Table of Contents
KnowledgebaseThis knowledgebase is intended to be read by administrators as well as SpamAssassin users who want to learn more about e-mail and anti-spam. It is a living document and we welcome your comments and suggestions, which can be submitted by using the Report a Problem page.
What is E-mail?E-mail is the amalgamation of many plain-text protocols, and other specifications, defining the structure of the body of an e-mail, associated header information, and how to send and receive e-mail. E-mail predates the internet and has a complicated history. E-mail as it is defined today is specified by a number of RFCs. Occasionally a new RFC will be published that includes minor refinements. A basic example of sending an e-mail is below:
helo intel1.pccc.com - THIS IS THE "HELO"(aka "Hello") GREETING, INITIATING DIALOG WITH THE MAIL SERVER BY IDENTIFYING THE MACHINE YOU'RE USING. mail from: rcpt to: data - THE MESSAGE FOLLOWS Subject: -- END THE HEADERS WITH AN EMPTY LINE. — INPUT A PERIOD, THIS “SENDS” THE MESSAGE AT WHICH POINT THE SERVER WILL PROVIDE A DSN REGARDING YOUR SENT MESSAGE quit – THIS ENDS THE SESSION WITH THE SMTP SERVER
muttand send a message from
root@localhost. It contains the message “
[sudo] password for root:“. You submit the message to
localhost, which then “sends” the message to itself. When
localhostreceives the message from itself, it places it in the
rootmailbox, ready for reading. The same process repeats when the root user replies with the message “
Servers that Handle E-mailThe typical handoff of e-mail between servers is described in detail on Wikipedia. There are a few major entities involved in the process of sending e-mail from one place to another. They are:
MUA – Mail User Agent or e-mail reader or e-mail clientAny agent acting as a client toward an e-mail server, regardless of it being a mail user agent, a relaying server, or a human typing on a terminal. In addition, a web application providing message management, composition, and reception functionality is sometimes considered an e-mail client. An MUA is only active when a user runs it. Messages arrive on the Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) server. Unless the MUA has access to the server’s disk, messages are stored on a remote server and the MUA has to request them on behalf of the user. As a basic function, an MUA is able to introduce new messages in the transport system. Typically, it does so by connecting to either an MSA or an MTA, two variations of the SMTP protocol. The client needs to put a message quickly without worrying about where the message eventually will be delivered: that’s why a transport system exists. Thus it always connects to the same preferred server, however, how does that server know that it should accept and relay submissions from that client? There are a number of ways. One way is to recognizes the client’s IP address, e.g. because the client is on the same machine and uses internal address 127.0.0.1, or because the client’s IP address is controlled by the same internet service provider that provides both internet access and mail services. Another way is to authenticate since the SMTP protocol has an authentication extension. The latter method eases modularity and nomadic computing but can cause e-mail passwords to be sent using a clear-text protocol. Finally, there is a technique called POP Before SMTP that requires a user to check mail before sending e-mail that then records the IP address and allows relay for a temporary period of time. Client settings require the name or IP address of the preferred outgoing mail server, the port number (25 for MTA, 587 for MSA), and the user name and password for the authentication, if any. It is also typically possible to use port 465 for SSL encrypted SMTP sessions (SMTPS) that many clients and servers support. Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption can be configured for the standard ports, if both the client and the server support it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mail_User_Agent
MSA – Mail Submission AgentMSA is a software agent that receives electronic mail messages from a mail user agent (MUA) and cooperates with a mail transfer agent (MTA) for delivery of the mail. It uses a variant of the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), as specified in RFC 4409 RFC 4409 requires that clients are authorized and authenticated to use the mail submission service, e.g., as described in SMTP-AUTH, by other means such as RADIUS, or POP before SMTP. The MSA must check that the submitted mail is syntactically valid and conforms to the relevant site policies. * RFC 4409 contains some optional features: Enforce submission rights guarantees that the envelope sender address is valid and authorized with the used authentication. This is in essence the SPF model specified in RFC 4408. May add sender permits to add a Sender address header field if the envelope sender address does not match any author address in the “From” header field. This is roughly the