[Review] SonicWALL Anti-Spam Desktop

{rw_text}Software reviewed in this article:

SonicWALL Anti-Spam Desktop

Version reviewed:

v6.0.0.1957

System Requirements:

* Windows Vista (64-bit): Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007 and Windows Mail
* Windows Vista (32-bit): Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007 and Windows Mail
* Windows XP: Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007 and Outlook Express 6.0

Price:

$29.95 but you can get it for free for a limited time at Giveawayoftheday.com!

Software description:

Take control of your inbox in seconds with SonicWALL’s Anti-Spam Desktop software. It is the easiest, most effective and economical way to stop spam, phishing and other email threats. Automatic updates from SonicWALL’s GRID network keep your Outlook, Outlook Express or Windows Mail inbox secure with up to the minute protection.

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{rw_good}

  • Has automatic and manual blocking of junk/phishing e-mails.
  • Allows users to create a whitelist and blacklist of e-mail addresses and domains.
  • Can automatically populates the whitelist of e-mail addresses based upon the e-mail addresses you have sent e-mails to.
  • Allows users to control how e-mails are blocked, based on criteria such as sexual content, offensive language, “get rick quick”, gambling, advertisements, embedded images, and e-mails with foreign languages.
  • Gives users the ability to make use of SonicWALL’s GRID database and blocked e-mails based upon that.
  • Can send automatic “challenge” e-mails making the e-mail sender confirm they are human.
  • Supports multiple inbox Outlook setups.

{/rw_good} –>

{rw_bad}

  • Supports limited number of desktop e-mail clients: Outlook and Outlook Express/Windows Mail
  • Each reported junk or phishing e-mail is not documented in the “Sent” folder.

{/rw_bad} –>

{rw_score}
{for=”Ease of Use” value=”10″}Pretty much point and click.
{/for}
{for=”Performance” value=”10″}Between the GRID database and the built in filtering system, junk and phishing e-mails don’t stand a chance.
{/for}
{for=”Usefulness” value=”3″}I find it hard to see many people finding this program useful. Many, many people don’t use Outlook or Outlook Express/Windows Mail. Even those that do, many most likely don’t need anti-spam features outside of what is built into the desktop e-mail clients.
{/for}
{for=”Price” value=”7″}For helping ease the headache of spam, a price tag of $29.95 is fair.
{/for}
{for=”Arbitrary Equalizer” value=”8″}This category reflects an arbitrary number that does not specifically stand for anything. Rather this number is used to reflect my overall rating/verdict of the program in which I considered all the features and free alternatives.
{/for}
{/rw_score} –>

{rw_verdict}[tupr]
{/rw_verdict} –>

Spam. Spam. Spam. Spam is the perfect example of how something intended for good (e-mail) can be used for such evil (spam). Amongst their many products and services, SonicWALL provides anti-spam and e-mail security solutions. Most of SonicWALL’s anti-spam and e-mail security solutions focus around blocking spam at the server level. However, SonicWALL’s Anti-Spam Desktop is a software which aims to zap the spam that makes it to your desktop. Unfortunately SonicWALL Anti-Spam Desktop only works with Microsoft Outlook (2003/2007), Windows Mail, and Outlook Express 6.0 so if you use another desktop e-mail client, you are out of luck. For the purposes of this review, SonicWALL Anti-Spam Desktop will be tested in Outlook 2007.

After you install SWSAD (SonicWALL Anti-Spam Desktop), it launches automatically whenever you open Outlook/Windows Mail/Outlook Express. When you first run Outlook/Windows Mail/Outlook Express, you are prmopted by SWSAD to populate your whitelist (“Allowed list” of e-mail addresses:

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SWSAD assumes anyone you have sent an e-mail to is not a spammer and you will want to receive e-mails from them. So, SWSAD populates the whitelist by taking all e-mail addresses you have sent e-mails to and adding them to the list.

After you finishing populating the whitelist, you should have notice two changes to your e-mail client as a result of installing SWSAD:

  • Three new folders:

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  • A new toolbar:

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The folders represent the three categories of e-mails SWSAD deals with: “challenged”, junk, and phishing. All e-mails marked as junk by SWSAD are sent to the junk folder, all e-mails marked as phishing are sent to the phishing folder, and all “challenged” e-mails are temporarily sent to the challenged folder.

A challenged e-mail is an e-mail that has been “challenged” with a “confirm-you-are-human” request. In other words, when an e-mail is “challenged” the sender of that e-mail is sent a link where they must perform some sort of CAPTCHA-similar activity which confirms that they are a human and not a e-mail bot. Once the e-mail has been confirmed, the e-mail is moved out of the “challenged” folder and put into the inbox.

Depending on your settings, challenged e-mails will be automatically delivered in response to different e-mails. However, once a person successfully “responds” to a challenged e-mail, his/her e-mail address is added to the whitelist and he/she is never sent a challenged e-mail again. Do take note the challenged e-mail feature is disabled by default; if you want to use it you must manually enable it.

