ExchangeDefender Blog

ExchangeDefender has assisted partners and clients with migrations from third party platforms onto our award winning platform. On July 31st 2019, we will schedule our last third party migration onto the ExchangeDefender network and will only support them under special projects going forward.

We’re sure this will disappoint some of our clients and partners that have hoped to bring their clients to our network, unfortunately this work is simply too expensive to deliver free of charge. Over the years we have given our prospects incentives – free licensing, free third party migration tools, free hosting, etc and we were able to do so on the back of deep expertise across other platforms.

But just as we continue to decommission our own older versions of Exchange clusters and third party email systems, the rest of the world is doing likewise. We feel like everyone that was truly interested in a smooth transition has made or scheduled that move already. Clients that have waited on 5+ year old infrastructure probably did so because of customized workflows, third party integrations, older versions of integrated software that doesn’t support Exchange 2016/19, etc. Keeping the immense staging, data transfer, and consulting resources on hand for legacy platforms is expensive and is needed as we roll out new features for ExchangeDefender. SplitMX, Multiroute and duplicate delivery will no longer be supported by ExchangeDefender, on our network or on Office365/Google/3rdparty.

We’ve been mentioning the sun-setting of this service since early 2018, and if we’ve missed anyone there are still 2-3 weeks during which we can swing almost anything over. Past that, we will offer migrations to ExchangeDefender as a part of our enterprise services contract.

Thank you for your business and we’ll continue working hard to keep you in love with ExchangeDefender. If you want to join the fun, let us know by August 1st, 2019.

Today we’re happy to announce the launch of ExchangeDefender Self Service portal. You can find the application at https://www.ExchangeDefender.com/ss

We’d like to thank our partners and support clients for helping us identify issues and tasks that come up with our platform frequently. These simple tasks often require opening up a ticket, placing a phone call, verifying identity, etc and we’ve decided to give our users the power to manage these issues on their own.

What can you do with ExchangeDefender SS?

Unlock a Hosted Exchange account

Request a PTR bypass because of broken DNS

Get a PIN for phone support

Reset an ExchangeDefender Encryption account

Some of these tasks require multiple steps, but we feel it is easier to address them as a user than to float it up the typical IT support channel. For example, let’s assume you cannot get into your account because it got locked out due to a DDoS or hack attempt. Well, the user already types in their email address and password all day long, it’s easier for them to unlock the account by going to the site than to open up a ticket, place a call, provide all the information, wait, wait, test, etc – and we’ve heard our users loud and clear: You want more control. ExchangeDefender SS gives you that control – and makes it easier to get things done without having to talk to anyone.

Of course, these issues can also be done through the same old fashioned phone and ticket support (and we’d be happy to help you at https://support.ownwebnow.com) – but honestly, this way is quicker and if our Feedback inbox is any indication – the users demand it. We look forward to adding more functionality and making common problems easier to solve, quickly and efficiently through Self Service Portals – so keep on sending us feedback (available at the bottom of every page) and your suggestions.

It is our pleasure to introduce you to the ExchangeDefender Phishing Firewall support services. While the launch of the XDPF has been rocky, we’ve received nothing but glowing reviews about it and the potential behind it to solve other email related issues (more on that in the webinar). Now that most of the dust is settled, we’re moving on to expanding this service to better serve and protect our users and the first feature out of the gate is the most obvious question a user would ask their IT/security person:

“Is this link safe to click on?”

Prior to ExchangeDefender Phishing Firewall deployment, nobody would even think of such a question. You clicked, and if you clicked on something malicious, boom you’re pwn3d. Now you’re presented with the link, the path, and you suddenly have a choice to make: “Do I trust this site?” – well, sometimes it’s hard to guess and we’re here to help. When you click on an HTML link, you will be taken to the ExchangeDefender Security Center and there will be a new yellow button there labeled “Report Issue”:

If you click on the yellow button you will be presented with a form to provide additional comments and contact information. After you provide the minimal required information, a service request will be sent to a human being at ExchangeDefender that will evaluate the link for you:

We will basically look at the link and the email data (sender, charset, SPAM data, reputation) as well as the link destination. The link will be opened in a virtual sandbox environment and we will look for any obvious payload that is automatically downloaded or data requested from the browser. We will then report back to you in an email within 24 hours and let you know what we found.

Obviously, we will also be using the same form for any support or issue management, basically setting up the ExchangeDefender Phishing Firewall as a managed, supported, and facilitated service end-to-end.

