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SPAM: Mail Server Changes

In January 2007, we made major changes to the way we handle SPAM filtering to improve the amount of spam getting filtered and reduce the amount of legitimate email that was getting caught.

Why change?

  • In order to combat SPAM, you need to adapt and change the filtering to catch spammers
  • SPAM has been consistently increasing and causing an added burden to our mail servers
  • Some of our filtering methods had the chance of creating "false positives", meaning a message might be marked as SPAM when it was really solicited
  • While current filters have been somewhat effective with fighting spam, we have found that many customers simply did not activate the filter
  • We wanted to improve the functionality and tools for our customers to use to help manage and fight SPAM directly.

How were we doing things before?

First level system wide on our mail servers was using RBL's. This was very effective at catching 90% of all spam. Emails caught by RBL filtering would bounce back to the sender with instructions on how to be removed from the RBL.

The second level of filtering that we have had in the past is called Spam Assassin, this filter scans your incoming mail on the mail server before it has been delivered to your mailbox. When the scans are conducted a point system is assigned to the content of the messages during the scan and as the points for a particular message climbs the message is then discarded based on the point system.

We additional have a set of rules in place to not allow messages with certain types of attachments, this is a virus control method to prevent some of the more common types of viruses. We simply block those messages from being sent to you. If you need to send executable types of files we suggest using something like Winzip to send them.

What have we changed?

The filtering control panel for your account (http://myaccount.iinet.com), this control panel has been a very powerful method of filtering spam.

We have added a method to instead of bouncing messages that were tagged as spam through our system wide filters (RBL) to instead store them on our mail server for you to review for 7 days.

We have added a web interface that will allow you to add what is called a whitelist directly from this list of messages for specific addresses so you can receive messages from the senders that are on the RBL filters. This will allow you to receive mail from sites that may have found themselves on a RBL filter.

We have enabled Spam Assassin filtering on every customers account by default, in addition we have set the point system to 4 which is more aggressive.

All attachments are being scanned and will be allowed through if they do not have viruses, worms, or known phishing scams (using ClamAV virus detection)

You can access the control panel as well as the spam folder at http://myaccount.iinet.com

How will this effect me?

  • Spam delivered to your inbox should be greatly reduced
  • More functionality with finding and identifying spam using the spam folder
  • Greater access to manage filtering with tools on http://myaccount.iinet.com
  • Previous custom rules created will go away. You will need to recreate the rule if you had something specific set up.
  • Easier ability to add to whitelist for allowed email senders and to report spam
  • All attachments will now be allowed through, however attachments are scanned for potential viruses and phishing scams

What Additional filtering could I use?

You can use additional filtering if you choose to, and customize it to your sending and receiving activity

If you use Outlook or Outlook Express, examples of other filters you can download are:

http://www.spamaid.com/

http://www.spamfighter.com/

We know this is not a one size fits all solution and everyone is different. The control is in your hands

How do I report Spam?

  • Sites on the Internet that show you how to find the source of spam if you choose. We ask that you look at sites such as http://www.stopspam.org or http://spam.abuse.net which both have good information for identifying the source of the spam that you received.
  • Do not send your spam to Infinity to take care of for you!
  • If the spam did originate from an Infinity customer, yes we will take action but ask that you send us complete SMTP headers with concrete evidence of this fact.

What's next?

  • Continually look for new methods for filtering and preventing SPAM
  • Future additions to Spam Assassin to enhance how our systems identify SPAM

Common Terms:

MX server: equipment used by an Internet Service Provider to process email

SPAM: email that is unsolicited and considered junk

Whitelist/Blacklist: as part of spam filtering, a whitelist will allow specified addresses through to their destination whereas a blacklist will prevent that address from being delivered regardless of the filtering level in place.

RBL: (short for Real-time Black List) lists of mail servers that are known, or believed to be known, sources of spam. RBL lists are updated frequently and used to help filter spam

Phishing: Ploy used by scam artists to get sensitive information like bank accounts or credit card numbers

Article ID: 726

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