Sender ID model specified in RFC 4406 – ignoring the tricky case of Resent-From header fields not covered in RFC 4409. * Many Internet service providers and enterprise or institutional networks restrict the ability to connect to remote MTAs on port 25 (the usual SMTP port). Availability of a Mail Submission Agent on port 587 enables nomadic users to continue to send mail via their preferred submission servers even from within others’ networks. Using a specific submission server is a requirement when sender policies are enforced. Most of the benefits mentioned above may also apply to authenticated MTA, that is port 25 after the user logs in. In fact, the relevant server software is often the same for both services. However, the very fact that the service can be made available on a different port can be considered a further benefit, as it allows for circumvention of restrictions on port 25. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mail_submission_agent http://wiki.linuxquestions.org/wiki/Mail_submission_agent MTA – Mail Transfer Agent or Mail Relay A software agent that transfers electronic mail messages from one computer to another. An MTA implements both the client (sending) and server (receiving) portions of the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). There are many ways to configure an MTA. A few common ones are listed below. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mail_transfer_agent
External Relays – An external relay basically allows two organizations to share the same domain name but at the same time separate e-mails between them. Basically, when the server of one organization receives an e-mail sent to the other organization, the server redirects the e-mail to the server of the other organization. So basically, say we have organization A and organization B in an external relay domain. If organization A gets an e-mail for organization B, A’s server gives it to B’s server. http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb124423.aspx Internal Relays – In an internal relay domain, most recipients of e-mails don’t have mailboxes in a certain server organization. An organization may have to share SMTP address space with two or more e-mail systems. All users have the same domain suffix in their e-mail addresses. So, when someone is trying to send an e-mail to someone who isn’t in one e-mail system, instead of giving a non-delivery report, the server then tries to find the e-mail address that matches the address specified in the e-mail. http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb124423.aspx Last External Relay – In an external relay domain, the last external relay is the last server that is outside your own network that relayed the e-mail to your own server. So basically, say we have organization A and organization B in an external relay domain. If organization A gets an e-mail for organization B, A’s server gives it to B’s server. A’s server is the last external relay. Look at the header of any e-mail. You should be able to find the last external relay. SMTP Relay – Basically, a server is called an open relay, or SMTP relay, if it accepts messages on the behalf of other domains and doesn’t require authentication. A person in China could send a message through a server in South Africa to a person in California. As I hope you can see, this can easily be abused by spammers who send massive amounts of e-mails through an SMTP relay server without being discovered who they are. http://www.xeams.com/smtprelay.htm
MDA – Mail Delivery AgentMail Delivery Agent is computer software that is responsible for delivering e-mail to a recipient’s mailbox. Within the Internet mail architecture, the message delivery agents consist of two components, the message handling service side that accepts messages from the message transfer agent (MTA), and a component in the recipient’s environment that affects message storage in a mailbox or other customized mechanisms. Usually, the mail delivery agent is not started independently but with the message transfer agent. An example of an MDA is procmail on Unix systems. Procmail’s handling of e-mails can be heavily influenced through the use of procmailrc scripts. Some message delivery agent software for Unix-like platforms
- binmail (The MDA portion of Sendmail)
MX Records – Mail Exchanger RecordsAn MX Record is a record in the DNS that specifies a mail server responsible for accepting e-mail messages on behalf of a recipient’s domain and prioritizes mail delivery. It specifies how e-mail should be routed with SMTP. Though the practice of pointing MX records to CNAME (alias) records is not that uncommon, it certainly isn’t in keeping with internet standards. The domain name used as the value of an NS resource record, or part of the value of an MX resource record must not be an alias. Not only is the specification clear on this point, but using an alias in either of these positions neither works as well as might be hoped, nor well fulfills the ambition that may have led to this approach. This domain name must have as its value one or more address records. Currently those will be A records, however in the future other record types giving addressing information may be acceptable. It can also have other RRs, but never a CNAME RR. Additional section processing does not include CNAME records, let alone the address records that may be associated with the canonical name derived from the alias. Thus, if an alias is used as the value of an NS or MX record, no address will be returned with the NS or MX value. This can cause extra queries, and extra network burden, on every query. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MX_record
