Email-borne computer viruses have increased exponentially over the years. Countless amounts of time and money have been spent in an effort to find ways to combat the ever-increasing amount of malicious and annoying e-mail that travels the internet.
SPAM has grown to be so much of a problem that according to several internet studies, nearly one half of all e-mail messages are some form of unsolicited bulk mail. Along with the rise of SPAM, new methods of identity theft, a much more destructive threat, have come to fruition. Identity theft is achieved by sending an unsuspecting user a message (nicknamed a "phishing" message) appearing to come from a legitimate institution (banks, eBay, the government, etc...) asking you for personally identifiable information, such as PIN numbers, credit card numbers, social security numbers, passwords, and the like. In reality this information is not given to your institution, rather it is transmitted to a server, often located out of the country, where thieves go through the collected information and use it for their own benefit, leaving you with credit card debt, bad credit ratings, and a lot more problems.
Along with this, people have begun to send computer programs via e-mail that are intended to do harm when they are run. These are nicknamed "viruses" because they "infect" your computer. These viruses are destructive in nature, and depending on which specific virus you may encounter, varying levels of damage can occur.
A large number of these messages are detectable by either looking at the message body for misspellings and/or grammatical errors (usually since the messages are written overseas) and/or attached files that look suspicious. A good rule of thumb to go by when trying to be careful online is to know that institutions will never ask you to transmit personal information via e-mail, and rarely will they actually say that your account has a "problem" with it and ask you to "click here" to fix it.
But with all these problems, where does outerHOST come in? We're glad you asked! Over the past year we have been testing and fine-tuning or SPAM-fighting capabilities so you don't even have to deal with it. We have one of the most comprehensive solutions to SPAM, viruses, phishing, and other common problems (trojans, backdoors, etc...) in the industry!
We employ the Katharion SPAM/Virus filtering service on our e-mail front to cut back significantly on the number of bulk messages delivered to outerHOST customers. Katharion is quickly becoming a respected industry leader, the millions of emails per day that they process makes for a hefty SPAM-fighting database. All outerHOST customers are entitled to this effective SPAM filtering solution on a complimentary basis.
Messages suspected of being SPAM are placed into an isolated area that can be monitored via a web browser or through a periodic "digest" of SPAM messages delivered to your inbox. All other messages (ones not identified as SPAM) are then transmitted to the outerHOST mail server. This entire process happens in just a few seconds, ensuring minimal delay when messages are being delivered.
In September of 2005 we rolled out the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) technology on all of our customer e-mail accounts. In short, it is a method of preventing e-mail forgery that relies upon the other mail systems on the internet to check if the host that transmitted the message is allowed to send mail from the domain name (yahoo.com, comcast.net, aol.com, etc...) it came from. The remote server will then perform a lookup on the sender's domain name itself and see what e-mail servers the domain owners specified "allowed to send mail". If the check passes, the message is considered genuine and is allowed into the remote server. If the check fails, the message is considered a forgery and discarded or isolated. We perform the same functions ourself to prevent acceptance of forged mail.
The SPF method is very nice, but has its various shortcomings. To try and address these shortcomings, we implemented the DomainKeys technology, developed by Mark Delany of Yahoo!, Inc., on January 1, 2006 which works in a very similar way, but instead uses the "public key" and "private key" encryption methods, which are the backbone of the industry-standard SSL technology used to protect websites that deal in financial transactions (Click here to read about this). When a message is sent from an outerHOST account, our server appends an encrypted algorithm to the headers of the message that is used by the destination server to determine it's validity immediately before it leaves our server. One of the advantages DomainKeys offers is the ability to prevent tampering with an e-mail. The algorithm in the message acts as a way to protect the message content. If even a single letter in the message content is modified, the DomainKeys authentication is then invalid. The remote server that handles mail for the recipient then can perform a lookup on the sender's domain which will return another algorithm that, when processed with the message's algorithm, returns a pass or fail.
In addition to appending DomainKeys, outerHOST also checks incoming messages for DomainKeys to determine the validity of incoming mail as well. Using DomainKeys virtually eliminates forged e-mail appearing, but in fact not coming from, a certain institution.
outerHOST is committed to preventing SPAM, viruses, and so on from our end, but it is also necessary to secure the computer on your end. For that, you should look into our Consulting services by clicking that under the Products and Services menu.