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Microsoft Ending SmartScreen Spam Filters in November

Microsoft announced this month that it will stop providing updates for its SmartScreen e-mail spam filters on Nov. 1.

These filters, which have long been used with Exchange and Outlook, are getting "deprecated," meaning that they will no longer be developed by Microsoft. They just haven't been up to the task of blocking current-day e-mail spam campaigns, Microsoft admitted, in a blog post.

Instead, organizations can use Exchange Online Protection or a third-party solution to block spam, Microsoft suggested.

The SmartScreen spam filter deprecation mostly could affect organizations using Exchange Server on premises, although it's possible for those organizations to buy access to Exchange Online Protection, a service running from Microsoft's datacenters, for $1 per user per month. Exchange Online Protection already comes included with Office 365 services, as well as Outlook.com.

The SmartScreen spam filters should not be confused with the SmartScreen site reputation protections that are part of the Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer browsers. Despite the similar "SmartScreen" name, they have different functions.

"In Windows, Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer browsers, the SmartScreen Filter online protection feature helps consumers to stay protected from malicious websites and downloads," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Microsoft first released its SmartScreen spam filters in 2003. They direct e-mail considered to be spam into Outlook's junk folder. However, the old filters have been too slow to address modern spam campaigns, which launch in minutes and hide their origins using "reputation highjacking," Microsoft explained. Moreover, the old SmartScreen spam filters conflict with other spam-filtering solutions, including Microsoft's own Exchange Online Protection service.

Microsoft is recommending that organizations running Exchange Server on premises have a plan to have new spam protections in place before Nov. 1. The old filters will stay in place, but they won't be that effective. Microsoft explained that the old filters will junk "obvious spam emails with an effectiveness that will degrade over time."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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