SMTP CulpabilityAs e-mail moves from one server to the next, SMTP adds a header file marking the e-mail as having been passed along successfully, failed, or permanently failed. These headers help determine “SMTP Culpability” by showing which server along its way to its destination was responsible for a temporary or permanent failure. From RFC2821 3.8.2 Received Lines in Gatewaying
When forwarding a message into or out of the Internet environment, a gateway MUST prepend a Received: line, but it MUST NOT alter in any way a Received: line that is already in the header. “Received:” fields of messages originating from other environments may not conform exactly to this specification. However, the most important use of Received: lines is for debugging mail faults, and this debugging can be severely hampered by well-meaning gateways that try to “fix” a Received: line. As another consequence of trace fields arising in non-SMTP environments, receiving systems MUST NOT reject mail based on the format of a trace field and SHOULD be extremely robust in the light of unexpected information or formats in those fields. The gateway SHOULD indicate the environment and protocol in the “via” clauses of Received field(s) that it supplies.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simple_Mail_Transfer_Protocol
AttachmentsNote that attachments sent via e-mail are larger than they are on a hard drive. On a hard drive, files are usually in binary or 8 bit format. However, e-mails are in a 7 bit format. The conversion that occurs increases the size of attachments, often by 30%. Keep in mind that it’s the size of an e-mail that matters, not the attachment. The largest e-mail that can be sent depends on the size limit of both the sender’s e-mail server and the recipient’s server. Most size limits are around 10 MB. Keep in mind that the size of an attachment is limited to the lowest limit in the chain of servers. Even if you have a 1 GB limit, if the other server has a 1 MB limit, the maximum size of the attachment is 1 MB. Also, note that attachments are larger than the original file due to conversion from 8 bit to 7 bit. http://www.answers.com/topic/binary-and-text-files http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Email_attachment
What is Spam?
Many people try and use various legal definitions such as CAN-SPAM in the US. This definition clearly has problems for the global community of the internet. Spammers routinely fail to understand that the Internet is much larger than one country’s laws.
We find the definition of CONSENT to be best. It leaves the content of any e-mail in the eye of the beholder. In short, if you consent to receive e-mails about XYZ, then those e-mails are not spam by definition.
The name “spam” refers to a skit by Monty Python’s Flying Circus which involves an overload of unwanted items offered at a café all including SPAM. A patron who doesn’t like SPAM certainly won’t like “SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM baked beans SPAM SPAM SPAM and SPAM”. Hence, an overload of unwanted items became known as spam (but not SPAM).
Hormel, naturally, defines SPAM as their spiced ham product. And the use of their trademark to refer to junk e-mail has necessitated their lawyers to come up with an entire position on the matter. To avoid confusion in this document, the Hormel trademark will always be written as “SPAM” in all-caps.
What isn’t Spam?In the anti-Spam community, Spam and Ham are opposites. Spam refers to Junk E-mails and Ham refers to Good E-mails. Since Ham is “Treif”, or non-kosher for those who follow Jewish dietary laws, some people have proposed using the word Yam, instead of Ham. We are firmly anti-vegetable and will not stand for such nonsense.
Who Sends Spam?Spam is sent from all over the world. More and more seem to be sent by organized crime. Bot networks of infected computers often send massive amounts of spam. Spammers often obtain e-mail addresses by using dictionary attacks. Basically, they send e-mails to lists of names. Unsubscribe links help verify that an e-mail address exists. Spammers also use e-mail addresses posted publicly on websites. They also often employ malware to obtain address books off computers. Spammers send spam to make money by selling something, to make money by stealing from you, and trick you into installing malware that lets spammers send even more spam, repeating the cycle.
