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Understanding Spam Quarantine

Exchange 2010
 

Applies to: Exchange Server 2010 SP3, Exchange Server 2010 SP2

Topic Last Modified: 2012-07-23

Many organizations are bound by legal or regulatory requirements to preserve or deliver all legitimate e-mail messages. In Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, spam quarantine is a feature of the Content Filter agent that reduces the risk of losing legitimate messages. Spam quarantine provides a temporary storage location for messages identified as spam that shouldn't be delivered to a user mailbox inside the organization.

Messages identified by the Content Filter agent as spam are wrapped in a non-delivery report (NDR) and delivered to a spam quarantine mailbox inside the organization. You can manage messages delivered to the spam quarantine mailbox and take appropriate actions. For example, you can delete messages or let messages flagged as false positives in anti-spam filtering be routed to their intended recipients. In addition, you can configure the spam quarantine mailbox to automatically delete messages after a designated time period.

For more information about how the anti-spam agents filter inbound messages and the order in which the agents are applied, see Understanding Anti-Spam and Antivirus Functionality.

Looking for management tasks related to anti-spam and antivirus functionality? See Managing Anti-Spam and Antivirus Features.

Contents

Spam Confidence Level

Spam Quarantine

Exchange Hosted Services

When an external user sends e-mail messages to a server running Exchange that runs the anti-spam features, the anti-spam features cumulatively evaluate characteristics of the messages and act as follows:

  • Those messages suspected to be spam are filtered out.
  • A rating is assigned to messages based on the probability that a message is spam. This rating is stored with the message as a message property called the spam confidence level (SCL) rating.

Spam quarantine uses the SCL rating to determine whether mail has a high probability of being spam. The SCL rating is a numeric value from 0 through 9, where 0 is considered less likely to be spam, and 9 is considered most likely to be spam.

You can configure mail that has a certain SCL rating to be deleted, rejected, or quarantined. The rating that triggers any of these actions is referred to as the SCL quarantine threshold. Within content filtering, you can configure the Content Filter agent to base its actions on the SCL quarantine threshold. For example, you can set the following conditions:

  • SCL delete threshold is set to 8.
  • SCL reject threshold is set to 7.
  • SCL quarantine threshold is set to 6.
  • SCL Junk E-mail folder threshold is set to 5.

Based on the preceding SCL thresholds, all e-mail with an SCL of 6 will be delivered to the spam quarantine mailbox.

For more information, see Configure Content Filtering Properties.

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When messages are received by the Edge Transport server and all default anti-spam filters are enabled, the anti-spam agents apply their filters. Then the content filter is applied as follows:

  • If the SCL rating is greater than or equal to the SCL quarantine threshold but less than either the SCL delete threshold or SCL reject threshold, the message goes to the spam quarantine mailbox.
  • If the SCL rating is lower than the spam quarantine threshold, it's delivered to the recipient's Inbox.

The message administrator uses Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 to monitor the spam quarantine mailbox for false positives. If a false positive is found, the administrator can send the message to the recipient's mailbox.

The message administrator can review the anti-spam stamps if either of the following conditions is true:

  • Too many false positives are filtered into the spam quarantine mailbox.
  • Not enough spam is being rejected or deleted.

For more information, see Understanding Anti-Spam Stamps.

You can then adjust the SCL settings to more accurately filter the spam coming into the organization. For more information, see Understanding Spam Confidence Level Threshold.

To use spam quarantine, you must follow these steps:

  1. Enable content filtering.
  2. Create a spam quarantine mailbox.
  3. Specify the spam quarantine mailbox.
  4. Configure the SCL quarantine threshold.
  5. Manage the spam quarantine mailbox.
  6. Adjust the SCL quarantine threshold as needed.

You must enable content filtering before you can apply spam quarantine. By default, the Content Filter agent filters all external messages that come through all Receive connectors on the computer on which the Content Filter feature is enabled.

importantImportant:
Configuration changes that you make to the Content Filter agent by using the Exchange Management Console or the Exchange Management Shell are made only to the local computer that has the Edge Transport server role installed. If multiple instances of the Edge Transport server role are running in your organization, you must apply sender reputation configuration changes to each computer.

For more information, see Enable or Disable Content Filtering.

