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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

Can TCP/IP Survive?

The following article is an excerpt from the recently released Internet Analysis Report 2004 - Protocols and Governance. Full details of the argument for protocol reform can be found at 'Internet Mark 2 Project' website, where a copy of the Executive Summary can be downloaded free of charge. ..."In releasing this section for comment, I would like to point out that the report's conclusions are based on a cumulative examination of various protocols and systems. We are at a point of time where other protocols and systems are equally problematic -- the report points to some significant problems with DNS structure and scalability, and also points out that, to all intents and purposes, the basic email protocol, SMTP, is broken and needs immediate replacement." more

How Spammers Get Around SPF

Sender Policy Framework (SPF) stops novice spammers but not the professionals, says Spammer-X, a retired spammer who has gone into a lot of the details in his book, "Inside the Spam Cartel". The best way to beat SPF is to join it... First, Joe Spammer rents a dedicated spam host in a spammer-friendly location, like China. Next, he registers 100 domain names, and each domain is registered under a fake name and address. Next, DNS entries for each of the hosts are set up, including a valid pointer record (PTR), an MX record and reverse DNS entries for each domain... more

Hotmail Running Its Own SMTP Variation

Companies sensible to effective delivery of email to all free email services may have noticed problems with deliveries to Hotmail addresses. Despite the SMTP dialog ending with a successful "250" return code, recipients don't see the message. In their Guidelines, MSN require thorough compliance with IETF standards. However, it seems they have their own interpretation about provisions for Delivery Status Notifications, a.k.a. bounces, that servers must send after they have accepted responsibility for delivering the message... more

DKIM for Discussion Lists

There's a pernicious meme floating around that DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) doesn't work with discussion lists, particularly those hosted on common open source software packages like MailMan. It's particularly odd to see this claim after I set it up successfully on a stock Debian server in less than half an hour, just a few weeks ago. Here's how it can, should, and does work. more

Phishers Now Targeting Domain Registrars

This is an issue of some concern and should be watched carefully: phishers are now trying to get passwords of domain registrants (domain owners). Currently, correspondents inform me that GoDaddy is the target, but there's no reason to think the phishers won't expand to other registrars. Normally, phishers go after bank accounts or other financial information, or sometimes the online accounts of users so that they may send spam. It's not known precisely why phishers are after domain registration information, but the possibilities are chilling... more

Stop! Don't Forward That E-mail!

Forwarding e-mail is so easy that it must be legal, right? Not everyone thinks so. Ned Snow at the University of Arkansas recently wrote A Copyright Conundrum: Protecting Email Privacy that argues that forwarding violates the sender's copyright rights, so it's not. The article is quite clever and is (as best I can tell, not being a legal historian) well researched, even if you agree with me that its conclusions are a bunch of codswallop... more

Phish-Proofing URLs in Email?

For those who've been living in an e-mail free cave for the past year, phishing has become a huge problem for banks. Every day I get dozens of urgent messages from a wide variety of banks telling me that I'd better confirm my account info pronto. ...Several people have been floating proposals to extend authentication schemes to the URLs in a mail message. A sender might declare that all of links in it are to its own domain, e.g., if the sender is bigbank.com, all of the links have to be to bigbank.com or maybe www.bigbank.com. Current path authentication schemes don't handle this, but it wouldn't be too hard to retrofit into SPF. ...So the question is, is it worth the effort to make all of the senders and URLs match up? more

Huge Increase in Spam in October Email

You may have read reports that the total amount of spam is on the decline. Don't believe them. In the month of October, I saw the amount of spam in my traps here roughly double, from about 50,000 per day to 100,000/day now. In conversations with managers at both ISPs and corporate networks, I'm hearing the same thing. more

Canada's Anti-spam Bill C-28 is the Law of the Land

It's been a long time coming, but Canada has an anti-spam law, and one, which sets a new world standard, and a tough, but fair, opt-in protocol for everyone in North America who sends commercial email and other electronic messages. Yesterday, The Canadian Senate voted to accept Bill C-28, and today, December 15, at 13:00 eastern, it will be given Royal Asset of the Governor General of Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston. more

An Open Letter to Yahoo!'s Postmaster

In June 2004, Yahoo! and a number of other companies got together to announce the Anti-Spam Technical Alliance or ASTA. While it appears to have been largely silent since then, ASTA did at least publish an initial set of best practices the widespread adoption of which could possibly have had some impact on spam... The majority of these are clearly aimed at ISPs and end users, but some are either generally or specifically relevant to email providers such as Yahoo!, Google or Microsoft... The problem: Since February this year, we have been receiving a significant quantity of spam emails from Yahoo!'s servers. In addition to their transport via the Yahoo! network, all originate from email addresses in yahoo.com, yahoo.co.uk and one or two other Yahoo! domains. Every such message bears a Yahoo! DomainKeys signature... more

Kidnapping, Theft and Rape Are Not "Cyber" Crimes

Kidnap. Rape. There are no lesser words that can be used to describe what happened to the daughter of an anti-spam investigator in Russia. His daughter was recently released, according to Joseph Menn's recent article on Boing Boin, after having been kidnapped from her home five years ago, fed drugs, and made to service men, as a warning to ward off further investigations. The criminals behind these vicious acts were also responsible for large spamming organization associated with Russian Mob activity. more

The User Experience with New TLDs: How to Avoid the Junk Mail File or 'User Unknown'

As new Top-Level Domains (TLDs) are launched, the industry mustn't overlook the customer experience. A key question is this: Will the software applications we all use, recognize the new TLDs and know what to do with them in a timely fashion? Think email and even form-fill applications. I speak from experience here. In 2006 when we launched the .MOBI TLD, there were arguably only a handful of .MOBI email addresses in existence. To my dismay, I found that often emails sent only from my .MOBI account were not being received at the other end... more

The Politics of Email Authentication, 2006 Edition

A student at a well-known US university wrote me and asked whether, given the huge national interest in getting the industry to unite behind (at least) one format, did I think that the FTC should've played a stronger role in pushing the industry to adopt an authentication format? I said: Nope. Part of the reason it's taking so long to agree on a standard is that the process is infested with academic theoreticians who are more interested in arguing about hypotheticals and pushing their pet spam solutions than in doing something useful... more

The Rumors of Sender ID's Demise Are Exaggerated

While several news stories are reporting that Sender-ID has been killed, that is not entirely true. While Sender-ID in its current form is dead because of Purported Responsible Address (PRA), the compromise version with MAILFROM and PRA scopes is not. Also, the co-chairs want to stay away from any other alternative algorithms that do RFC2822 checking because of possible Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) claims by Microsoft on that as well. Andrew Newton, one of two co-chairs of the working group, wrote in an email today to the group's discussion forum... more