We will be discussing this feature in far more detail during the webinar on July 10th, 2019: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/5418502553065819404 but in general terms this is a huge commitment to us that requires us to be available as a Security Officer whenever our clients need us. As a result of managing both the email and the web security incidents, we now have far more data and reputation information that can rely on to help secure our clients in near real-time. As it becomes harder and harder to know who to trust, businesses need security expertise and analysis provided on demand so they can get back to work – phishing is far too profitable and as the #1 attack vector leading to breaches and compromises, it is only going to get worse. With ExchangeDefender, you have a trusted partner that is there to help beyond just another automated security layer, our power is in the people.

Keeping up with ExchangeDefender subscriptions used to be relatively easy back in the day when everyone had their own server.. and while we still proudly support XDSync, the new usage scenarios and new platforms are making user management a chore for IT people and those in charge of reconciling billing alike.

Starting with July 2019, ExchangeDefender will automate the provisioning, billing, and enrollment of new users automatically.

How will it work? How ExchangeDefender will be monitoring outbound flow of mail from the organizations that are protected by ExchangeDefender. Whenever we encounter a new email address sending email, we will check the existing users table and if we find someone new we’ll start the enrollment process. It will work as follows:

(1) ExchangeDefender finds a new email address on a protected domain.

(2) ExchangeDefender creates a new account and provisions default domain security policy.

(3) ExchangeDefeneder sends the user a welcome email with an enrollment link.

(4) ExchangeDefender sends the domain administrator and CIO (or service provider) a notification.

That’s it, we’re keeping it that simple. And since you never get billed for ExchangeDefender accounts added in the middle of the month you can always correct any mistakes and lock down mailboxes that get created as a result of a security breach for example.

FAQ

Q: Will the bill for the new user be prorated?
A: We never bill during the partial month, so if you sign up a new user on the 14th, they will not be billed for the service for the part of the month.

Q: Will this automatically categorize printers, devices, etc?
A: Printers and smart devices are free if they are setup as an IoT device.

Q: What if this is just an alias on someone else’s account?
A: In ExchangeDefender, inbound aliases are free (terminated employees email addresses, vanity accounts, department or distribution groups, etc) as long as they are associated with another users account. If for some reason they both receive AND send mail, those accounts under our licensing model are indistinguishable from users and must be billed as such.

Q: Will I have the chance to review the new additions?
A: Yes, you will get an email from enrollment@exchangedefender.com when the account is added and remember, you will not be billed for it until the 1st of the month. So long as you delete the account more than 72 hours before the end of the month, it will not be billed.

Q: What will the user experience be like?
A: Identical to the way it is now. They will receive the same welcome email they would get if you manually added them at https://admin.exchangedefender.com

Q: So which address should they email to start the enrollment?
A: Any address you wish.

Q: How about automatically deleting accounts that aren’t being used? A: We are working on it. As we’re dealing with folks email (and compliance, encryption, archiving, contacts) automatic deletion is never a good idea but we realize that billing and account management is a pain. The way we’re currently designing it is with the expectation that the domain owner will set an inactive date in the portal. Any user that hasn’t sent email in the quarter or in a year (depending on policy) will automatically be removed from the active roster and you’ll be able to nuke them all through a review process.

It’s been about a decade since our last face-lift to the end-user facing part of ExchangeDefender – suffice to say, lot’s of cool new things are possible with the web technology that wasn’t possible in the past. So, allow me to introduce you to the ExchangeDefender Security Center!

As of Thursday, June 27th, when you attempt to release a SPAM message,
you will see our new security center:

Of course, yours will look a little different. If you have ExchangeDefender from a service provider, it may have their color scheme. You can still upload your own logo (at https://admin.exchangedefender.com).

The idea here is to help connect our self-service portals https://www.exchangedefender.com/ss, our chat, our alerts, and documentation into one spot so when an issue comes up we can help the end user right then and there.

Remember that all of this stuff is data driven, so if you’re one of our partners we encourage you to put up your own announcements, deploy the XD NOC for your organization so your branding is preserved, work with our account managers, etc.

Going forward, this will be the default view for unauthenticated connections – so WFS, Encryption Download, SPAM release, and the Phishing Firewall Redirect.

P.S. How do IP restrictions play into this? They don’t. If you have ExchangeDefender enabled only for Trusted Devices and admin portal locked down to the enterprise IP range, the site will still allow the user to release SPAM from the quarantine no matter where they are (think mobile device access). For other functionality, once they click on Login the same 2FA/OTP/Known Device/IP Restrictions are in play.

