On Wed, 17 Mar 2004, Vernon Schryver wrote:
} From: "Robert G. Brown" <rgb(_at_)phy(_dot_)duke(_dot_)edu>
} The one other place that I think there COULD be room for improvement is
} to make the process of identifying sites that are originating spam or
} viruses more rapid and automatic, and to create a better/more formal set
} of rules responding to a site (or an entire SP subnetwork) postmaster.
} Such work might actually spell out all the steps between reporting and
} being blacklisted.
I strongly disagree. There is and can be nothing better than the IP
address of the SMTP client for identifying the orgin of a mail message.
Some will object that's not the origin, but they're generally repeating
the nonsense and lies of ISPs trying to duck blaim for supporting
spammers. The practical origin of a paper letter is wherever the
postals service, FedEx, etc. accepts it, no matter whether you wrote
it while standing in the post office, at home, at work, or in an
airplaine 35,000 feet above practically unknowable real estate.
Yes, I've heard about UUCP, SMTP relays, smarthosts, and so forth and
so on. As far as your SMTP server is concerned, a good, sufficient,
and necessary definition of the origin of a mail message is the IP
address of the sending SMTP client. It doesn't matter whether the
sending IP address is an open proxy on a Comcast network, a system in
China, or Dell Computers' "newsletter" senders. The IP address as
good as anything else could be, and already available. It's only
defect is that it makes ISPs responsible for taking Ralsky's money.
I AGREE with this. There is a bit of difficulty associated with just
which IP address in a chain of delivery hops is the actual point of
origin, but at least at this point I generally trust that forwarding
hosts really are just forwarding hosts when I look at a header to see.
To be concrete (pulling a note at random out of the garbage for the
From diamond(_at_)juno(_dot_)com Sun Mar 14 15:28:51 2004
Received: from pohl.acpub.duke.edu (pohl.acpub.duke.edu [22.214.171.124])
by mail.phy.duke.edu (Postfix) with ESMTP id B5A33A77F7
for <rgb(_at_)phy(_dot_)duke(_dot_)edu>; Sun, 14 Mar 2004 15:28:51
Received: from 126.96.36.199 ([188.8.131.52])
by pohl.acpub.duke.edu (8.12.10/8.12.10/Duke-5.0.0) with SMTP id
Sun, 14 Mar 2004 15:04:57 -0500
Received: from [184.108.40.206] by 220.127.116.11; Mon, 15 Mar 2004 02:01:00
Here I'm pretty sure that pohl.acpub.duke.edu (also 18.104.22.168) is
telling the truth about where it received the message from and isn't
forging the previous hop because its administrator(s) are local and
accountable and their address resolves. This particular example is
interesting in that as far as I can tell from registry information,
22.214.171.124 doesn't exist and there is no route to it. The
126.96.36.199 address is a relay in brazil. Neither of them seems
promising in terms of being able to report the spam.
Note also that I have to WORK with whois, traceroute, host, dig, a
variety of tools trying just to figure out where the spam is coming
from (although admittedly spamassassin does the same work automatically
and better which is why the message is in the trash). However, I'm
still left unable to complain to the enabling ISP. They speak
portuguese and I don't. They may have postmaster set up or may not.
They may give a rat's ass or may not (likely not).
To even START to "fix" this problem, postmaster has to work on the relay
and be responsive. The relay host manager has to know that their access
to the entire Internet will be effectively terminated if they don't have
a working postmaster address and are not responsive to spam. The
communication mechanism that reports spam has to both include the key
information about times, addresses, and so forth AND has to function
independent of knowledge and degree of expertise of the user. I know
what I'm doing (at least, to a point:-) and I'm daunted by the prospect.
Most users wouldn't even know what all those words I just used mean...
So I have to say again -- there may be IETF work that could be done
here. It shouldn't be this difficult, and there needs to be a whole
structure erected to make mail administrators accountable at some level.
And ultimately, we may all have to be willing to pull the plug on
188.8.131.52.in-addr.arpa domain name pointer
and effectively cut them off from the Internet if they don't police
their relays and e.g. refuse to accept mail from unregistered hosts.
Only thus can we forge a chain of responsibility back to the SPs that
they cannot easily evade.
} If every ten pieces of spam sent out of an SPs network -- even every 100
} pieces -- generated a complaint message to postmaster with headers laid
} out that clearly identified the offending host/client, I think that it
} would provide SPs with a real incentive, AND the tools, to address the
I used to say that, but then I saw that even (or especially) the worst
ISPs can figure out how to connect postmaster@ to /dev/null or to an
autoresponding ignorebot that lies about the responsibility of the ISP.
Like I said, you are both extremely realist and maybe a touch cynical;-)
I just don't think that the idea has been fully tested yet. To properly
test it, a certain amount of infrastructure would have to be built --
not a horrible lot, actually, but some. And the process of complaining
in a standardized way would need to be made "one click easy". There
might well be other obstacles to overcome -- I'm not saying that this IS
a solution, only something that might or might not help armtwist ISPs,
given that ISPs are the crux of the problem (outside of the spammers
| The second part (terminating) is not true, IMHO. There's a real
| danger of getting sued for that, not to mention the loss of revenue.
The second part of that is relevant. An ISP that refuese to terminate
a spammer for fear of lost revenue does not have any IP addresses
that many of us want conencted to our SMTP servers,
The first part is nonsense spread by spammers and dishonest, spam-friendly
ISP spokeslime. ISPs have no problems terminating customers with less
than minimal evidence. Within the last 10 days, I watched a business
customer, not merely a home end-luser, get cut off by a major ISP with
telco connections for some time because it failed to respond to a report
of mine. Of course an ISP must be careful to avoid breaking contracts
and so forth, but that does not prevent termination. Why else is the
spam advertising "bulletproof hosting" common?
Yes, I don't quite understand why people keep talking about suits and
such. We WANT ISPs to have AUPs with their customers giving them the
right to terminate service immediately if they violate them, and we WANT
them to enforce those contracts. There is no question of suits involve
-- in fact if the AUPs are written as BUSINESS contracts the ISP might
well sue the customer for using their net as a "commercial service"
outside the bounds of their contract if they permit spamming.
ISP: You want to send mass mail advertising? Sure, simply a) upgrade
your service to this fine $1000/month version to compensate us for the
extra load on our servers, the extra administrative expense, and the
bandwidth and b) accountably comply with all the rules and laws
governing email advertising or we'll yank your plug AND bill you for the
extra administrative time we have to spend managing your spam
complaints. And if we determine that you are sending spam from your
$30/month PRIVATE account, well, your contract automatically defaults to
the $1000/month one and you oh us, umm, $6000 in back fees.
Spammer: (sound of door slamming and screeching rubber)
This is a scenario we'd like to encourage, actually...
Robert G. Brown http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567 Fax: 919-660-2525