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Port 25 Blocking, or Fix SMTP and Leave Port 25 Alone for the Sake of Spam?

Larry Seltzer wrote an interesting article for eWeek, on port 25 blocking, the reasons why it was being advocated, and how it would stop spam. This quoted an excellent paper by Joe St.Sauver, that raised several technically valid and true corollaries that have to be kept in mind when blocking port 25 -- "cough syrup for lung cancer" would be a key phrase... Now, George Ou has just posted an article on ZDNET that disagrees with Larry's article, makes several points that are commonly cited when criticizing port 25 blocking, but then puts forward the astonishing, and completely wrong, suggestion, that worldwide SPF records are going to be a cure all for this problem. Here is my reply to him... more»

How to Stop Spam

I got a letter the other day from AOL postmaster Carl Hutzler, about how the Internet community could get rid of spam, if it really wanted to. With his permission, here are some excerpts. "Spam is a completely solvable problem. And it does not take finding every Richter, Jaynes, Bridger, etc to do it (although it certainly is part of the solution). In fact it does not take email identity technologies either (although these are certainly needed and part of the solution)." more»

An Interview with the Lead Developer of SPF - Part I

CircleID recently interviewed Meng Weng Wong, the lead developer of Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and founder of Pobox.com. As one of the leading anti spam authentication schemes, SPF is used by companies such as AOL, Earthlink, SAP and supported by anti spam companies such as Sophos, Symantec, Brightmail, IronPort, Ciphertrust, MailArmory, MailFrontier, Roaring Penguin Software, and Communigate Pro. Last month, Microsoft announced its agreement to merge Caller ID, its own proposed anti spam authentication scheme, with SPF -- the joint standard is called 'Sender ID'. In this two-part interview, Meng Wong explains how SPF got started, where it is today and what could be expected in the future of email. more»

Sender Address Verification: Solving the Spam Crisis

There are many companies in the spam-fighting business and most, if not all, claim to be hugely successful. Yet spam is exponentially more prevalent today than it was just 2 years ago. How can one conclude that today's anti spam solutions are working? This year spammers will use machine-generated programs to send trillions of unsolicited email. Thankfully, a new anti-spam technology has made its way into the market. more»

Internet Governance: An Antispam Perspective

All those Internet Governance pundits who track ICANN the way paparazzi track Paris Hilton are barking up the wrong tree. They've mistaken the Department of Street Signs for the whole of the state. The real action involves words like rbldnsd, content filtering, and webs of trust. Welcome to the Internet! What's on the menu today? Spam, with some phish on the side! We've got email spam, Usenet spam, IRC spam, IM spam, Jabber spam, Web spam, blogs spam, and spam splogs. And next week we'll have some brand new VoIP spam for you. Now that we're a few years into the Cambrian explosion of messaging protocols, I'd like to present a few observations around a theme and offer some suggestions. more»

Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail Compromised - But How?

One of the bigger news stories is that of 10,000 usernames and passwords of Hotmail users were posted this past week, victims of a phishing scam... It seems unlikely to me that this would be a hack where someone would break into Hotmail's servers and access the account information that way. It is much more likely that the spammers got the information by social engineering. Why is this more likely? For one, they'd have to get past all of the firewalls and security measures that Microsoft/Hotmail have to keep intruders out. more»

What is Anti-Spam?

There's a lot of argument as to which "anti-spam" techniques are legitimately so called. In this article, I'd like to consider what constitutes an anti-spam technique in an ideal sense, then consider the various practiced approaches to spam mitigation in that light, drawing conclusions as to how we should frame the "anti-spam" discussion. ...For the purposes of this discussion, let "spam" refer to "unsolicited bulk email". Not everyone agrees on this definition, but it's by far the most widely accepted, and without a working definition we won't be able to define "anti-spam"... more»

Fight Spam With the DNS, Not the CIA

It seems like spam is in the news every day lately, and frankly, some of the proposed solutions seem either completely hare-brained or worse than the problem itself. I'd like to reiterate a relatively modest proposal I first made over a year ago: Require legitimate DNS MX records for all outbound email servers.

