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Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced the release of Service Pack 1 (SP1) for its Exchange 2003 messaging server, offering updates for e-mail security and administration.

Chief among the new features in this release is Microsoft Exchange Intelligent Message Filter (IMF) for Exchange Server 2003, which uses the SmartScreen heuristics-based content-filtering technology deployed at Microsoft Corp.’s MSN and Hotmail services as another tool to screen out spam messages based on content. IMF is designed to work in combination with other third-party anti-spam products.

Also on Tuesday, Microsoft took another step toward blocking spam by announcing the merging of its CallerID for E-mail proposal with the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) specification.

Both efforts are designed to make improvements in SMTP to prevent spammers from “spoofing” or forging legitimate e-mail addresses as the return addresses of their messages.

Exchange 2003 SP1 also includes an updated virus scanning API for third-party antivirus software vendors to plug into. Version 2.5 of the virus-scanning API supports scanning for viruses within encrypted e-mails, Microsoft officials said.

This initial service pack includes a number of administrative enhancements, chief among them support for remote procedure calls over HTTP, so that Outlook users will be able to access the Exchange Server from the desktop client while working remotely without having to launch a virtual private network (VPN) client first.

There’s also a wizard interface designed to simplify recovery from storage and new foreign-language support for Outlook Web Access and Outlook Mobile Access.

Microsoft is making another move in this service pack to encourage upgrades from Exchange 5.5, a nearly 7-year-old version of the software that about 40 percent of the Exchange installed base continues to use.

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