Messaging Ninja Eases Exchange Security

For customers struggling with managing multiple security wares for Exchange, Sunbelt offers an easy-to-use, all-in-one, multi-layered solution.

How much time do your customers spend managing Exchange security? If they're like most companies, the answer is: A lot.

They not only need to deploy and manage firewalls, they also need to integrate top-notch anti-virus, anti-spam and anti-phishing tools into the mix. Take into account that many organizations deploy best-of-breed solutions that don't necessarily work well together, and it's no surprise that Exchange admins can quickly become overwhelmed with petty day-to-day maintenance issues.

But what if you could alleviate that pressure by suggesting a comprehensive, easy-to-manage, all-in-one tool that not only works well, but promises to cut the amount of time your customers spend maintaining Exchange security? Messaging Ninja from Clearwater, Fla.-based Sunbelt Software is just such a tool.

Designed specifically for Exchange, Ninja is a set of integrated software plug-ins designed to run on the Exchange Server and handle a multitude of protective functions, including:

  • Anti-virus
  • Anti-spam
  • Anti-phishing
  • Disclaimers
  • Attachment filtering
Sunbelt Messaging
Ninja 2.1

Sunbelt Software
March 2007
Pricing includes the first year of maintenance and starts at $184.95 for five mailboxes, with a sliding scale discount based on number of mailboxes. A free 30-day trial is available.

Because the software stops attacks at the server, it tends to reduce both network traffic and the amount of time users need to spend managing their inboxes. In addition, there's no client software to deploy and maintain. And because it's designed as a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in, it offers easy, one-console, policy-based management that lets your customers manage e-mail security policies in an efficient, granular way.

The core Ninja product includes anti-virus, anti-spam and anti-phishing software, as well as software for managing e-mail disclaimers and for filtering e-mail attachments.

A Layered Approach
Ninja comes with two anti-virus engines -- one from Authentium Inc. and the other from BitDefender LLC -- and it keeps both tools' signature files up to date automatically. Like the rest of the solution, the anti-virus capability is policy-based, so customers can set scanning parameters -- including enabling or disabling individual scan engines -- and set desired actions in response to detected infections. It also lets users disinfect or quarantine only the infected portions of an e-mail, rather than just stripping out all the attachments. Both sender and receiver notifications can be set for any viral activity detected.

A key differentiator with Ninja is its comprehensive attachment filtering. Using something it calls Suspicious Mail Attachment Removal Technology (SMART), Ninja filters all attachments based on e-mail direction -- inbound, outbound or within the organization. So, for example, it can be set to remove 100 percent of suspicious attachments coming into an organization, but can use other less-draconian policies for outgoing or internal e-mails. It also doesn't just filter by file extension, such as .TXT or .EXE; instead, it examines files internally to determine their true identities. The company says this capability can stop "zero-day" attacks because the product isn't fooled by files that have simply been renamed with less-malicious-sounding extensions.

The anti-spam portion of Ninja also uses two different engines, one from Cloudmark Inc. and one from Sunbelt itself called the Sunbelt Advanced Spam Filter. The filters are tuned to detect specific spammer tricks, allowing them to catch new types of spam, such as images and embedded content, HTML and foreign-language spam. That image-spam capability is especially important, as more spammers try to circumvent text-based filters by disguising their payload in images.

Sunbelt says its filter leverages a database of signatures based on a combination of message attributes unique to particular spammers. These signatures are added by actual people at Sunbelt, not automatically, which the company says helps ensure that signatures are valid and block spam rather than important business e-mails. Ninja also supports Real-time Blackhole Lists (RBLs); using policies, it can be configured to handle offending e-mails by deletion, central quarantining, adding subject-line identification or sending to a custom folder in the end user's Exchange mailbox.

Ninja also protects against phishing attacks by helping determine if e-mail comes from legitimate addresses rather than spoofed ones. The software lets users use the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) to test whether a specific e-mail actually originated from its claimed domain.

