as well as prevent viruses and malicious code significantly reduce the impact of unwanted e-mail traffic
from entering your systems, it is critical to deploy multilayer on your network. More importantly, spam filtering can
technologies as your first and best line of defense. prevent users from unknowingly opening what appears to
be a legitimate e-mail and compromising your security in
Which weapons are the optimal choices to include in your the process.
arsenal? Consider the following:
• Intrusion prevention system (IPS): IPS, a software-based
• Firewalls: Firewalls, which are available as either software product that examines the content coming into the
or a hardware appliance, provide an excellent frontline network more closely than a firewall can, is another key
defense by preventing unwanted traffic from entering component of gateway and network security. With the
the network. Designed to block unauthorized access to ability to search for known methods of attack, IPS can
a private network via the Internet, a firewall examines help thwart new or previously unknown methods of attack
all traffic as it enters or leaves the network, obstructing before antivirus signatures are even available.
any messages that do not meet criteria specified by the
administrator. IPS also allows administrators to fine-tune settings so the
software looks for attacks that target only the platforms
However, because firewalls generally block traffic based and applications used by a particular organization, helping
on an IP address or a port number, this tool alone cannot organizations to operate most efficiently.
thwart all unwelcome visitors.
• Data encryption: Encrypting both the data and e-mails
• Content filtering: Another effective security measure is on your network further boosts security, as information
content filtering, which proactively blocks Web sites that captured or obtained by hackers will be rendered useless.
are known to contain malicious code, as well as fake sites
6 Gateway Security
Easy Spam-prevention Solutions
There are a variety of simple measures that e-mail consumers box in order to opt out.
can take to reduce the amount of spam that infiltrates their
inbox, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). To • Consider using two e-mail addresses. By using a separate
help ward off unwelcome communications, make sure you address for personal messages and one for newsgroups
are following these guidelines: and/or chat rooms, you reduce the likelihood of an
avalanche of spam invading your personal inbox. A
• Avoid displaying your e-mail address in public. This includes disposable e-mail address service can create a separate
newsgroup postings, chat rooms, Web sites or online e-mail address and forward messages to another account.
service membership directories.
• Use a unique e-mail address. Spammers use “dictionary
a Web site. If a company sells e-mail addresses, you may large ISPs or e-mail services, hoping to find a valid address.
want to opt out of this provision, if possible, or refrain from Thus, a common name such as “jdoe” may get more spam
logging your e-mail on a site that will not protect your than a unique name like “jd51x02oe.”
• Use an e-mail filter. E-mail accounts often provide a tool to
• Read and understand the entire form before transmitting filter out potential spam or a way to channel spam into a
personal information through a Web site. While some bulk e-mail folder.
sites allow users to opt out of receiving e-mails from their
partners, others may require you to uncheck a preselected
advanced 24x7 security operations center that works to Although Bailey acknowledges that he has not officially
continuously monitor and block the latest Internet threats. tracked any return on investment with the spam firewall, he
“It keeps everyone a little happier because we don’t have feels that the device is clearly worth its weight in gold. “It
to battle with trashy spam,” Bailey says of the solution, has eliminated all of the problems we were having,” he points
noting that prior to implementing its gateway security system, out. “I don’t have anything negative at all to say about the
Eastside Christian was receiving an unwelcome barrage of X- Barracuda product — only positive.”
rated e-mail communications.
The systems administrator is equally enthusiastic about
However, Bailey reports that this nuisance has now been his working relationship with CDW•G. In addition to the
virtually eliminated. “You don’t want to receive that stuff gateway security solution, Bailey has acquired numerous
to begin with,” he acknowledges, “but particularly not in a hardware products from CDW•G over the years, as well as
church and school environment.” software solutions and licensing.
Furthermore, since deploying the Barracuda solution, the
“We’ve been really pleased with CDW•G,” he says. “I
school has not endured a single virus infection. “We used
always get great service there. My number one choice is to
to get viruses from time to time,” Bailey says. “But the
Barracuda checks for that, too, and has helped reduce them.” purchase from CDW•G, as everyone there has always been
Bailey also praises the product knowledge, attention to detail
Less Spam = Greater Productivity
and responsiveness that he receives from his account manager,
Between warding off spam and eliminating virus attacks, Brian Keilers. “Brian has been very helpful and easy to work
the appliance has contributed to increased productivity for with,” he adds.
the school’s staff, not to mention some much-needed peace of
mind. “The staff doesn’t have to deal with this stuff in their Furthermore, the school is able to make its purchasing
mailboxes anymore,” Bailey says. “It’s an added benefit to dollars go further with its educational nonprofit status and
our network to have this Barracuda device.” very competitive pricing afforded by CDW•G.
To find technology products related to this article on gateway security,
please see page 11 of this catalog or visit CDWG.com/security.
Gateway Security 7