Message Rules

Updated 1 week ago by admin

The Email Security Message Rules engine lies at the heart of your email security process. The powerful rule builder gives you precise control of the email traffic going to and from your domain. To take full advantage of Email Security, you should set up a series of cascading Rules.

Email Security comes with a set of sensible default Rules. These defaults may be sufficient for your organisation, but we still recommend you familiarise yourself with them, in order to fully understand what's happening.

Managing rules

To see the Rules currently in place for your Email Security account, visit your USS Dashboard and click ProductsE-mail SecurityMessage Rules.

Rules priority

Message Rules are processed in order as they appear on the Message Rules screen. So, the Rule at the top of the list (with the Priority of 1) will be executed first.

If an email triggers a Rule with an Action but no Final Action, subsequent Rules will still be processed against that email. Processing only stops when an email triggers a Rule which has a Final Action. Once a Final Action is encountered in any Rule, no further Rules will be processed for that email. The Final Actions are:

  • Quarantine
  • Quarantine - Company
  • Delete
  • Deliver
Remember, a Rule will never be triggered if its Active status is set to Off.

Direction

A Rule may be processed only against incoming mail, only against outgoing mail, or against both incoming and outgoing mail. The Direction column indicates when the Rule will be processed.

This Rule will only be processed against incoming email.

This Rule will only be processed against outgoing email.

This Rule will be processed against incoming and outgoing email.

Re-ordering message rules

To change the order in which your message Rules are processed, simply left-click a Rule in the list, and drag it to a new position.

System Rules cannot be re-ordered.

Deleting a message rule

To delete a Rule, click the icon next to the Rule you want to delete.

You can also delete a Rule within the Rule Builder window by clicking .

Editing a message rule

To edit a Rule, double-click it in the list. The Rule Builder will open.

image the Rule Builder window.

Make any changes you wish, and then click .

Inactive rules

A Rule can be set to be inactive. An inactive Rule will never be triggered, and will not be included in email processing at all. You can easily see which Rules are inactive in the Message Rules window, where the Active column will list each rule as being either or .

To change the active status of a Rule, double-click the Rule to edit it, and then check or uncheck the Active checkbox.

System Rules cannot be enabled or disabled - only your Service Provider can make changes to System Rules.

Creating a new Rule

To create a new Rule, click the icon. Give your new Rule a sensible name, and click .

The Rule Builder Window will be displayed.

Name

If you want to rename your new Rule, enter a new name here.

Active

Newly created Rules are inactive by default. To set your new Rule as active, enable the checkbox.

Conditions

You can apply one or more Conditions to your Rule. Each condition limits the emails that this Rule will match.

Generally speaking, it's better to be as specific as possible when creating your Conditions. Avoid ambiguities, so that your Rule doesn't accidentally trigger for emails that you don't want to catch with this particular Rule.
Attachment Name

The Condition will match if the email has an attachment, and the attachment fulfils the conditions you specify (from the drop-down list). For example, attachments with a double file extension (such as PretendingNotToBeMalicious.docx.exe) or attachments with macro extensions for Office.

You can instead set this Condition to match any emails that do not have the specific type of attachment, if you wish.
If you have created any Custom Rule Data, these data will be available to select as the Condition Value.
Body

The Condition will match if the body of the email matches the specified Condition Value. For example, if the email body contains sexual explicit or homophobic content.

You can instead set this Condition to match any emails that do not have the specified body content, if you wish.
If you have created any Custom Rule Data, these data will be available to select as the Condition Value.
Body or Subject

The Condition will match if the body of the email or the email's subject matches the specified Condition Value. For example, if the email subject features known spam blog URLs, or if the email body contains sexual explicit content.

You can instead set this Condition to match any emails that do not have the specified subject or body content, if you wish.
If you have created any Custom Rule Data, these data will be available to select as the Condition Value.
Core Service

The Condition will match if the email's reputation (as determined by the core anti-spam service) meets the value specified in the Condition Value.

You can instead set this Condition to match any emails that do not meet the reputation value, if you wish.
Direction

Choose whether this Rule should be run against inbound email (mail coming in to addresses on your server) or outbound email (mail sent by users on your server).

If a Rule has no Direction conditions, it will be run against inbound and outbound email.
You can easily the Direction for a particular Rule (inbound, outbound or both) in the Message Rules window.
DKIM Enabled

The Condition will match if DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) is enabled on your server.

You can instead set this Condition to match any if DKIM is not enabled on your server, if you wish.
DKIM Signature

The Condition will match if the DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) signature for the email matches the Condition Value.

You can instead set this Condition to match any if DKIM Signature does not match the value, if you wish.
DMARC Failure

The Condition will match if the DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) failure action from the remote DNS record matches the Condition Value. You will usually want to set this Condition to "Match type: Matches" and "Condition Value: Reject".

