Ways To Mitigate Vexing Email Problems
Email on the internet is a public resource available to everyone and can be abused by anyone. Increasingly we depend on what turns out to be a fragile communications system that in many ways is pure Rube Goldberg in design and operation. Here are some ways, organized as questions and answers, that small companies managing their own email systems can avoid most of the quicksand.
Why Are Emails Rejected By The Receiver’s Email System?
For a whole host of reasons, each one categorized in the rejection, or bounce-back, email message. The categorizations consist of a number (e.g., 550), a short text description (e.g., “User Unknown”) and often a link to a web page with more information. There are no hard standards on how these should be formed, which are left to the individual organization that issues them. In short, these can mean just about anything, but generally the link will cover the rejection reason in varying degrees of applicability and detail.
From our tracking, the most common reason that emails are rejected is because the recipient is no longer at the receiving organization. The second most common reason is that the sender or the recipient, and sometimes both, are on a Public Block List. Repeatedly emailing to someone who’s no longer there can get the emailer on a Public Block List.
What Is A Public Block List?
PBL for short, a list of emails that have sent material deemed offensive in various ways, collectively known as spam. The sending emails are identified by their IP address. There are literally thousands of PBLs, most of which are reputable. Generally operated in “the public interest”, they add these spamming IP addresses to their lists in various ways, ranging from dirt simple to amazingly sophisticated. The spammers don’t worry about this because it’s not their email they are using: They hijack yours.
What Are Hijacked Email Addresses?
An email address used by a sender by anyone not actually the email address’ sender. It is amazingly easy to do and impossible to eliminate. The easiest way to get hijacked email addresses is to use a ‘spider’ or ‘bot’ program, very similar to what search engines use for indexing and the like, and store anything that resembles a well formed email address. Those not technically inclined can, in effect, rent these programs online, with varying and often sophisticated filtering and granularity. A new email address will be hijacked within 60 seconds of being posted on a web page.
What Can I Do If My Email Address Has Been Hijacked?
How Does Email Get On A Public Block List?
Any number of ways:
- A recipient clicking their email program’s [Spam] or [Abuse] button
- Emailing to someone who already is on a PBL
- Hijacked email used for mass emailings to sell…anything
- Use of bad or offensive words or phrases
- Repeatedly emailing to an email account that is no longer active
- Sending a “large number” of otherwise legitimate emails in a short period of time
- Sending an “appreciable number” of emails in a short period of time from a location with a dynamically assigned IP address, which automatically includes all residences whose IP addresses are not fixed
If all subscribers’ email domain names resolve to a single IP address (as would be the case in a multi-tenanted system), so if one subscriber gets on a PBL, then all subscribers will be on that PBL until it is removed from same.
How Does Email Get Off A Public Block List?
Entirely up to the manager of the PBL, of which (again) there are thousands. Generally, they are removed within a relatively short period of time. For what it’s worth, within 24 hours on most on the PBLs we monitor unless the activity that caused to initial listing resumes. Some PBLs charge money (a not too subtle form of extortion) but, alas, with no guarantees.
How Does A Public Block List Affect My Email?
If your email account is on a PBL then your email will be rejected and bounced back if the recipient’s server subscribes to a PBL checking service.
What If I Send An Email To Someone Who Is On A Public Block List?
If you try to send an email to someone whose email address is on a PBL that we check then it will not be sent.
Which Public Block List Should I Monitor?
Arguably one of the most comprehensive is here
How Can I Prevent Getting On A Public Block List?
You cannot do anything about your email address being hijacked, but you can protect yourself by:
- Having a complex logon ID and password
- Changing your password periodically
- Making sure that webmail sessions are protected with the SSL “padlock” clearly visible in the browser
- Eliminating inactive email addresses
- Have your account administrator immediately delete accounts for those no longer with your organization
What Are Programmatic Attacks?
Webmail can be manipulated by a remote program once an email account has been compromised by logging on, usually exploiting a weak password. Once they gain access to the compromised account they can generate and send new emails from that account by, in effect, entering recipient email addresses, subject and body text, and then clicking the [Send] button, without having to actually push the buttons or having to use a real web browser. And they can do this many times faster than a human can. It only takes a few seconds for that account, and all the other subscriber accounts, to be exposed to being listed on a PBL.
Why Is My Email So Slow?
Emails do not travel at the speed of light, nor in a straight line. Instead they hop from one server to another on their way to the recipient, in much the same way as goods are moved by truckers. In both cases, the load is temporarily unloaded and stored at each stop before being reloaded and sent to the next stop. This unloading and reloading to a local disk drive takes time. Additionally, emails are not sent in one fell swoop but instead are broken down into small packets. The destination server must receive all of the packets (which can and often do arrive out of order) before it “shows up” in the recipient’s in-box. So an email’s actual travel time depends on a whole range of things, from how full or slow any disk drive along the way may be, what alternate routing that has to be done based on intermediate hop timeouts, how much memory a server has available, and myriad other things that are unpredictable and beyond anyone’s control,
How Can I Speed Up My Emails?
There are those who will happily sell you a Service Level Agreement (or SLA for short) that claims to move emails at lightning speed. Most of these folks are also willing to sell you a bridge, so even if you aren’t from Missouri make them show you first, with at least a 30-day no cost trial period.
Why Does Email Work With My Desktop(or Smartphone) and not my Smartphone (or Desktop)?
The settings must be the same for both. If they are then something is wrong with your Smartphone (or Desktop) configuration, its local spam filters, the spam filters that the Internet Service Provider is using.
© Copyright 2011 Chuck Brooks for FutureWare SCG