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Website Email Issues at CharlestonSW.com

Spamhaus Banner

I’ve been getting a lot of reports from users that are not getting their email notifications when resetting a password. Or they never get their license key email. Or forum notifications. Not everyone has this problem, but enough users that I decided to take a break from coding Store Locator Plus 4.0 and figure out what was going on.

Spamhaus PBL

Turns out Spamhaus PBL was the culprit. While some site administrators may be familiar with spam block lists (or blacklists), the lesser known sibling can be just as much of an issue. Unlike the spam block list (SBL), the policy block list (PBL) lists millions of IP addresses as potential sources of spam. Unless you are a large company with a static IP block that is known to be well controlled there is a good chance your IP address is on the PBL. Especially if you are using shared hosting or virtual hosting.

It turns out the IP address for the charlestonsw.com web server is on the PBL. In fact the ENTIRE set of Microsoft Azure services is on the PBL. The general consensus is that the IP addresses are far too dynamic and cloud hosting is a prime breeding ground for the festering wound of the Internet known as spam houses.

Being on the PBL is not an indication that a site is in any way related to spam or that the server on which it resides may host a spamming company. It simply means that the propensity for spam to originate from some server within the IP block is high, mostly because the IP address may be shared at some future date with other companies that are spam houses.

Many companies have expanded their email black list services beyond the typical “block any site/server on the SBL” to “block any site on ANY block list, or *BL” including the PBL. This is a good policy for strict email controls over spam, but it certainly drops a lot of “good email” originating from cloud hosted sites and services. Like Charleston Software Associates.

User Side Fixes

If you are not getting email from charlestonsw.com you should add the server www.charlestonsw.com and charlestonsw.com to your email whitelist. You can also add info at charlestonsw period com if you have an email-specific whitelist. However there are emails coming from the web system that are not reading the info at charlestonsw period com header and may originate from other sources.

Business Side Fixes

What I am working on from the server side is getting the web server to push email out through a specific Google Apps web mail account. This required setting up a specific email account at Google Apps, enabling the account for relay, configuring the mail server to connect securely to the Google account and push email messages out on that server.

This is required because the Windows Azure cloud hosting does not support static IP addresses. While the IP address is persistent it can change. As such the Charleston Software Associates server cannot be put on the PBL “good neighbors” list. This requires more work, more expense, and more drastic measures. This is one more feather in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud hosting cap. AWS still proves to be far ahead of the competition when it comes to the cloud hosting space. When it is time for an upgrade the CSA services will be moved to Amazon.

Maybe after the Store Locator Plus 4.0 release is done.

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Yahoo Supports Spammers? Sad but true…

Back in the day when Yahoo was still a teenager, that is about 5 years ago in Internet time, Yahoo! used to provide simple ways to report abuse from their user base. Getting spammed like crazy from “ijustsendspam@yahoo.com”? Go to the Yahoo Abuse site and you were quickly directed to a form to report the incident along with any evidence.  Within a few weeks the user would be gone.

That was then.   We are in a different era now.  Yahoo is now a crusty old man, and a feeble pissed-off one at that.    The younger, stronger Google has come in an taken over their executive seat on the board and put them on the path to retirement where they are destined to circle the buyout waters on the cruise ship of indifference.

Today when you get spammed, receive death threats, get 300 notices every hour posted to your blog or online forum to buy enough V1Agra, C1Al1s, or other meds at the senior citizen’s online discount center (probably hosted at Yahoo) you can start the same “report abuse” process.  However, today the old senile Yahoo simply runs you through a few questions to pretend they give a damn and give you canned web knowledgebase response that says “Click the report spam button on your browser”.   Very useful crusty ol’ Yahoo, very useful indeed.

So now there are thousands of spammers that no only sign up for new Yahoo! accounts every day, but THEY NEVER GET BANNED.   It is nearly impossible to report any form of abuse and Yahoo obviously doesn’t care.

The only trick I found to even send a message to Yahoo is to report use from a Deceased User, answer the right follow-on questions in the right-way, and fill out a 13-part form to prove to Yahoo! that you are not trying to spam them or create false posts obviously worried that their own “IAMGoingToSpamTheShitOutOfYou@yahoo.com” user might use these forms to spam them to death.

Have you found an easier way to report abuse or spam by a Yahoo user?  Let us know?  In the meantime please feel free to email lq512@yahoo.com and send back some spam an abusive emails his way for sharing his spamming efforts with us.

 

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Diagnosing “savemail: cannot save rejected email anywhere”

We recently ran into this message on one of our development servers.   There are a number of reasons this may happen and finding the right solution means finding the cause of the error.  These steps will help you isolate the cause of the error so you can start tracking down the proper solution.  In our case an errant application was not sending the from: field in the mail header thus causing the message to fail the basic mail format checks.

Checking Aliases

First make sure you have the following entries in /etc/aliases:

# Basic system aliases -- these MUST be present
MAILER-DAEMON:    postmaster
postmaster:    root

If these entries are present, try running these commands:

# sendmail -bv MAILER-DAEMON
# sendmail -bv postmaster

It should come back immediately with a message like the one below:

postmaster@cybersprocket.com... deliverable: mailer relay, host [127.0.0.1], user postmaster@cybersprocket.com

If it does not, rebuild the aliases database by running the newaliases command:

# newaliases

Forcing A Resend With Logging

Failed messages remain in the mail queue directory for examination by the system administrator. Sendmail renames the header of the queued message from qf* to Qf*, making it easy to identify these messages in your mail queue.  You can easily list the failed messages with the following mailq command:

# mailq -qL

To diagnose, locate the offending message ID in the log (/var/log/maillog) or by using the mailq -qL command.

Rename the matching Qf<message_id> file to qf<message_id>, and execute the following command:

sendmail -v -qI<message_id> -d11

The Problem Revealed

You should now have a detailed log file indicating what the source of the problem was.  In our case we see the From: line in the mail header is blank:

>>> MAIL From:<>
501 Syntax error in arguments
Data format error

Hope that helps. Good luck!