Securing the Mail: Batten Down the Hatches With Groupwise

Groupwise is a quiet performer, but it's no more immune from spam or passing viruses along to your users than any other mail platform. Dee-Ann LeBlanc covers the basics of battening down Groupwise.

 By Dee-Ann LeBlanc
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Novell Netware is still a strong player in today's IT industry. However, when we talk about viruses and spam, this software family rarely gets mentioned. You can chalk one reason for this up to the fact that virus makers target what they perceive to be the most popular software and operating systems, and items that are supposed to be "unbreakable" (you'd think we would have learned not to claim any package is unbreakable after the Titanic).

However, these facts don't excuse Novell mail administrators from making sure that their servers are properly secured, and their users are properly protected. In fact, it behooves Novell mail administrators to take extra caution just to stay off the "worst reputation" list.

Locking Spammers out of Groupwise
One of the biggest reasons we have so much spam today is that too many mail administrators leave gaping holes in their server setups. Don't be one of these people. The technical issue is that of leaving the ability to "relay" open for all comers, which means that anyone can bounce mail off of your mail server as though it was coming from you, instead of them. This is how spammers do their dirty work, and why all of the complaints then come to you rather than them.

In order to make sure that you haven't left the door open, or that someone before didn't throw it open before you arrived, you'll need to make use of the Groupwise Internet Agent. This software has an Access Control feature that lets you lock down your mail server against spammers using it as a relay.

To do so, examine your Default Class of Service first to ensure that you or someone else didn't open up its permissions too widely by telling it to accept and send messages from everyone on the planet. Then, make sure that no one's created a Class that opens up those doors rather than learning how to properly let specific people or groups relay but no one else.

Blocking Incoming Spam with Groupwise
Some companies have usage policies that actually cut down the amount of incoming spam, such as not using the company account to surf the Web or to do other things that might get an address harvested. If your users don't have a big problem with incoming spam then count yourself lucky, and start contacting writers or editors to tell them how you're managing it! However, if you're like most of us and both you and your users are getting buried in the stuff, there are some helpful third party tools and services available.

First of all, there's Novell's partners. Go to http://www.novell.com/products/groupwise/partners/security.html to see what they have to offer not just on the spam-blocking front, but on various other security-related areas as well. In addition, check out MailWise Filter and MIMESweeper when researching ways to cut down on the amount of spam that comes into your office.

If spam has become a nuisance in your workplace, then you may find that management is willing to give over some of their budget toward lessening that burden. Especially if their own mailboxes are overflowing with advice on how to help smuggle money out of Nigeria, and get various bodily extensions.

Stopping Viruses with Groupwise
No one likes to deal with viruses. Whether you're a computer guru or just know how to turn the machine on and use a word processor, computer viruses can be the bane of your existence. As the administrator, you have the additional hassle of having to clean up after other people's messes after they trigger a virus, or merely think they did. Fortunately, Novell's Groupwise has plenty of antivirus solutions available.

Save yourself and your staff a lot of headaches. Scan email and attachments as they pass through your mail server, so you can take care of viruses before they ever reach an end user's computer. There are a number of programs that add virus-scanning capabilities to Groupwise. Some of these items are detailed on the Novell Partners page. Another product is InoculateIT.

There's really no excuse for leaving viruses for your end users to deal with. Take some control of your network, and what comes in and out of it.

Wrapping Up
As a network administrator, you probably feel sometimes like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Even five minutes of downtime is enough to set your phones ringing with calls all the way from the mailroom to the boardroom. As if you didn't have enough trouble, now there's so much spam that even the folks who would rather stick a pen in their eye than use a computer know exactly what spam is in computer-ese, and hate it just as much as you do.

It seems the only way to protect from spam and viruses these days is to unplug your network from the rest of the world, and then remove all of the drives that let people add any new software or data. Obviously, this is not considered a viable solution in most situations. At the very least, there are three things you can do: make sure your own mail server isn't contributing to the spam problem, try various methods of blocking incoming spam from reaching your users, and use additional software to scan for and block incoming and outgoing viruses.

There's nothing quite like a quiet phone in the admin office.

This article was originally published on Aug 5, 2002
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