You can instead set this Condition to match any emails that do not have the specified DMARC failure action, if you wish.
DMARC Policy

The Condition will match if the DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) policy result matches the Condition Value.

Domain Threat Level

If a Domain Threat Level Condition is added to a Rule, Email Security will scan domains within the header and envelope fields of the email, using leading threat intelligence fields, to identify high-risk domains.

E-mail Size

The Condition will match if the email's total size matches the specified Condition Value. For example, if the email size is less than 4kb, or if the email size is greater than 20mb.

You can choose to match emails that are greater than a specified size, or less than a specified size.
Executive Tracking

If an Executive Tracking Condition is added to a Rule, Email Security will scan headers for attempts to impersonate company executives, or to obtain sensitive information from high-profile employees (so-called "whale phishing" attacks).

You can activate executive tracking for specific email addresses on the Mailboxes screen.
You can activate executive tracking for specific Active Directory groups on the Group Management screen.
An Executive Tracking Condition can have a value of Exact, High or Medium. This value represents the amount of variation that the Condition will tolerate. For example, the Exact value will only trigger on an exact match, whereas High would trigger if one character had been changed to a number in the label name. We recommend setting the Condition to High by default, to avoid false positives.
Fake Sender Headers

Use this Condition to check whether the email sender headers have been forged.

You can instead choose to check that email sender headers have not been forged, if you wish.
File Type

Use this Condition to check if the email contains an attachment of the specified filetype.

Group Membership

Use this Condition to check if the email mailbox belongs to a specific synchronised Active Directory group.

You can instead choose to check that the mailbox does not belong to the specified group, if you wish.
IP Reputation

Use this Condition to check if the IP address of the email's originating server matches a specified reputation value.

You can instead choose to check that the server IP does not match the reputation value, if you wish.
Mailbox Exists

Check whether the mailbox to which the email is addressed exists on your server.

This Condition is only useful for incoming email, and should usually be added in conjunction with a Direction Condition.
Message Security

Use this Condition to check if the email is digitally signed or encrypted.

You can instead choose to check that the email is not signed or encrypted, if you wish.
MX Record

Use this Condition to check that the hostname in the MX records responds to an SMTP request.

You can instead choose to check that the MX host does not respond to SMTP, if you wish.
Nearby Domains

Adding this Condition will allow Email Security to scan the email headers for addresses that include domain names similar to your legitimate domain name (whitehouse.com rather than your legitimate domain name of whitehouse.gov, for example). Cousin domains, as these nearby domain names are also called, can often be an indication of a malicious or spam email.

Own Domain

Use this Condition to check if the sender of the email is configured as a domain for your account.

You can instead choose to check that the sender is not on your domain, if you wish.
Protected Attachment

You can use this Condition to check if the email has an attachment which is password-protected.

Recipient

This Condition can be used to test against the email's recipient. You can check whether the recipient appears in your Active Directory export, or you can test against any Custom Rule Data you have created.

Recipient Count

The Condition will match if the email's total number of recipients matches the specified Condition Value.

You can choose to match emails with greater than the specified number of recipients, or less than the specified number.
Sender

Use this Condition to check whether the sender of the email matches a specific pattern.

The Sender Condition can only be used in conjunction with Custom Rule Data.
Sender in List

Use this Condition to check whether the sender of the email is in a specific list (usually the Safe List or the Deny List).

Sending Domain MX Record

Use this Condition to check that the originating domain for the email has a valid MX record.

You can instead choose to check that the domain does not have a valid MX record, if you wish.
Spam Score

The Condition will match if the email's spam score (as calculated by Email Security) matches the specified Condition Value.

You can choose to match emails with greater than the specified score, or less than the specified score.

You can use Rule Actions such as Add to Spam Score, Set Spam Score or Subtract from Spam Score to adjust the score.

SPF

This Condition checks the Sender Protection Framework score for the email's domain.

Subject

The Condition will match if the email's subject matches the specified Condition Value. For example, if the email subject features known spam blog URLs.

You can instead set this Condition to match any emails that do not have the specified subject, if you wish.
If you have created any Custom Rule Data, these data will be available to select as the Condition Value.
URL Scanner

The URL Scanner Condition will scan any links in the email message body, looking for known threats. You can choose to either match Clean URLs or Threat URLs.

The URL Scanner Condition can use LinkScan to provide on-demand URL protection.
Virus Ruleset

This Condition can be used to detect the presence of malware, in macros, VBA scripts or Office documents. The Condition checks against a given certainty value - either greater than or less than.

Virus Score

This Condition will trigger if the email has a Virus Score matching the value you set.

