Spam doesn’t just come in a can anymore


Spam Overload

Quite a few of our clients have experienced a dramatic increase in spam in recent weeks.  Spam rolls like that; it will hit one site HARD and then spider out to each of the links it finds there.

Meanwhile, the servers that host all this spam traffic have to remain vigilant in the fight against spam so it doesn’t jam up the flow of legitimate email.  One of the key strategies they employ is “Email Blacklisting”


Email blacklisting is a necessary evil in the world of today’s computers. Without blacklisting organizations, no email account would be safe from the onslaught of spam emails floating around the internet.  Here’s how it works:  I get spam.  I report it.  The blacklisting organization includes the sender’s domain in the blacklist.  Now email sent from that domain gets bounced and not delivered to me.  Nice!

Unfortunately, sometimes legitimate email servers are added due to circumstances beyond their owners’ control.  Say your site becomes the victim of a phishing attack where it appears spam is coming from your site or, worse, your site is hacked and some black hat is actually using your email account to send spam.  Your Aunt Viola gets an email that appears to be from you but is actually selling circus ponies.  Now, Aunt Viola knows you would never send her such an email, so she reports it as spam.

From that point, any email provider that respects the organization’s blacklist will automatically stop allowing any emails sent from the blacklisted server (you!) to make it to intended recipient (Aunt Viola!), and in most situations, will bounce the email back to the original sender.  So now when Aunt Viola tries to send email to Cousin Petunia, who also has email through our mail server, the message bounces back.  Unfettered, Aunt V tries to email you to ask  you why that happened (you’re such a helpful relative) but that bounces, too.  All of a sudden, Aunt Viola is panicking – she can’t get mail through to any of her favorite people!  This is because all of Aunt Viola’s favorite people use the same mail server, and it’s blacklisted.

As you can see, email blacklisting solidly earns the moniker “necessary evil.”

How can you help prevent blacklisting of “good” email servers?

NEVER mark an email as SPAM if it comes to you via a forwarder address.  That's because you're essentially saying your forwarder While it may not be your account causing the issue, its a good idea to take preventative measures to help ensure your account is never the cause of a blacklist:

  1. Make sure your email accounts have strong, secure passwords. We like ten digits, using a mixture of letters in caps and lowercase, along with at least one number and one of the symbols above the numbers on your keyboard.
  2. If your website uses any scripts or programs, keep them up to date so that they can’t be used as spam email sources. If is your webmaster, consider getting onto one of our maintenance plans so we take care of this for you.  Contact us.
  3. If you have login access to your site, make sure your password there is strong and secure (see #1).
  4. NEVER mark an email as SPAM if it comes to you via a forwarder address.  That’s because you’re essentially saying your forwarder address is a spammer; you’re asking for yourself–and our server–to be blacklisted!

By doing all the above, you help prevent your account from being used to send bulk emails and in turn helps the server remain in good graces with the blacklist organizations.

What does do to help prevent blacklisting of legitimate email?

roller coaster ride

The Feedback Loop is a roller coaster ride

There are many organizations that work with our host servers, directly by informing them of emails that have been reported as spam before they blacklist the server. This gives the host the opportunity to look into the spam messages and track down the account they are being sent from. From there, the host works with that account owner to help prevent any more spam messages from being sent. This process is known as a Feedback Loop, or FBL. For more information about how the FBL system works, please click here.

What happens if the server gets blacklisted? What does do?

If an organization adds one of our servers to a blacklist, we start immediate action to have the blacklist removed and to prevent future spam messages being sent from the source that triggered the listing. This process varies from organization to organization. Some organizations allow us to simply submit a form, while others require us to email them directly.

Unfortunately, there are some organizations from which we simply can’t request a removal. In situations like this, we do the best we can to clean up the account that sent the messages and simply wait for them to remove us on their own. There is no way to tell how long this process can take as it varies from case to case.

No matter the organization, any delisting request can take time for the request to be approved and processed.  Prevention is, by far, the preferred route!