Re: [Asrg] What are the IPs that sends mail for a domain?
On Jul 2, 2009, at 8:03 AM, Alessandro Vesely wrote:
Douglas Otis wrote:
On Jul 1, 2009, at 7:20 AM, Alessandro Vesely wrote:
Disagree. Based on our results, when only a few domains publish an
IP addresses of an Outbound MTA, it is rather safe to assume the
domains represented by verified EHLO information resolve who is
administrating the MTA.
John Leslie wrote:
The CSV paradigm is that the operator of a MTA should exercise
some responsibility for what is sends. The HELO string identifies
the MTA (though not necessarily one string exclusively by one
MTA), and the DNS management for that domain-name string states
whether that domain exercises responsibility (and by automatic
return of A)ddress RRs on SRV queries, what IP address(es) that
The link from the MTA to its operator is still missing.
In general an MTA provides a FQDN like mta.example.com, and we are
unable to say whether it "is a member of" example.com. In addition,
the MTA's administrator may be unrelated to example.com's registrant.
When the EHLO host name references IP addresses that match the
Outbound MTA, this verifies there is a common administration between
the FQDN and DNS. CSV ensures this relationship can be established,
and also asserts the system is an outbound MTA.
When there are many domains, this appears to represent either MTAs
operating behind a NAT, or compromised systems; sometimes both.
I don't understand that kind of setup. Multiple MTAs operating
behind a NAT have no way to receive mail, so they are only sending
SMTP clients. Is inertia the only reason why they don't use an MSA?
Unfortunately, Outbound MTAs behind NATs is more common that it should
be, especially in Poland and Brazil. Outbound MTAs can operate behind
NATs. Outbound MTAs can be unrelated to where their mail is
received. Even so, port 25 of the NAT can be nailed to a host within
the NAT's private address space. Outbound MTAs behind a NAT is fairly
common in office environments. The presence of multiple EHLO host
names within the NATed office environment however appears to be most
often due to compromised systems behind the same NAT.
It appears to be rare for legitimate Outbound MTAs to change domain
affiliations. From a reputation standpoint, verified EHLO
information offers stable identifiers in which to effectively and
efficiently manage email abuse.
It seems that vanity domains don't mind if the MX record points to
an MTA in another domain. The intricacies of having CNAMEs near MX
settings presumably refrained also from assigning multiple names,
one for each vanity domain, to a given MTA. However, some do it.
Don't confuse Outbound MTAs with that of Inbound MTAs. This has
nothing to do with MX records.
On an SMTP connection, a client says: "Hello mta.example.com", and
after I accept that, it goes on with "Mail from:<xyz(_at_)example(_dot_)ORG>".
What does that mean, in terms of accountability?
With EHLO mta.example.com and a history of that host name being used
by small range of IP addresses, and conversely, the IP address
consistently reporting the same host name, then acceptance of messages
from this Outbound MTA is likely safe. When the mta.example.com also
references a CSA record, there is even further assurance the exchange
is not emitted by a compromised system, which currently represents the
greatest source for spam.
From a reputation perspective, the name and IP address relationships
that need to be tracked for Outbound MTAs represent data sets orders
of magnitude smaller and dramatically more stable that that
represented by MAIL commands or PRAs. Once EHLO relationship can be
verified, it should permit safe inclusion of IPv6 addresses. MAIL
commands or PRAs do not offer the needed stability nor are these
relationships readily verified without potentially burdensome overhead
that might be directed to innocent third-parties.
To this end, I'd prefer the use of a domain name.
This guy is relaying on behalf of someone else. If I had verified
the "example.com" possibly registered domain, I would spot it more
easily. If example.ORG is a vanity name, i.e. it has the same MX as
example.com, I accept it. If not, I wouldn't know who is accountable
for the message, so I reject it.
Do not confuse Inbound MTAs with Outbound MTAs. Even without the host
name having been verified, the host name and IP address information
inconsistencies can lead to safe rejections.
In case mta.example.com runs outbound MTA services for third
parties, I would hold the originating third party accountable for
Why not hold the entity offering access to those abusing email
You have no assurance whether third-party domains originated the
message, even when the domain offers authorization. This assumes
Outbound MTAs ensure both the PRA and MAIL commands are restricted to
specific and verified users. While this might be the case, this is
not the norm. It would also be foolish to annotate email as having
been "authenticated" on the basis of Outbound MTA authorization for
the same reason. Large companies place a higher priority on their
messages being received than ensuring authorizations do not expose
exploits to bad actors. In addition, a growing number of exploits now
leverage social networks that convey who recipients trust. Spoofed
sources of phish are not necessarily that of large banks or financial
However, there is no way I can tell that is indeed the case, neither
from the IP address nor from the name. I'd need, say, a CSA SRV
record from example.ORG saying: "we authorize mta.example.com",
_and_ on starting a new session the client shall say: "Hello on
behalf of example.ORG: check their CSA settings". No guessing
Yes, the CSA record would help, but this EHLO information still offers
value. Especially when considering the use of IPv6 where block lists
are unlikely to prove effective.
While larger ISPs are likely to have a few hundred outbound MTAs,
they represent a very small percentage of overall legitimate
However, they transmit lots of messages.
It is still easier to correlate EHLO host names to that of a small set
of IP addresses. That is not the case for MAIL commands or PRAs.
Being able to identify legitimate Outbound MTAs reduces the vetting
of hundreds of millions of domains associated with Mail From or
PRAs, where each domain likely covers massive address lists.
Exactly. Those legitimate Outbound MTAs are probably connected to an
MSA. When we identify them, we enjoy the advantages deriving from
users going through their relevant MSAs, as we recommended, rather
than relaying through whatever MTA they have at hands, or directly.
The issue is not whether there is some mapping of users to specific
MSAs. In fact, it is not practical to track this type of many to many
relationships. The issue is simpler than that. The issue is to
simply hold the Outbound MTA accountable for the message sources for
whom it grants access. DKIM offers a reliable means to verify where a
message originated without impractical and unscalable efforts aimed at
registering all authorized paths for MAIL commands or PRAs. DKIM is
not about managing spam however.
Efforts to combine the addresses used by a domain is counter
productive when it comes to resolving problems, or when dealing
with initial SMTP connections. When it comes to SMTP, direct
relationships involve less overhead which improves efficacy and
efficiency to the point of perhaps permitting use of IPv6.
In some cases, names can be handled better than IP numbers. After
all, that's why they invented the DNS...
While true for EHLO commands, IP addresses associated with MAIL
commands or PRAs will normally exceed DNS response limits where
truncation will induce failure. The resulting chaining of DNS
transactions, along with inclusion of macros found with SPF, failed to
properly consider the potential system impact nor what DNSSEC could
produce. Verifying a DNS relationship between single hosts and their
limited IP address list remains much less problematic and far safer.
DNS CIDR notation is specified by RFC 3123. This resource record can
still be used to establish email white-list strategies instead of SPF
records. APL records exclude potentially problematic macros as
well. Since email CIDR records should not be obtained in response to
SMTP connections, APL might be chained with a convention for _n._smtp
APL, as an alternative publishing location for _smtp APL. When _smtp
is truncated, either TCP fallback could be used, or _[0-9]._smtp APL
queries might be used to recover from response truncation.
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