What is SpamAssassin?Apache SpamAssassin is a mail filter and programming interface that identifies junk e-mail. SpamAssassin at it’s heart is a Scoring Framework. This framework allows virtually any anti-Spam technologies to be added and used. The engine for SpamAssassin is sometimes called a “Rules-Based Heuristics Engine” because the filter typically looks for patterns such as common phrases or known senders. Heuristics is the application of experience-based techniques for problem solving. Virus scanners use the same technique and are also heuristics engines. As an e-mail goes through the engine, each of the rules for SpamAssassin are run and generate a score. These individual scores are then totaled to provide an overall score for the e-mail. Some rules are positive and add to the score. Some rules are negative take away from the score. The lower the overall score is, the more likely the e-mail is Ham. The higher the score, the more likely the e-mail is Spam. But not each rule has the same weight. The weight each rule is given is determined first by initial “guesses” and later refined through optimization. We use a Genetic Algorithm to optimize the scores. Given a list of rules and a set of existing spam/ham classifications, SpamAssassin can automatically determine how best to weigh each rule. You can read more about Genetic Algorithms on Wikipedia. Discussing the finer details of Genetic Algorithms is outside the scope of this document. Not everyone will want to use SpamAssassin to do the actual e-mail processing. With this design, you don’t have to use SpamAssassin to filter your mail. Instead, you can also use SpamAssassin from other programs. In this way, SpamAssassin can be used to return a “this is spam/this is ham,” a score, a list of rules that lead to the score, and a detailed report. It’s then the job of the parent program that calls SpamAssassin to decide what to do with this information. Most e-mail clients using SpamAssassin have the ability to dispose of e-mails that SpamAssassin thinks is spam. Some clients, such as Thunderbird, have the ability to directly read the SpamAssassin scores and filter based on that. If you are unsure why an e-mail was or was not tagged, make sure to first check the headers of the e-mail. Simple problems such as whitelisting of a Spammer are often at the root of the problem. Also, check blacklists. If a blacklist lists a site and you want to delist it, follow the instructions! And NEVER pay any money for delisting.
Making Your Own RulesMake sure to go to http://wiki.apache.org/spamassassin/WritingRules. Remember these commands are for Unix-like environments. Lint is a program that looks for bugs in source code. Make sure every rule you write passes lint without any problems by checking with the command “spamassassin -D –lint” Make sure to do this! First, make sure the rules you write are not already implemented. If you want to change the rule, just change the default score. Then, write your own rules! It is a good idea to score your rules low to prevent false positives. Make sure to write rules for your circumstances! For example, when writing a negative rule, pick tokens that commonly appear in ham e-mails addressed to you! Use phrases instead of single words. Finally, test it! Make sure it passes Lint. Then, test it by running spamassassin in test mode against a text file containing the contents of an e-mail with:
Or without network tests:
‘-D’ prints out debug information.
When to Catch SpamSpam can really be detected at any time. However, the later spam is identified, the more resources the server has used, and therefore the expenses rise. The rule of thumb is to reject early on. The various stages:
- Connection The server decides if it wants to accept and forward the client’s connection attempt to the SMTP server
- SMTP session The SMTP server examines data sent, e.g. client IP address, envelope sender, envelope recipient etc., in the SMTP session and decides if it wants to accept or reject the client, sender, recipient or message
- Reputation The server consults an external (local and/or remote) system to query the reputation of the client or sender domain
- Content A content filter examines SMTP session data and/or message content and decides if the message is spam or ham
For Apple OS X Users: Not Much Interface (You should still read this though)As of Snow Leopard, the Apple OS X GUI provides very little interface and customization for the inner workings of Spam Assassin. The server preferences in Snow Leopard only allow for two options relating to Junk Mail:
- Enabling the filter
- Setting the threshold that is used to mark an e-mail as spam.
- Terminal: try to get familiar with it
- Vi: A must! It’s not easy but it is a very powerful and very fast text editor. It should exist on Unix-based boxes. Run the command vimtutor and follow the the tutorial.
- Xcode: As an administrator, you should have Apple’s Development Environment. It provides GNU compiler collection and other tools.
