Understanding Office 2003 SP2's Junk Mail Filter and Anti-Phishing Feature

My users are complaining that some links in email messages don't work since we've applied Microsoft Office 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2). Did Microsoft break something?

SP2 strengthens Outlook's junk mail filter and adds a new feature to combat phishing (i.e., email messages that attempt to trick the user into going to a Web site and entering personal information). Both of these changes result in URLs not working in certain messages. On the junk mail side, Outlook 2003 SP2 displays every message in the Junk E-mail folder in plain text and blocks all links.

Showing the actual link URL as well as the display text, as Figure 1 shows, makes it easier for a user to identify a fake link. When a user finds a message in the Junk E-mail folder that isn't junk, moving the message to any other folder will make the message appear in HTML format and reactivate the links.

If Outlook's anti-phishing-feature suspects that a message is phishing, however, the links stay disabled even after the item is moved to another folder. Figure 2 shows how the message in Figure 1 would look if the user moved it to another folder. Because the message was marked as a phishing attempt, Outlook continues to block the links. The Click here to turn on links notice in the gray bar at the top of the message tells the user that Outlook turned off the links. If the user clicks the gray bar, the Turn on links (not recommended) option appears. Choosing that option activates that message's links. If the user wants to turn on links in phishing messages permanently, he or she can choose Tools, Options, Junk Email and clear the check box labeled Don't turn on links in messages that might connect to unsafe or fraudulent sites. To help protect your security, we recommend that you leave this check box selected.

Note that for the new anti-phishing protection to work, you need to install not only Office 2003 SP2, but also the latest junk email filter update. You can find the latest junk email filter update, along with other Outlook 2003 updates, at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/office update/CD010798691033.aspx.

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