ExchangeDefender Phishing Firewall goes online tomorrow, and we wanted to explain our policy and our implementation of the URL rewriting/redirection because it is a departure from a traditional IT hierarchy where organizational policies override group and user requirements.

Our goal with ExchangeDefender PF is to provide a level of alert and notification to our clients that is designed to provide additional information about the link they clicked on. As we scale this service out, that will be it’s purpose: Be aware of what you clicked on, and prepare for what you’re about to see. Phishing, and spear phishing in particular, is designed to be a convincing fraudulent identity theft of an organization you know and trust (your bank, your coworker, your vendors) and our goal is to help you discern if something is valid or not.

Our whitelist/blacklist implementation is in line with “we inform, you decide” mantra, as we cannot outright block you from actually going to the dangerous site. That is the responsibility of your IT department, your network management, and your organization.

How do Whitelists and Blacklists work?

In ExchangeDefender we have 4 sets of whitelists and blacklists: user, domain/organization, service provider, and global. Our global lists are automatically populated for our service providers and when they protect a domain with ExchangeDefender, those entries are applied on the domain/organization level, and further down to the end user. As we continue to monitor, manage, and get additional intelligence about dangerous sites we will continue to curate these lists as a part of the service.

For example, we might find out that *.vlad8150.microsoft.net is a Microsoft Azure instance that is attempting to spread malware. We will promptly add it to our global blacklist and that site will now be blacklisted for every ExchangeDefender user. When they click on a link that leads them to that domain, they will see the ExchangeDefender PF notice with the URL in red. User will then have the option of ignoring it and proceeding to the site, or adding it to their whitelist. If they whitelist a domain/web site, any future requests will bypass ExchangeDefender PF web site and automatically redirect to the target URL.

The hierarchy of whitelists/blacklists is as follows, whichever rule is defined on the top is the one that is applied to the user when they click on a link.


But why, why not implement policies like NTFS, access list, or any other policy in which global deny rules override end user policies?

Simply put: Traffic blocking should be done on the network level. We are simply the alert service, we will advise you when we see something dangerous and it’s up to you to discern if the site is trustworthy or not. We believe that this implementation will cause the least amount of interruption to the day-to-day use.

That said, we have been working on additional controls and policies to help our service providers and CIO’s better enforce company security policies. As with everything, security policies must be implemented in layers – and dangerous content should be enforced in accordance to business requirements. This means that if your clients should not be downloading .exe files, the network firewall should be doing that. We don’t have the means to do that as an email service – users can right click on the email, put it in notepad, remove https://r.xdref.com/url= from the link and go straight to the web site.

How do we manage them?

ExchangeDefender PF whitelists are available at every level of ExchangeDefender. Simply add a site to either a whitelist and blacklist and ExchangeDefender will automatically propagate your rules down through the entire organization. Users will have the ability to add / block sites from the ExchangeDefender PF in real-time and their settings will be preserved in their account only.

Service Provider Level
Domain Level

P.S. Officially the service goes online tomorrow, unofficially it’s been in place for months we just haven’t rewritten a single URL except for the emails you received from us – we have worked very hard on the implementation and we don’t expect major problems but will have staff on hand around the clock to address any issues immediately. Spear phishing is an epidemic, over 90% of compromises start with a link in an email. We will handle any glitches, bugs, and issues as fast as possible and have full confidence that having an alerting service with potential problems is far more useful than having nothing and leaving clients exposed.

ExchangeDefender Phishing Firewall officially launches tomorrow, June 12th, 2019.

Every service provider and every user will be contacted with the information about the new service. Since some users may see the redirection site, we wanted to assure everyone was aware of the service, how it works, what it looks like, and what it does to protect them.

Note from Vlad: We hate changing the user experience. We understand that every time we change anything there will be an issue, folks don’t like having their cheese moved, I get it. However, this isn’t a futile exercise in self-promotion, up-selling, cross-selling, or useless noise: we are doing this to eliminate the problem that 90% of security compromises are triggered by. This implementation comes down to ethics: If I know that something is 90% likely to hurt you, and I have the means to protect you, and I choose to let you get hurt anyhow… why would you ever do business with me or ExchangeDefender? I understand we may lose some business over this, and I am willing to make less money in order to do a better job for people that trust us with their business.

