Emirates Bank invests in e-mail filtering solution

E-mail has become an essential communication tool for most enterprises. However, as its use has increased, so has the number of offensive, inappropriate, infected and junk mails. Emirates Bank International (EBI), however, is overcoming all of these problems by implementing a solution from MessageLabs.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  August 31, 2003

EBI invests in MessageLabs|~||~||~|E-mail has become an essential communication tool for most enterprises. However, as its use has increased, so has the number of offensive, inappropriate and junk mails. Furthermore, the proliferation of viruses, and the frequency with which they affect enterprises, has been facilitated by the platform.

Emirates Bank International (EBI), however, is overcoming all of these problems by implementing a solution from MessageLabs. The financial institution is redirecting the e-mails of its 1500 staff via the security solutions provider, which is filtering, cleaning and quarantining messages with pornographic, inappropriate, unwanted or infected material.

“MessageLabs [offers] a cyber solution over the internet and they provide three major services — antivirus, anti-porn and anti-spam,” confirms Muhammed Aslam Malik, manager, network & communications, information technology group, Emirates Bank International.

“Our e-mails are re-routed to the MessageLabs’ towers, which function 24 hours a day. They are automated, unmanned towers, but they are highly secure,” he continues.

MessageLabs uses a scanning engine known as Skeptic to check and filter the content of e-mails. For example, the engine monitors e-mail behaviour and quarantines any messages that act suspiciously or contain unknown attachments, which could be viruses. In the case of EBI, the security provider is contracted to deliver 100% virus-free e-mails.

“The Skeptic engine not only searches for viruses in the e-mail but it looks at the behaviour to see if the mail is acting funny or if the attachment is something that isn’t recognisable,” Malik says.

“If it [an e-mail] is found to be suspect, the engine quarantines it in the database. We have the access rights for our e-mails so we can [enter] the quarantine folder to retrieve required and cleaned messages,” he adds.

Furthermore, the engine enables EBI to improve network efficiency by cutting out unnecessary e-mails that contain bandwidth intensive sound, video or image files. The system is also able to recognise the content of pictures and can identify whether images feature body parts or if subjects are clothed or unclothed.

The system also provides EBI with flexibility in terms of the filter settings. For example, the financial institution has a property management division, Union Properties, which receives e-mails containing pictures of buildings or architect drawings and the engine can detect these and forwards them on to the recipient.

“The message scanning system is robust, so it looks into the image and detects automatically if the image is a body part or a building, for example, and it stops any skin images,” says Malik.

The engine is also able to scan the text content of e-mails to filter out spam. Furthermore, EBI’s system administrators can add unwanted e-mail addresses or remove legitimate addresses from the junk mail filter.

“MessageLabs has a built in database that keeps a record of the major worldwide junk senders and any message [that comes] from a junk mailer address, it blocks and quarantines,” says Malik.

The system was set up with support from MessageLabs local partner, Seven Seas Computers, and Malik says the process was straightforward, requiring only a simple reconfiguration. E-mails were being redirected to MessageLabs within 48 hours of signing the agreement.

Furthermore, the system is already proving beneficial. In its three months of operation, the solution has already reduced the strain on EBI’s IT staff and systems. The IT team no longer have to manually check and monitor staff e-mails to ensure that they are not contravening the company’s security and user policies.

“Using these services has optimised our network utilisation. Previously, all the messages were hitting our systems and using our resources. Now, the e-mails go first to MessageLabs, so the major junk goes there, is filtered out and than redirected to EBI after scanning. It reduces the unwanted load on our network,” explains Malik.||**||

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