New to Messaging Ninja version 2.1 is the ability to manage e-mail disclaimers, the little notes at the bottom of corporate e-mails that provide official company or legal information. Ninja lets users include global- and user-based disclaimers for all outbound Exchange e-mail, and administrators can configure policy-based disclaimers based on specific users, groups, domains or public folders. The user-based disclaimer feature lets users adjust their disclaimer statements according to a specific user or department. Ninja also prevents multiple disclaimers when replying or forwarding e-mails and gives administrators the ability to allow users to bypass disclaimers on a per-message basis. It also includes a set of disclaimer templates, including those for legal matters, virus warnings, copyright and other issues.

The Competition
Sunbelt Ninja's competition is formidable and includes such security heavyweights as Symantec's Mail Security for Exchange, McAfee's GroupShield for Microsoft Exchange, GFI Mail Essentials and Mail Security, Barracuda Spam Firewall and Microsoft Forefront for Exchange. All the competitors provide high-quality anti-virus and anti-spam technology, but few have the wide range of features and ease of use that Ninja offers.

For example, while Symantec Corp.'s server-based tool offers premium anti-virus and anti-spam, it doesn't provide MMC support and doesn't offer a comprehensive disclaimer-management tool.

McAfee Inc. offers a potent blend of top-notch anti-virus-, anti-spam-, anti-phishing-and disclaimer-management capabilities, as well as integrated content filtering. But it doesn't use multiple anti-virus and anti-spam engines and it requires a separate management console, the McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator.

GFI Software Mail Essentials and Mail Security together handle anti-spam, including catching image spam, anti-phishing and anti-virus, and offer e-mail management tools such as disclaimers and Internet-mail monitoring. The products also can be used on mail servers other than Exchange. But protection requires two separate tools, only one of which Mail Essentials is MMC-compatible.

Barracuda Networks' Spam Firewall is a hardware/software combo that provides anti-virus, anti-spam, anti-phishing, anti-spoofing and anti-spyware capabilities. Because it's an appliance, the product is easy to deploy, but it also requires a separate management console and doesn't offer more comprehensive mail-management tools such as disclaimers.

Perhaps the most potent competitor is Microsoft, with its Microsoft Forefront for Exchange Server. That product uses five different anti-virus engines and its own Exchange-specific anti-spam tools to offer a comprehensive security front. Still, Microsoft is not known for being best-of-breed in security and the tool also doesn't offer other e-mail management such as disclaimers and policy-based attachment filtering.

Marketing and Sales
Sunbelt provides a host of marketing and sales tools on its Web site. The best starting point: The documents page. Here you'll find Ninja datasheets and other documentation, including a Quick Start guide that steps you and your customers through the process of deploying Ninja. Other resources include a comprehensive set of competitor comparison data and a couple of webinars that explain Ninja's anti-spam features and its overall security posture.

There are also links to white papers on topics such as how to deploy Ninja in a cluster and how Ninja works and can be deployed in the new Exchange 2007 environment.

Spotlight Highlights

Key Features

  • Provides integrated anti-spam, anti-virus, disclaimers and attachment filtering for Microsoft Exchange environments
  • Server-based architecture saves user resources and bandwidth
  • Manages based on directional flow, including outbound, inbound and intra-company messaging
  • Microsoft Management Console (MMC) plug-in makes it easy to install and manage
  • Policy-based architecture allows for granular messaging control


  • Symantec Mail Security for Microsoft Exchange
  • McAfee GroupShield for Microsoft Exchange
  • GFI Mail Essentials and Mail Security
  • Barracuda Spam Firewall
  • Microsoft Forefront for Exchange Server

Opportunity Assessment

  • Can be attractive to customers seeking all-in-one ease of use and those looking for layered security
  • Unique policy-based disclaimers and true attachment filtering save customers time and money

The Final Word
Options abound for customers struggling to provide comprehensive security for their all-important Exchange environments. Unfortunately, many of those options require your customers to juggle multiple-point products and client software and cause other maintenance headaches. Sunbelt's Messaging Ninja stands out from the pack thanks to its ease of deployment and administration. Because it takes a layered approach to security, utilizing multiple anti-virus and anti-spam engines, and because it's designed as an integrated set of server-side plug-ins that can be managed directly from the MMC, Messaging Ninja ends up being fairly easy to deploy, manage and administer.

And that means that Ninja will end up saving your customers not only time and headaches, but money as well -- after all, ease of administration translates directly to a lower overall cost per user.