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Microsoft Details Security Upgrade For Exchange

Microsoft Chief Software Architect Bill Gates outlined on Wednesday upcoming enhancements to Exchange Server that are designed to better protect mail servers deployed at the edge of enterprise environments from spam and viruses.

The upgrade, which goes by the name of Exchange Edge Services, will feature an enhancement to the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) Message Transfer Agent (MTA), or "relay" software within Exchange to put up an SMTP firewall between the enterprise's internal e-mail system and the Internet.

When it rolls out in 2005 -- one analyst expects to see it in about a year from now -- Exchange Edge Services will filter spam and offensive content, block viruses, reject messages from specified SMTP addresses (in a "blacklist"-style method), and verify sender addresses. Some of the functions will be integral to Edge Services, while others are expected to be provided by third-party security vendors using a newly-developed set of application programming interfaces, or APIs, that Microsoft will make available.

"The viability of e-mail as we know it is threatened by the constant deluge of information that companies receive daily and hourly. Exchange Edge Services will be a comprehensive way for customers to better protect their Exchange e-mail infrastructure and improve the efficiency of the handling of the tremendous amounts of incoming and outgoing e-mail traffic," said Paul Flessner, Microsoft's senior vice president of its server platform division in a statement from the RSA Conference, where Microsoft touted Exchange Edge Services.

Exchange Edge Services will integrate Microsoft's current anti-spam effort, dubbed Exchange Intelligent Message Filter, which although announced in November, 2003, has not yet been released. Down the road, Gates promised, Edge Services will also implement the Caller ID anti-spam specification, a new e-mail authentication concept that Microsoft also unveiled Wednesday at the conference.

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