You must create a spam quarantine mailbox before you can enable the feature. To set up a spam quarantine mailbox, you must follow these steps:

  • Create a dedicated Exchange database   We recommend that you create a dedicated database for the spam quarantine mailbox. The spam quarantine mailbox should have a large database, because if the storage quota limit is reached, messages will be lost. For more information, see Create a Mailbox Database.
  • Create an Active Directory user   We recommend that you create a separate Active Directory user for the spam quarantine mailbox. You may apply different recipient policies, such as messaging records management and mailbox size, and delegation rights, according to your organization's compliance policies and needs.
  • Create a user mailbox   You must create a mailbox that you can use as the spam quarantine mailbox with an appropriate messaging records management policy that includes mailbox size and the number of days that messages will be saved before they are deleted. For more information, see Messaging Records Management.
    noteNote:
    If a quarantined message is rejected because of a storage quota, the message will be lost. Exchange doesn't generate NDRs for quarantined messages because the quarantined messages are wrapped as NDRs.
    For more information, see Create a Mailbox.
  • Set up the Outlook account profile   You must configure management or delegation of the Outlook account to meet the needs of your organization. In addition, to help with the account management, we recommend that you configure the Outlook profile to expose the original Sender[#0x0069001E], Recipient[#0x0E04001E], and Bcc[#0x0E02001E] fields in the Message view. For more information, see Release Quarantined Messages from the Spam Quarantine Mailbox.

After you set up the spam quarantine mailbox, you must specify the spam quarantine mailbox in the content filter configuration. You use the Set-ContentFilterConfig cmdlet in the Shell to specify a spam quarantine mailbox. The QuarantineMailbox parameter uses the SMTP address of the spam quarantine mailbox.

importantImportant:
You must specify the spam quarantine mailbox on all servers that have the Edge Transport server role installed in Active Directory where user mailboxes are located. To specify the spam quarantine mailbox in Active Directory, run the Set-ContentFilterConfig cmdlet on a Hub Transport server. You don't have to have content filtering enabled on the Hub Transport server to specify a spam quarantine mailbox in Active Directory.

For more information, see Specify a Spam Quarantine Mailbox.

The SCL quarantine threshold is the value at which a particular message identified as potential spam is delivered to the spam quarantine mailbox. You can set the SCL quarantine threshold to a value from 0 through 9, where 0 is considered less likely to be spam, and 9 is considered most likely to be spam.

For more information about how to adjust SCL thresholds to suit your organization's requirements and how to adjust per-recipient SCL thresholds, see Configure Content Filtering Properties.

When you manage your spam quarantine mailbox, follow these guidelines:

  • Release items that have been sent to the spam quarantine mailbox by using the Send Again feature in Outlook to resend the original message.
    For more information, see Release Quarantined Messages from the Spam Quarantine Mailbox.
  • Monitor the spam quarantine mailbox so that the size of the spam quarantine mailbox remains in an acceptable range. The volume of e-mail messages can change because of a larger set of recipients, the natural trend of larger messages, or the threshold on the SCL quarantine action.
  • Monitor the spam quarantine mailbox for false positives. If your spam quarantine mailbox includes many false positives, adjust your SCL quarantine threshold as described in "Adjusting the SCL Quarantine Threshold" later in this topic. For more information about how to determine why false positives are being delivered to the spam quarantine mailbox, see Understanding Anti-Spam Stamps.
  • Use the same Outlook profile to recover quarantined messages from the spam quarantine mailbox. Applying permissions to a different Outlook profile to recover messages isn't supported. You can't use a different Outlook profile to recover or release messages from the spam quarantine mailbox.
importantImportant:
NDRs identified as spam are deleted, even if their SCL rating indicates that they should be quarantined. NDRs aren't delivered to the spam quarantine mailbox. To track such messages, use the agent log or the message tracking log. For more information, see Get-AgentLog and Search Message Tracking Logs.

After you configure the SCL quarantine threshold, periodically monitor the settings and adjust them based on your organization's needs. For example, if too many false positives are filtered into the spam quarantine mailbox, raise the SCL quarantine threshold to a larger number. For more information about how to adjust the SCL quarantine threshold, see Understanding Spam Confidence Level Threshold.

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Spam filtering and quarantine functionality are enhanced by services available from Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services.

Exchange Hosted Services is a set of four distinct hosted services:

  • Hosted Filtering, which helps organizations protect themselves from e-mail-borne malware
  • Hosted Archive, which helps them satisfy retention requirements for compliance
  • Hosted Encryption, which helps them encrypt data to preserve confidentiality
  • Hosted Continuity, which helps them preserve access to e-mail during and after emergency situations

These services integrate with any on-premises Exchange servers that are managed in-house or Hosted Exchange e-mail services that are offered through service providers. For more information about Exchange Hosted Services, see Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services.

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