Test Types

PureMessage uses a variety of methods to detect spam. These methods are embedded in the test definition of anti-spam rules. PureMessage detection methods are included in one of the following feature groups.

  • Spam Signatures Analysis: Signatures are created using spam data compiled by SophosLabs. There are signatures for each of the various email message parts, including the message body, paragraphs within the message body, HTML, images, and attachments. These are all tested against the contents of the messages that PureMessage processes. Signatures can be used to detect spam characteristics, even during spam campaigns in which some aspects of the messages are still evolving.
  • Known Spam Destinations: PureMessage includes a database of URLs associated with spam messages. This database is distributed with the PureMessage Anti-Spam heuristic update. URI tests determine whether messages contain URLs that are included in this database.
  • Sender Reputation: By default, PureMessage performs two types of DNS checks: reverse DNS look-ups and queries via Sophos's own SXL infrastructure. Because IP classification is handled as part of the SXL queries, the third-party DNS black lists are disabled by default. Before enabling any of the disabled DNSBL rules, be sure that you have the associated DNSBL licenses, if applicable.
  • Heuristic Analysis: Specified message components, such as the subject line or the message body, are analyzed by a regular expression. For example, a regular expression test can check for the occurrence of a specific word or phrase in the body of an email message. On the Anti-Spam Rules page in the PureMessage Manager, the test definition component of a regular expression test is prefixed by the word Test.
  • Site Features: PureMessage uses internal programmatic functions to test for various message characteristics. For example, multiple similar recipient addresses (johna@domain.com, johnb@domain.com, johnc@domain.com) often indicate a spam message. On the Anti-Spam Rules page in the PureMessage Manager, the test definition component of a message evaluation test is prefixed by the word Eval.

PureMessage also uses "meta" tests to check the result of two or more tests. For example, a meta test might be configured to be true if two other rules are also true. You cannot create custom meta tests; however, you can alter the score of existing tests. On the Anti-Spam Rules page in the PureMessage Manager, the test definition component of a meta test is prefixed by the word Meta.

Regular expression tests, message evaluation tests, meta tests and URI tests are enabled by default, as are DNS checks. tests generated from adaptive classification training must be manually configured and enabled.