Here are the answers to some questions we’ve already received:

Q: Does ExchangeDefender PF work on every device I receive email on?
A: Yes, ExchangeDefender PF automatically encodes all links sent through our system in HTML messages and redirects them through ExchangeDefender PF. This means that the link will be secured no matter which device you use to access your ExchangeDefender-protected email.

Q: Does ExchangeDefender PF protect me from non-email links?
A: ExchangeDefender only protects you from email links in HTML messages sent to your email address through ExchangeDefender. If your mail client downloads mail from 3rd party external services (Yahoo,
AOL, Microsoft, Google) that are not protected by ExchangeDefender, you will not be protected.

Q: Is ExchangeDefender PF available in ExchangeDefender Essentials?
A: ExchangeDefender PF is only available in ExchangeDefender Pro and ExchangeDefender Enterprise.

Q: Is there any way to turn off URL encoding for specific domains or users?
A: ExchangeDefender encodes the URL at the edge, as the message is being scanned for malware and other phishing forgeries.

Q: I don’t want to see the ExchangeDefender PF warning/site, can I bypass it?
A: Yes, you can simply whitelist the domain and ExchangeDefender PF will not be displayed. Whitelisted domains are automatically displayed without ExchangeDefender PF. ExchangeDefender maintains a list of known good/legitimate domains so the likelihood that you will see a dangerous (or questionable) website is very low. Additionally, your IT department or IT Solution Provider has access to organization-wide whitelist and can bypass ExchangeDefender PF to any site you need to visit.

Q: Is it possible to still get hacked/compromised even with ExchangeDefender PF?
A: ExchangeDefender PF simply applies your organizational policies to traffic and gives you additional information about the link you have clicked on. If you ignore warnings, or if you proceed to a dangerous site as a part of your organizational policy, you can still be compromised.

Q: Is there anything special I need to do on my network in order to support the redirection?
A: No, you should not have to make any modifications to your clients network in order to support this. If you do something exceptionally unusual (we would have contacted you separately, DoD requirement) and only have an allow access policy while blacklisting the rest of the Internet, redirection happens through https://r.xdref.com domain that needs to be in the safe sites.

Q: Can I turn URL rewriting off?
A: The ExchangeDefender URL rewriting code is implemented at the edge without regard for domain/user policies. In order not to introduce delays in processing, this is a global rule. If you are concerned about your clients seeing the redirection screen, whitelist the domains they typically go through. If we get complaints about it, we will look at deploying this policy further down in the scanning path which will slow down processing times for domains that opt out of the service and that feature is already in the development queue.

Q: Can I see the copy of the messages you are sending users, so I know what to expect?
A: Here is a copy of the message in PDF and Outlook format.

Q: Will the links stay live for X number of years for compliance purposes?
A: There is no expiration date for the links, as clearly stated in our Privacy Policy we do not collect or archive the links that you click on or that we encode, they will stay in your downloaded / cached / archived messages. While many regulatory requirements have message retention policy expectations, those requirements do not extend to external content, ie: you have to archive the message, you DO NOT have to archive the documents that are externally linked on third party sites. Either way, messages will continue to redirect as long as we stay in business.

Q: Can I get a list of good/bad sites for my compliance records?
A: Please contact our compliance officer at compliance@ownwebnow.com with the letter from your regulatory body and we will do our best to provide this confidential information ASAP.

ExchangeDefender is happy to announce the enhancement of it’s Service Provider branding options. ExchangeDefender is primarily distributed and managed by other IT Solution Providers (MSPs, VARs, IT professionals) and we have exposed as much of our infrastructure as possible for white label functionality. Starting this week, we are also encouraging you to brand messages sent by ExchangeDefender:

ExchangeDefender Email Notice Branding is available at https://admin.exchangedefender.com under your Service Provider login. Click on Configuration > Branding and you will see a section that will allow you to provide any content you’d like us to include on messages sent to users automatically.

We encourage all of our Service Providers to provide at least their basic contact information and a note in this section. While we are always concerned with our partners brand, system notices and urgent security issues may at times require us to contact the user directly. In the event that we do that, it’s helpful for the client to see your information at the top of the message instead of the bottom.

We’re also working hard on delivering additional features to ExchangeDefender sites, so if you have any suggestions or wishes, please let us know by hitting the feedback link anywhere in our system.

P.S. This feature was discussed in detail during our webinar on June 6th, 2019. Watch the webinar here: https://www.exchangedefender.com/media/XDNewPhishing.mp4

ExchangeDefender is thrilled to announce the new Phishing Firewall in the cloud, going into full production – Wednesday, June 12th, 2019 for all ExchangeDefender Pro and Enterprise protected clients. The old way of highlighting, underlining, inserting warnings and so on will be removed from the service at the same time because it lacks the ability to protect clients in real-time.