- Barracuda Reputation Block List (BRBL) – http://www.barracudacentral.org/rbl
- Passive Spam Block List (PSBL) – http://psbl.surriel.com/ (Public Mirror)
- SURBL – http://www.surbl.org/ (Public Mirror)
- URIBL – http://www.uribl.com/ (Public Mirror)
- ZEN – http://www.spamhaus.org/zen/
- whitelist_from + e-mail address : whitelist the e-mail address(not recommended, because it also whitelists forged e-mail addresses).
- whitelist_to + e-mail address: Disable SpamAssassin for a certain local user
- use the command .man Mail::SpamAssassin::Conf. for more configuration options
For Windows Users: InstallingSpamAssassin development for Windows has stalled over the past few years. However, you can still download a precompiled native Window version with similar capabilities at http://www.jam-software.com/spamassassin/index.shtml. However, please keep in mind that this version is extremely unstable and creates multiple memory leaks. You must have a Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) such as hMailServer or Exchange that can interface with SpamAssassin. If you want, you can also install the actual SpamAssassin using the following steps: More in-depth: http://www.jam-software.com/spamassassin/manual.php http://wiki.apache.org/spamassassin/InstallingOnWindows Installing : (per Daniel Lemke)
- Install or upgrade ActivePerl
- Download from www.activestate.com
- Download nmake from Microsoft at http://download.microsoft.com/download/vc15/Patch/1.52/W95/EN-US/Nmake15.exe
- Extract nmake.exe and nmake.err to your bin folder in perl.
- Use the command PPM to install required modules(first two) and the optional modules: ppm install Net-DNS
- ppm install NetAddr-IP
- ppm repo add tcool
- ppm install DB_File
- ppm install Mail-SPF
- ppm install IP-Country
- ppm install Net-Ident
- ppm install IO-Socket-INET6
- ppm install IO-Socket-SSL
- ppm install Encode-Detect
- ppm repo add bribes
- ppm install Mail-DKIM
- Install Microsoft Visual C++ 6.0 or later or another C compiler
- Download the SpamAssassin zip file from the official website
- Set the following the system environment variables:
- Extract the zip file anywhere.
- Open up command prompt and switch the directory to the SpamAssassin directory
- Type perm makefile.pl
- nmake test (optional)
- nmake install
- Make a test folder and create a sample-spam.txt file and a sample-nospam.txt in the site configuration folder ( C:\perl\site\etc\mail\spamassassin).
- Switch the directory to the site configuration folder
- Type sa-update .nogpgp
- Test the files!
Procmail InfoProcmail is a mail delivery agent (MDA) available on Unix-like environments that sorts incoming mail into specified directories and uses SpamAssassin to filter out spam. Procmail usually automatically runs all e-mails through SpamAssassin; however, it doesn’t automatically put these e-mails into a ‘spam’ directory. This requires a certain tweak:
Add this using any editor:It would also be good to manually run the Bayesian Classifier(read more about this in the OS X section) by using the command ‘man sa-learn’ and setting ‘use_bayes 1’ in the ‘~/.spamassassin/user_prefs’ file. http://ftp.ks.uiuc.edu/Development/Computers/docs/user/procmail.html
:0: * ^X-Spam-Status: yes $HOME/imap/spam
How to Catch SpamAuthor Domain Signing Practices – ADSP is an optional extension to DKIM where a domain administrator can specify the DKIM signing practice. ADSP is an additional DNS record that is used alongside DKIM. With ADSP, an organization can specify one of three DKIM signing practices. Unknown is the same as not having an ADSP record at all. The organization does not make any guarantees about how consistently they use DKIM to sign their e-mails. All states that all e-mail from an organization will be DKIM signed. Discardable states that in addition to All, the organization wants any non-signed e-mail to be silently discarded by the receiving party. Away messages – If these sick/vacation messages are sent as replies to Junk Mail, you are simply going to respond to spammers. Again, because of forgeries, such messages can be sent as spam to innocent addresses, or sent to non-existent addresses and bounced back yet again as a DSN. Never reply to spam! Backscatter – While some administrators might think they are being neighborly and helping out a fellow netizen, most Spam and Viri is delivered using forged from addresses. These forged addresses sometimes receive a lot of Delivery Status Notifications or DSNs. This is called backscatter. So, please, don’t bounce spam, as this causes backscatter! This can also get you blacklisted. Bayesian Classifier – The Bayesian Classifier in SpamAssassin learns tokens – words or short sequences – that are commonly found in spam or ham. It makes use of Bayes’ Theorem, with strong assumptions about the statistically independent nature of e-mail. Bayesian classifiers make an effective means of adapting to new spam techniques, by adding uncaught spam to the spam/ham datasets to improve the classifier’s accuracy. Blacklist / Whitelist – These are lists of domains, IP addresses, or other means of identifying the sender of a message. A blacklist contains entries intended to identify spammers, while a whitelist identifies known-good senders. Some common blacklists are below. You should research the rules and limits of each list before using them.
