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As Chairman of the Anti-Spam Research Group of the IETF, Paul Judge's role of CTO at CipherTrust could leave him more than a little open to criticism, since it is he who is responsible for the product that CipherTrust deliver, writes John McIntosh, of Bloor Research.

Judge joined the Company co-founded by Jay Chaudhry (latterly of Verisign) to develop an integrated messaging gateway appliance, IronMail.

Based on a hardened implementation of BSD UNIX, IronMail is offered as a secure high-performance application-level proxy gateway that addresses the threats posed by spam, viruses and undesirable content.

IronMail is interesting because it takes a layered approach backed by a unified policy manager to ensure security is applied appropriately at all layers.

The architecture takes the foundation of a robust mail gateway one step further by adding Mail-Firewall and Mail-IDS to the MTA functions such as message parse and message routing, onto which are bolted the application security functions.

The IronMail appliance is shipped as a black box device, usually bought for its firewall and IDS capabilities. It doesn't take customers too long to figure out that they can ditch a fairly large number of point devices in favour of IronMail's (optional and licence key-activated) features for spam, anti-virus (from McAfee and Sophos), Secure WebMail, and Secure Delivery.

Secure WebMail offers secure browser-based access to email and internal applications and is compatible with Lotus iNotes, GroupWise and Outlook Web Access. It is designed, claims the Company, to protect against a range of mail threats, including cross-packet attacks, directory traversal attacks, path obfuscation, shell access attacks, and database access attacks.

Secure Delivery provides a system of encryption tools, filters and email policies to protect corporate information. IronMail enables gateway-to-gateway encryption of incoming and outgoing messages. It offers a decent amount of flexibility through support of Server-Side PGP and Server-Side S/MIME.

IronMail's VPN capabilities can provide policy-driven, transparent server-to-server protection and secure connections to email clients, including Netscape Messenger, Outlook and Outlook Express.

While IronMail appears to offer a high level of security, these things are often more easily said than proved. Common Criteria evaluation is almost mandatory for security appliance vendors, not through user demands but competitive pressures. CipherTrust are no exception and IronMail is about to enter evaluation to EAL4.

One of the strengths of IronMail is the accompanying unified policy manager that allows message management based on a number of different factors including content, addressee, domain, URL, protocol, sensitivity and so on. While not in itself unique, is still better than some.

CipherTrust, through Paul Judge's work, is particularly strong when it comes to anomaly detection by developing rules that profile behaviour and which can offer a predictive approach. This is supported by Enterprise Spam Profiling that places a confidence value on whether a message is spam or not based on accuracy and effectiveness metrics developed by CipherTrust.

A relatively new development in the fight against spam is Bayesian modeling. This gives a probability measure derived through analysing and contrasting the language of spam against that of legitimate messages. Judge claims that if it is implemented properly, Bayesian techniques are highly effective. However, they should not be relied on any more than any other technique.

CipherTrust's current development thrust is on extending support for different protocols for Instant Messaging and Wireless, looking at the best way to address Web Services and XML, and is very much focused on today's problems - such as spam and gateway protection.

It would be good to see CipherTrust continue to develop its already rich policy expression, as it has many applications and could be usefully linked into an archiving system that the Company currently lacks. This is something for which it is seeking a partner.

CipherTrust has done well in product reviews Stateside, including the highest detection of spam in the PC World test and Information Security's best of breed for secure gateway.

So it is no surprise that CipherTrust have gained an impressive list of customers in a relatively sort period of time. Competitors such as MailMarshall, Mirapoint and Aladdin, will not be pleased to see them come to Europe.

© IT-Analysis.com

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