MX records are one component of a domain's Domain Name System (DNS) information. They identify IP addresses that accept inbound email for a particular domain name. To get mail to, say, linux.com, a mail server picks an MX record from linux.com's DNS information and attempts to deliver the mail to that IP address. If the delivery fails because a server is out of action, the delivering server may work through the domain's MX records until it finds a server that can accept the mail. Without at least one MX record, mail cannot be delivered to a domain.
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Moving Target: Spammer Using Over 1000 Home Computers as DNS

Some individual appears to have hijacked more than a 1,000 home computers starting in late June or early July and has been installing a new Trojan Horse program on them. The Trojan allows this person to run a number of small websites on the hijacked home computers. These websites consists of only a few web pages and apparently produce income by directing sign-ups to for-pay porn websites through affiliate programs. Spam emails messages get visitors to come to the small websites.

To make it more difficult for these websites to be shut down, a single home computer is used for only 10 minutes to host a site. After 10 minutes, the IP address of the website is changed to a different home computer... more»

The Future of Some Email May Not Use Email

Paul McNamara quotes me extensively in this piece on the EFF protest of Goodmail. When I say "the EFF has lost its mind", i really mean "the EFF has lost its way". In the early days, the EFF was about preventing the government from ruining the Internet commons, and preventing the government from putting walls on the frontier. These days, the EFF is more about preventing companies who have no power to regulate from doing things the EFF doesn't like. That is a huge change, and one that makes the EFF much less worthy of support... more»

An Interview with the Lead Developer of SPF - Part II

CircleID recently interviewed Meng Weng Wong, the lead developer of Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and founder of Pobox.com. As one of the leading anti spam authentication schemes, SPF is used by companies such as AOL, Earthlink, SAP and supported by anti spam companies such as Sophos, Symantec, Brightmail, IronPort, Ciphertrust, MailArmory, MailFrontier, Roaring Penguin Software, and Communigate Pro. Last month, Microsoft announced its agreement to merge Caller ID, its own proposed anti spam authentication scheme, with SPF -- the joint standard is called 'Sender ID'. In this two-part interview, Meng Wong explains how SPF got started, where it is today and what could be expected in the future of email. more»

Hypertext Mail Protocol (a.k.a. Stub Email): A Proposal

Back in the days of dial-up modems and transfer speeds measured in hundreds of bits per second, unwanted email messages were actually felt as a significant dent in our personal pocketbooks. As increases in transfer speeds outpaced increases in spam traffic, the hundreds of unwanted emails we received per week became more of a nuisance than a serious financial threat. Today sophisticated spam filters offered by all major email providers keep us from seeing hundreds of unwanted emails on a daily basis, and relatively infrequently allow unwanted messages to reach our coveted Inboxes. So, to some degree, the spam problem has been mitigated. But this "mitigation" requires multiple layers of protection and enormous amounts of continually-applied effort. more»

Why DomainKeys is Broken

The recent testing by Gmail of DomainKeys affords an opportunity to look again at what the impact of it may be in any attempt to introduce a Domino addin to verify DomainKeys signatures. I have here a sample of an email sent from Gmail and that same email after being delivered to the in-box of a Notes/Domino user who prefers MIME. There are differences which make DomainKeys a real problem at Domino shops (and, I suspect, others). more»

Email Address Forgery

In my roles as postmaster at CAUCE (the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail) and abuse.net, I get a lot of baffled and outraged mail from people who have discovered that someone is sending out spam, often pornographic spam, with their return address on the From: line. "How can they do that? How do I make them stop?'' The short answers are "easily'' and "it's nearly impossible.'' more»

AOL and Goodmail: Two Steps Back for Email

Remember the old email hoax about Hillary Clinton pushing for email taxation? When we first heard AOL's plans for Goodmail today, we thought maybe the hoax had re-surfaced and a few industry reporters got hooked by it. But alas, this tax plan seems to be true. AOL has long held the leading standard in email whitelisting. Every email sender who cares about delivery has tried to keep their email reputation high so that they could earn placement on AOL's coveted Enhanced Whitelist. Now, AOL may be saying that those standards don't matter as much as a postage stamp when it comes to email delivery. more»