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CIO  February 2004

CIO February 2004

Subject:

Re: AOL Spam List

From:

Joe St Sauver <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 25 Feb 2004 14:33:42 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (87 lines)

Hi Robert,

#Through relatively benign actions that were not centrally controlled,
#email containing the Simmons College URL (www.simmons.edu) has gotten on
#the AOL list to reject as spam.  This means even individuals sending
#emails with their personal URLs in their signatures can have their
#emails rejected.  This happened before the CAN-SPAM ACT, and we have
#serious central policies on sending email to prospects.  We cannot
#always control the actions of eager individuals.
#
#Has anyone else had to deal with this sort of problem?  Any suggestions
#how to get out of the doghouse? And since we can't guarantee that a unit
#within Simmons won't send an email solicitation to a bunch of people,
#one of whom thinks it is spam, how do we stay off the list?

I should note right up front that I am not affiliated with AOL, and I do
not speak for them, however you may find the following information to be
of interest:

-- AOL has a postmaster information web site at
   http://postmaster.info.aol.com/ which can be quite helpful if you're
   traffic is getting blocked

-- If you're not already requesting AOL scomp spam reports, you may want to
   do so for your netblocks; you may be surprised to see the messages that
   are being associated with your address space. (see the presentation at
   http://www.nanog.org/mtg-0310/spam.html for information on how to
   request them). scomps appear to get generated when AOL centrally filters
   messages, OR when users push the big red "this is spam" button.

-- Based on what you see in the scomps, you may find that one or more of
   the following is occuring:

   -- You may have infested machines that are being used to spam AOL
      addresses (only); if you don't get scomp reports (or do network
      traffic analysis) you probably won't even know those infested hosts
      exist (it is rare to get AOL spam complaints directly from an AOL
      or from a spam reporting service such as Spam Cop). Obviously you'll
      want to get those hosts cleaned up; if you're forensically inclined,
      you may find it fascinating to see what hosts are pumping spam through
      those compromised systems.

   -- If you permit users to forward their campus mail to an AOL account,
      and that forwarded mail includes spam (from whatever source), you
      may see the finger pointed at *your forwarding host* rather than
      the true source of the spam (it can be hard to know how far to
      backtrack when assessing the source of a spam -- all AOL knows for
      sure is the address of the mail transfer agent that handed their
      box the spam, and in a forwarding scenario, that would be YOUR
      host, unfortunately)

   -- You may have AOL recipients who push the "this is spam" button on
      legitimate stuff they've requested (but which they've forgotten
      about); in some cases they may even become so exhuberant that they
      push the "this is spam" button on personal mail from family members.

      If you can identify the source of those mis-markings, you may want
      to see if you can encourage them not to push the "this is spam"
      button randomly. :-) [Identifying the source of the mis-reports can
      be tricky since AOL munges the reporting AOL user's address out of
      the scomps]

   -- You may have message content characteristics which, in combination with
      other factors, trigger filtering heuristics.

   -- You may genuinely have local folks sending what is/looks like spam

      You may want to visit with those folks to explain why having AOL block
      your university's stuff is, um, not a good thing. If your AUP/terms of
      service do NOT provide a mechanism whereby you can take positive
      steps to control locally originated spam (in the event that an appeal
      for voluntary cooperation doesn't succeed), then I think you will
      likely have a serious problem. There's absolutely no doubt in my
      mind that AOL *will* block spam sources, period.

Bottom line, (1) check out the AOL postmaster info site, (2) get scomp
reports, (3) based on the scomps clean up any issues that exist, then
contact AOL to arrange to get unblocked...

Regards,

Joe St Sauver ([log in to unmask])
University of Oregon Computing Center

**********
Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/cg/.

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