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U.K. Power Company Tests New Security Appliance

RWE NPower is using Clearswift's new anti-spam security appliance to monitor and filter E-mail and other content.
When it comes to security, electric utilities are like government offices, hospitals, and police departments--they and their services are most needed in times of crisis, and much more than money is at stake. Utilities that supply crucial power must fight off hackers trying to bring down the electrical grid, as well as those that try to gain access to other data such as power-plant blueprints and customer databases.

RWE NPower, the power generating and electric utility company that provides service in England and other parts of the United Kingdom, has so much territory to cover that it tries to use security products that run themselves with little intervention. That's a big reason it's been using MimeSweeper, a content and E-mail monitoring product from Clearswift, for close to five years. "Nothing is comparable to MimeSweeper without our reconfiguring our systems," says Lee Buchanan, a messaging systems specialist at RWE. "No other product breaks into the code of any file like MimeSweeper software."

Buchanan is testing a new security appliance from Clearswift Ltd., which was introduced Monday and will ship later this summer. The utililty reactivated a retired domain name and monitored the E-mail that arrived at that address--60,000 so far--to see how the MimeSweeper SMTP Appliance handled the messages. The appliance correctly identified spam 99.1% of the time, Bachanan says. "And we have users who subscribe to news groups and newsletters that raise suspicion," he adds.

The appliance is designed to support more than 1,000 users from a single box and includes a SMTP, or Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, software engine, MimeSweeper software, new anti-spam software, preset security policies that the customer can modify or add to, and a customers' choice of antivirus software. The appliance uses bidirectional content filtering to handle inbound and outbound E-mail threats. It also has a browser-based interface that lets security administrators quickly generate graphical reports or schedule them for delivery later. Policy management lets an administrator apply rules to a complete domain, a Web site, or a user.

The utility is looking for a single box that will update itself as new security threats emerge, enforce security and compliance policies, and handle a growing spam problem. Buchanan's still testing the Clearswift product and isn't ready to pass judgment, but he like the idea of an appliance that doesn't require much manual work. "An appliance is even more suitable for us when it automates updates and scanning filters," he says. "It should make my job a lot easier."

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