As an ISP that provides email services, one of the joys of the venture is the ongoing battle against the onslaught of spam. To say there is a bit of antipathy or angst directed toward blatant spammers, not to mention some of the supposedly helpful anti-spam list managers, is an understatement of epic proportions. Any systems engineer that has ever tried to manage mass amounts of email knows the challenges of protecting the all-important email reputation of their user base. You have to balance the defense of your user base from those continually seeking to exploit your users, against the mission-critical task of providing the reliable and convenient email services that your users expect.
Similar to the never ending advancement of anti-virus tools, anti-spam is in a constant state of flux. The same defenses that are used to protect the user base are openly available to the spammers and hackers, which they then use to test their wares before flooding ISPs with their latest spam sortie. Back in the early days of spam, a simple Bayesian filter searching against common terms was enough to weed out the few spammers breaking ground on the burgeoning “marketing channel” that was the Internet, but those days are long gone. Today, upwards of 85-90 percent of all email is spam, and mail managers must integrate a various combination of constantly updated anti-spam tactics to keep pace. For example, mail managers from around the world today have banded together to use global databases where they report and lookup known spam sender IPs, non-compliant servers, open relays, spam footprints and spam patterns.
Every once in a while, one of the mail miscreants will find a way to exploit email defenses and use an ISPs treasured reputation to carpet bomb spam messages to the email community. While in a majority of these instances the mail administrator nabs the criminal before they do serious harm, even the best managed servers can get listed on a remote blacklist, which other mail managers use to block sources of spam. Once you’re listed, no mail from your server will get to any other server that’s using that blacklist as a way to reduce spam. Getting delisted can be a challenge, as well. Not only does the mail manager need to find the exploit and clean up the mess, they have to assure the owner of the blacklist that they’ve fixed the problem, and sometimes practically beg for eternal forgiveness in order to get their server’s IPs removed from the list.
Needless to say managing email can have its challenges, but at ZCorum we do not shirk from our responsibilities, and we are ever vigilant to win the ongoing battle against some of the lowest lifeforms on the Internet. If you are an ISP and are weary of managing your own email services, including fighting the ever-present influx of spam, let us take on that dirty job for you. Someone has to do it.
Finally, if you ever get a chance, I find that a box of doughnuts or some chicken biscuits can go a long way in reinvigorating your nearest anti-spam warrior as they venture out in the dark and outer realms of the Spam Wars.