The Virus Score Condition is best used in combination with other Rules (with a higher priority) which uses the Add to Virus Score, Subtract from Virus Score and Set Virus Score Actions.

Actions

Use Actions to tell Email Security what to do with an email that matches the Conditions you've already set on the Rule.

Unlike Final Actions, Actions do not halt the processing of further Message Rules. So, it's possible that an email can trigger several different Rules. Processing will continue (in priority order) until the email triggers a Rule that has a Final Action.
Add Message Header

Adding this Action to a Rule will instruct Email Security to add a custom header to the email. You can enter any value you like. For example, HX-Clacks-Overhead: "GNU Terry Pratchett"

Add to Spam Score

Add this Action to a Rule to increase the email's spam score by the specified amount. The spam score can be used by the Spam Score Condition to perform further actions.

Add to Virus Score

Add this Action to a Rule to increase the email's virus score by the specified amount. The virus score can be used by the Virus Score Condition to perform further actions.

Append HTML

Append a fragment of HTML to the body of the email. You can use the rich-text editor to enter and format your HTML.

It's often a good idea to combine this Action with the Append Text Action, for email clients that do not display HTML messages.
Append Text

Append a fragment of plain text to the body of the email.

Append to Subject

Append the text of your choice to the email's subject.

Archive (Backup)

Store the message in the Backup Archive.

Remember, unless you also add a Final Action, the Backup Archive Action won't stop the email from being delivered.
DKIM Signing

Sign the message with a DKIM signature. You can choose the key complexity value from the drop-down list.

DKIM Verification Required

Specify the type fo DMARC verification required to result in a pass.

Email Security's LinkScan functionality allows you to apply on-demand link scanning to URLs in the email message body. You can choose the behaviour if a potential threat is detected, from the drop-down list.

Notify Recipient
The Notify Recipient Action requires a Direction Condition, with the direction set to Inbound.

Send a message to the recipient of the email. You can configure the sender address, subject, and body of the email message that is sent.

Notify Sender
The Notify Sender Action requires a Direction Condition, with the direction set to Outbound.

Send a message to the user that originally sent the email. You can configure the sender address, subject, and body of the email message that is sent.

Prefix HTML

Add a fragment of HTML to the start of the email's body text. You can use the rich-text editor to enter and format your HTML.

It's often a good idea to combine this Action with the Prefix Text Action, for email clients that do not display HTML messages.
Prefix Text

Add a fragment of plain text to the start of the email's body text.

Prefix to Subject

Add the text of your choice to the start of the email's subject.

Re-Route To

Re-route the email to a specific mailserver.

Save Copy in Quarantine

Save a copy of this email to the Global Quarantine.

Unlike the Quarantine Final Action, this Action will not stop the email from being delivered.
Send Copy To

Send a copy of this email to another recipient.

Set Spam Score

Use this Action to set the email's spam score to a specific value. The spam score can be used by the Spam Score Condition to perform further actions.

This will override any value the email may already have been given.
Set Virus Score

Use this Action to set the email's virus score to a specific value. The virus score can be used by the Virus Score Condition to perform further actions.

This will override any value the email may already have been given.
Subtract from Spam Score

Add this Action to a Rule to decrease the email's spam score by the specified amount. The spam score can be used by the Spam Score Condition to perform further actions.

Subtract from Virus Score

Add this Action to a Rule to decrease the email's virus score by the specified amount. The virus score can be used by the Virus Score Condition to perform further actions.

Final Actions

Use Final Actions to determine what will ultimately happen to an email that's triggered your Rule. Unlike standard Actions, any Final Action added to a Rule will stop the processing of any subsequent Rules for this email.

You can only add one Final Action to a Rule.

Rules don't have to have a Final Action.
Quarantine

This Final Rule moves the email to the Quarantine area. The email will not be delivered.

Quarantine - Company

This Final Rule moves the email to the Company Quarantine area. The email will not be delivered.

Delete

This Final Rule permanently deletes the email. The email will not be delivered.

Deliver

This Final Rule allows the email to be delivered normally.

System rules

Your Email Security installation comes with a number of out-of-the-box System Rules, provided by your Service Provider. These System Rules are intended to give a good set of initial base rules, that will protect a typical email system from most threats. System Rules cannot be changed, although you can of course override them with your own Rules.

System Rules are not shown in the Message Rules window by default. To display them, click the toggle.

You can enable or disable a System Rule by clicking the or button in the Message Rules window.

You can double-click a System Rule to view details of exactly what Conditions, Actions and Final Actions it consists of.

Examining the System Rules is a good way to get an idea of the power and flexibility of the Email Security engine, and to get inspiration as to what additional Rules your organisation might require.


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