New Purdue email scanning system offers improved protection, reduces bulk email, increases user control

Purdue’s new email scanning system is doing its job, capturing a voluminous amount of bulk email constantly aimed at the inboxes of the University community, much of it just junk mail and a lot of it having malicious intent.

ITaP knows that the new system from Cisco may be doing too good a job where some users are concerned. ITaP staff are working to tune it so that wanted email becomes less likely to be caught by the system’s filters and quarantined, and to resolve other issues causing frustration for some faculty and campus units.

Since July 7, the system has scanned more than 56 million incoming messages aimed at Purdue inboxes and blocked nearly 48 million from untrusted or malicious sources, 3 million bulk emails and nearly 1,100 messages carrying computer viruses.

Faculty, staff and students can help by reviewing the quarantined email digest messages they receive from the system, at least twice daily, which give users a list of emails sent to them that the system has flagged. If a user actually wants any of those messages, a click of a link will send the mail on to their inbox. A click of another link will “safelist” the sender so the system sends messages from them through automatically in the future.

“Unsolicited bulk email is the biggest complaint we receive from faculty,” says Gerry McCartney, vice president for information technology and chief information officer. “The thing people say they appreciate most about the new system is the ability to review all their bulk email in one place. Instead of wasting time examining legitimate-looking email that actually isn’t wanted, they can quickly review, release, safelist and move on to more important matters.”

The additional user control is a side benefit of a system Purdue chose primarily for its effectiveness at capturing unsolicited bulk email and messages carrying malicious payloads or web links with potential for harming the University and its faculty, staff and students legally and financially.

Since July 7, the system has caught 95,000 malicious web links in 360,500 emails to Purdue users. It negated the links and kept users from being directed to malicious websites.

The Cisco system uses advanced technology to rate and identify email and sort good from bad. While highly accurate, it won’t always match personal preferences. That’s why users need to get in the habit of reviewing the quarantined email digest messages so they don’t miss mail they need or want.

Purdue adopted the Cisco system quickly at the end of June because the contract for its old system was expiring, the vendor could not be persuaded to make changes and it made no sense to continue with a system that offered less protection, even on a temporary basis. The summer also is an opportune time to tune the new system to Purdue’s particular needs before most faculty and students return in the fall.

Other things to note about the new system:

  • Even if you’ve previously opted to receive email from an organization, for instance by signing up at its website, you may need to safelist the organization to bypass the quarantine.
  • Links in emails may now look different when hovering over them to display the web address. That’s because the Cisco system checks email links to make sure they won’t whisk faculty, staff and students to a malicious website when clicked. Safe web addresses are modified by the Cisco system in the process, with the original address appearing at the end of the modified address.
  • ITaP is working daily with IT staff for campus units to mitigate issues as much as possible, for example problems sending mail from some types of non-Exchange and Outlook email, problems sending while connected to certain carriers that the system flags as unsolicited bulk email purveyors, and other problems. Connecting via Purdue’s Virtual Private Network and using web mail can serve as a workaround in some cases.

If you have questions or have a different issue and haven’t notified ITaP, please do so by contacting Tech Support at the ITaP Customer Service Center at 49-44000 or itap@purdue.edu.

For more information on the new system see this FAQ or refer to these troubleshooting articles in GoldAnswers, Purdue’s online knowledgebase:

Writer: Greg Kline, science and technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), 765-494-8167, gkline@purdue.edu

Last updated: July 20, 2017

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