In terms of the toolbar, it allows users to manually mark e-mails as junk, manually clear e-mail as not being junk, and access SWSAD options.

The preferences (the third button from the left on the toolbar) are really what should interest everyone. From the preferences, users can control the white and blacklists, change the parameters of how e-mails are filtered, setup challenge e-mails, change general settings, and see junk statistic reports:

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In terms of the preferences, most of it is fairly self explanatory. However, there are a few things I would like to discuss:

  • As you can see in the screenshot of my whitelist of e-mail addresses above, it says I have sent 1000+ messages to all those e-mail addresses. I can assure you I have not sent 1000+ messages to them. What makes it even more weird is the fact that when I first installed SWASD earlier today, it showed me as sending ~40 messages to each e-mail address (and I thought that was way too much also). So I am not particularly sure what is up with that number.
  • The companies whitelist and blacklist is blocking domains instead of specific e-mails.
  • The “Collaborative filter”, under “Messages” tab, refers to SonicWALL’s Global Response Intelligent Defense (GRID) database. Think of GRID as an anti-virus signature database, except instead of holding signatures for viruses, it holds signatures for spam e-mails. It is the product of SonicWALL analyzing millions of spam e-mails reported to them by their customers. If you move the slider to the right for the “Collaborative filter”, more e-mails will be blocked according to the data provided by GRID; if you move it to the left, less reliance will be put on data from GRID.
  • SWASD allows users to block e-mails depending on the language they are written in:

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  • SWSAD zaps e-mails as they come in. However, it also has the ability to “rescan” e-mails (“Rescan folders” option) in your inbox while your computer is idle, and mark them as junk or phishing based on the latest data received from GRID. You can control how and when the rescans occur:

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Clicking on the “SonicWALL Options” drop down menu from the toolbar gives you quick access to features allowing you to quickly white or black list e-mail addresses or domains, report junk or phishing e-mail, rescan folders, and more:

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Overall, SonicWALL Anti-Spam Desktop is an excellent anti-spam tool for Outlook, Outlook Express, and Windows Mail users. It is very easy to use, does most of the hard work in background so you rarely have to think about it, and is backed by a very large anti-spam database making it very effective. Honestly my only main concern are privacy related, such as when challenged e-mails are sent, since they are sent via SonicWALL’s website, does SonicWALL track who sends them and who receives them? Also, how much private information is collected when your report junk/phishing e-mails? I honestly don’t know. My other issue deals with the fact that when you report a junk or phishing e-mail, the report is sent out as an e-mail. The e-mail goes to your Outbox and is sent. However, when it is sent, the e-mail is not recorded in your Sent folder like all your other sent e-mails. I want there to be an option to enable it so the e-mails are recorded in your Sent folder.

Last but not least, the built-in anti-spam features get a crack at the e-mails before SonicWALL Anti-Spam Desktop does. So if you are using SWASD, you may want to consider disabling the built-in anti-spam features of Outlook to allow SWASD to be more effective.

This review was conducted on a laptop running Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. The specs of the laptop are as follows: 3GB of RAM, a Radeon HD 2600 512MB graphics card, and an Intel T8300 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor.

{rw_freea}If you know of any, please post below.
{/rw_freea} –>

{rw_verdict2}SonicWALL Anti-Spam Desktop is a nice anti-spam and e-mail security software; I give it a thumbs up. True, many people won’t find SonicWALL Anti-Spam Desktop of much use, but for those people that do need it, I recommend it.
{/rw_verdict2} –>

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21 comments

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  2. mukhi

    i do not like to use a client for my emails, i use hotmail/yahoo/gmail/etc as web-based emails. to avoid spam, i just add all wanted contacts to my address book whenever i receive email from them for the 1st time. the rest is taken care of by the email provider. this way i can more or less ensure that all junk mails go to junk folder and required mails show up in my inbox.
    correct me if i am wrong or if outlook together with SWASD can do better than this method.

  3. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Someone: No problem. All is well that ends well.

    The reporting feature is to help improve the detections via SonicWALL’s GRID. Some people may want to report, some people may not – that is why it is optional =). I just want that option to be improved =).

    Thanks for the suggestion on how to explain the shortcoming. I tend to always post the shortcomings, which I have not found a proper way to incorporate in the full review, towards the end.

  4. Someone

    I AM calm, you should see me when I get agitated. :)

    Why would anyone want to report to a central agency what mails were Junk? How do you know that what you may consider junk, someone else wants? Therefore making some dbase of this with Sonic is ludicrous.

    Yes there are some that are pretty much 99.9% garbage, but someone MAY just want to go and buy that pseudo-Rolex or a box of counterfeit Viagra and if they use this program’s option, those mails would be blocked by using this product’s user sampling dbase “feature”.