The ExchangeDefender Phishing Firewall (EPF) is a real-time, active pishing protection. As ExchangeDefender processes inbound mail, it will rewrite every link to proxy it through EPF when user clicks on it. If the site is safe, the user will be automatically redirected to it and will not even know that EPF is in the way. If the site is not on the safe list, end users will see this warning:

They will have the option to just click on the link and proceed, add to whitelist (at which point they are automatically allowed through in the future) or add to blacklist.

Because of the way phishing works, and all identity theft or forgery in general, it is impossible to secure email messages in transit without making annoying modifications to the message that often distort the look and feel of it. Majority of those links are in the 95% of the mail that passes through ExchangeDefender as SPAM/SureSPAM, meaning that they would never even be seen by anyone. By moving the Phishing Firewall to the cloud, we can now secure every device and provide additional metrics and advisory on top of it to protect our clients from 0-day exploits.

This feature is provided to our clients free of charge and replaces expensive “security awareness training” solutions that users typically hate and do nothing to adequately secure the client. With Exchange Phishing Firewall we enable our clients to create custom policies, maintain whitelists, blacklists, get enterprise reporting and more. It further allows us to go one step beyond – in the upcoming releases we’ll offer the ability to display a screenshot of the site as well as link intelligence data (How long ago was the domain name registered? Where is the IP you’re about to go to located? Is the domain a close spelling error of a widely recognized site? Is the forged site just a cloud hosted Google, Microsoft or Amazon cloud service instance that is holding or redirecting you to another more dangerous location?)

If you’re currently on ExchangeDefender Essentials, we encourage you to schedule a demo with our team to check this feature out as it’s significantly cheaper than antivirus or “security training” solutions and will do a far better job. If you’re on ExchangeDefender Pro or ExchangeDefender Enterprise, you will get this feature free of charge. On Monday, June 10 we will send an email notification announcing this launch to our partners, MSPs, and Service Providers. On Tuesday, June 11 we will send an email notification to end users. Finally, on Wednesday, June 12th we will go live with the service and hope to minimize the annoyance of phishing once and for all. Email is the single most popular attack vector, with 91% of the compromises starting through a phishing attack, and we look forward to protecting all our users even better.

This Thursday, June 6th, we will be announcing a major overhaul in the way we deal with spear phishing SPAM. No, it’s not a mind-blowing patent-pending stroke-of-genius sort of stuff, it’s much closer to what your parents told you growing up: Don’t get into a car with strangers don’t click on links or open attachments from strangers.

In a way, ExchangeDefender has had protection from this issue for years. If you had a decent IT Solution Provider implementing ExchangeDefender for you, they would have setup your SPF record and eliminated this issue – but many don’t. Or they would have turned on ExchangeDefender protection where all messages spoofing/forging your domain would automatically get junked – almost none of them do. Which is why ExchangeDefender as a service has become less of an IT tool and more of an end user suite of services to get stuff done.

When features like this are left disabled “because they might become support issues” it becomes really difficult to secure users. But I get it, IT companies have a business to run too, which is why we’ve really stepped up our support efforts and are going to be there to help folks get things done without becoming an additional problem for the IT department. Doing so has really made us rethink how we implement features and how the service behavior needs to speak the same language as the end user. Which brings me to phishing beyond forgeries.

Can you spot a stranger?One of the new phishing protection features in ExchangeDefender will allow you to flag messages that are coming from outside of your organization. You will have two settings – to modify the subject and to modify the header of the message so when you look inside of your mailbox you’ll know what came from a stranger right away. Try it:

Even from the message listing you’ll know which messages shouldn’t even be opened. But suppose you ignored even that – you can set another warning, printed inside of the message, giving the user even more of an instruction of what to do.

Warning: Message was sent from outside of the organization. Do not click on links or open attachments if you don’t recognize the sender.

Far from subtle. And it has to be – because most people check email quickly, between tasks, or are simply interrupted by it. ExchangeDefender has your back, and we’ll make sure we alert you to possible issues before they become problems. Which we hope everyone will be aboard with.

Please join us, June 6th at Noon, for our NEW webinar featuring ExchangeDefender’s Phishing and Spoofing protection, plus see what’s new with Encryption, WFS, and Wrkoo!