You catch 'em, we kill 'em

Blacklists, black holes and and staying in the black

A customer called - they couldn't get emails from their ISP provided email (hmm lets call the the ISP Catapult ) to another ISP (lets call them VulcanPhones) On investigation it turns out VulcanPhones subscribe to the Spamhaus Black List and the IP address of Catapults mail servers have eneded up on the black list again.  Based on that entry VulcanPhones are bouncing / dropping all email from anybody who uses Catapults SMTP server into a big black hole.

OK - We now have the connection between black lists and black holes but how does this affect us staying in the black and possibly avoiding seeing red (spot my Canterbury leanings).

Simple - while my customer may have an email address, being a private individual without need for their own domain name, it is worth noting that a number of business who do have their own domain name use Catapults SMTP servers to send email.  Unfortunately for them, the fact that they do send from their own domain name email addresses does not stop them getting black listed by VulcanPhones as their outgoing mail server is still Catapults SMTP server.

And staying in the black? Well if approximately 40% of your correspondence to clients, suppliers and workers is going straight into a black hole, your business is not going to survive very well and not only will you be seeing red, you will be seeing red ink as your business dies and your bank balances plummit.

Now - what VulcanPhone - and to be honest, many other NZ ISPs are doing is normal practice. Using black lists to reject spam is a good policy, as long as it is not your only policy. Common sense and intelligence should be the hall marks of a good ISP and solely blocking spam based on black lists is neither intelligent or good common sense, it is just lazy thinking and cost cutting.

Now the acronym, ISP stands for Internet SERVICE Provider. Neither VulcanPhone or Catapult are doing their clients any good SERVICE by acting as they are. Further more, to stop flogging the example ISPs, neither are most of our major players in the ISP market by acting in a similar fashion.

My answer:

NZ ISPs should WHITE LIST all the major NZ ISP's mail servers. Simple as that.

We all know that Xtra, Vodafone, Slingshot, TCL, Paradise, iHug, QSL, Snap, Netspeed, Farmside, Wireless Web, Amuri Net, Maxnet, Actrix, etc etc etc are not spammers. They are SERVICE providers and blocking mail from their publicly known SMTP servers is doing a DIS-SERVICE to everyone involved. In NZ we should at least trust mail from these ISps not to be black listed. They are not Spammers.

But what about spam coming from their SMTP servers? Report it and allow the hosting ISP to deal with the offending sender. Simple as that. At worst the occaissional person will get virused and become a spam bot, some idiot will set up a spam compaign hoping to get rich but 99% of all mail from the major ISPs is legitimate. Don't hurt the majority in persuit of the minority. Blocking an entire ISP as a response to a virused user or spm idiot only ends up with everybody losing and does nothing to resolve the issue causing the spam coming out of the ISP.

So back in black - NZ businesses are getting hammered by emails not arriving. It is becoming quite an issue, and will continue to become more of an issue as the cloud based service take hold. It does hurt the economy when emails dissapear into a black listed black hole. If NZ ISPs can SERVE the business community by favouring NZ email from respected ISPs then it sure wouldn't hurt towards helping us stay in the Black.

Just a thought - Especially for that particular xtraordinary ISP that uses a third party to run their mail and whose filtering is almost impossible to get off.

Other related posts:
Independence in a corporate age
Would you trust these people with your money?

nunz's profile

Shane Hollis
New Zealand

Shane started Virusbusters twelve years ago to provide fixed price IT support for home users.

Daily battles through the world of viruses, spammers and other malware has left an indelible impression on him so he decided to try to give back some of the help he has received over time.

Hopefully crazy ideas, virus removal tips and other help can be found in this new blog. who knows, it might even be worth reading one day.