    Can you see the flaw in wanting to use this option? Teach the program what YOU consider junk and leave it at that. Never mind as you mentioned the security issues nightmare using this brings up.

    Windows Live Mail accomplishes Spam filtering fairly well, without any addons. More people should look at it and set up the filtering for their own needs.

    You should explain the “shortcoming” you noted so that it is clear as to what you are complaining about. You did post info much further down about this, but it should be explained much sooner.

    I do apologize, I did inadvertently miss the section where you mentioned the ‘sending option’.

  5. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @RoseD1st: Thanks for the support =).

    @VJN: Cool. Thanks.

    @George: You are right; I did forget to mention Bayesian filtering is used. My apologies – thanks making up for my slack. Also thanks for the free alternatives.

    @Ozzie: I agree. However, I think one many reason why they limit their support to Microsoft products is because they are aiming to sell to business users. It tends to be that many business users have Office and therefore are more likely to use Outlook than TB or any other product.

    @Joe: In that case, thank you also! =).

    @Giovanni: Thanks! I totally forgot about that.

    @computersexplore: Interesting. However being limited to one e-mail address makes it only semi useful since one of the bug things in Outlook is multiple inboxes.

    @buyerbeware: Personally, I also have no need for extra filtering software. Built-in anti-spam Outlook features are fine for me.

    @MikeR: Ditto. Best way to filter spam is via server.

    @Samuel: In my defense, I did refer to both in the full review =P.

    @ande: I think the GOTD version does not; however the program itself does.

    @Mike: I haven’t tried; I have no need for it. Sorry.

    @leland: How “privacy sensitive” is their service? Because I would raise an eyebrow or two at a company that wants me to redirect my e-mail through their server so they can filter it.

    @Someone: You need to calm down and read a little bit more.

    What I say “Each reported junk or phishing e-mail is not documented in the “Sent” folder.” I mean when you actually use the “Report Junk” or “Report Phishing” features where you send a report to SonicWALL about the e-mails – not the normal spam that is filtered into the junk or phishing folders. If you bothered to read, you would have understood that:

    My other issue deals with the fact that when you report a junk or phishing e-mail, the report is sent out as an e-mail. The e-mail goes to your Outbox and is sent. However, when it is sent, the e-mail is not recorded in your Sent folder like all your other sent e-mails. I want there to be an option to enable it so the e-mails are recorded in your Sent folder.

  6. Someone

    I have NO clue why you would want ANY Spam filter to do this: “Each reported junk or phishing e-mail is not documented in the “Sent” folder.”?

    The Spam emails SHOULD be filtered into their individual Spam folder. Why you’d want a note in the Inbox is VERY puzzling.

    I think you need to revisit your understanding of security software.

  7. MikeR

    “Desktop” spam blocking was definitely good to have a few years back. But here in the UK at any rate, things have changed for many.

    My ISP has excellent spam filtering at source (BT / Yahoo mail) and my back-up / disposable email addies (Googlemail) all benefit from Google’s spam filtering.

    Couple of years back, my in-box was regularly spam infested because Outlook Express is feeble and a third party filtering app was essential.

    I haven’t had any “desktop” spam (or phishing emails) for a long, long time. And rarely has my ISP filter or Googlemail tripped up over false-flagging.

    Spam? It might just be no longer as big a headache as it once was, at least here in the UK: I can’t be alone in never getting any in my in-boxes nowadays, nor ever having to read any.

    As to the hundreds that pile up unread in BT Yahoo and Googlemail spam boxes, they’re automatically junked every 30 days anyway.

  8. buyerbeware

    I’m not sure about all this email filtering stuff. I filter mine by emptying the spam/junk folders. Once in a while i get curious and explore the contents of the evil mail, and that is why i normally just empty the folders. any recommendations on how to use the filtering would be useful, since i’m new to all this email stuff.

  9. computersexplore

    The anti-spam filters I’ve seen for Outlook-related products have all been paid, but the GAOTD comments talk about Mailwasher having a free alternative that is limited to working with only one email address.

  10. George

    Hi,
    Your reviews are not to miss. This time, one thing was lacking, and perhaps you were not aware of it. It is to review how well SonicWall uses or not Bayesian spam filtering. The key to products using Bayesian spam filtering is how many false positives and false negatives are produced; speed is a secondary consideration. I determine if I want a spam filter based solely on how well it does this.

    Non-Bayesian filtering is filtering for specific words and phrases, white- and black-lists, etc. The key to Bayesian systems is that they “learn” from the reality of the spam entering that system. They get better and more robust the more you use them.

    For the last number of years my work has had commercial filters in place, Bayesian-based, but in the early days, SpamBayes was the clear leader, was freeware, and is still out there. Check it out. They have an opensource page at http://spambayes.sourceforge.net/ and filter many more emailers than the Outlook products–you download the specific one for your job.