- Barracuda Reputation Block List (BRBL) – http://www.barracudacentral.org/rbl
- Passive Spam Block List (PSBL) – http://psbl.surriel.com/ (Public Mirror)
- SURBL – http://www.surbl.org/ (Public Mirror)
- URIBL – http://www.uribl.com/ (Public Mirror)
- ZEN – http://www.spamhaus.org/zen/
- MultiRBL – multirbl.valli.org/
- Dr. Mønsted – www.moensted.dk/spam/
- MXToolBox Blacklist Lookup – www.mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx
- Anti-SPAM site lookup – tools.web-max.ca/dsbl.php
- Realtime Blackhole List Lookup – www.mob.net/~ted/tools/rbl.php3
- Black list DB check – www.rbl.jp/ckdb/ – Japanese
- DNSBL Info – www.dnsbl.info/
- Sprawdzanie RBL-i – nospam-pl.net/rbl.php
- rbcheck clone – andrew.triumf.ca/cgi-bin/nph-rbcheck.cgi?addr=
- Karmasphere – www.karmasphere.com/
- Multi-RBL Lookup Tool – https://toolbox.webhotel.net/cgi-bin/rbl.cgi
- Deep VI DNSBL Lookup – d6tech.com/support-tools/dnsbl-query.php
perldoc Mail::SpamAssassin::Plugin::Pyzor, and
perldoc Mail::SpamAssassin::Plugin::Razor2. Cloudmark is a commercial derivative of the Razor checksum filter. DMARC – “Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance” is a standardized way for an e-mail sender to inform the recipient that the e-mails are protected by SPF and/or DKIM, and what to do in the event that these procedures fail. DMARC removes any guesswork about what to do with an e-mail if it fails, limiting or eliminating the user’s exposure to potentially fraudulent and harmful messages. DMARC doesn’t directly address whether or not an e-mail is spam or otherwise fraudulent. DMARC also provides a way for the e-mail receiver to report back to the sender about messages that pass and/or fail DMARC evaluation. Information/Websites used in creation of this text – http://dmarc.org/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DMARC False positives and negatives – Much like testing for an illness, e-mail tests positive for being spam and test negative for being legitimate. A false positive is when a legitimate e-mail is mistakenly marked as spam. A false negative is when a spam e-mail is mistakenly accepted as legitimate. One of the core principles of anti-spam is Do No Harm. It is better to let a thousand spam e-mails through than to drop even a single legitimate one. This can sometimes be very difficult. A common scam e-mail tactic is to forge an e-mail from a friend, saying they are on vacation and need money for a taxi, if you could just send it to their account. Obviously, an accounting firm would be very unhappy if their spam filter reacted to such tactics with a uniform block on any banking-related keywords. The vast majority of Spam uses forged sender addresses as we talked about with the Reduction of DSNs. If you whitelist your own domain, you are just going to whitelist a whole bunch of Spam! Deploying SPF (as well as DKIM & ADSP) will help combat these forgeries and there are rules for these technologies that can decrease AND increase the overall score for an e-mail. Greylist – A greylist contains senders about which you are undecided. Your server will return a temporary error to every greylisted sender, requiring them to connect twice to send an e-mail. This technique can block most spam sent by poorly-written software that cannot handle temporary 4XX errors correctly. Greylisting is not recommended though, because it also blocks e-mail from poorly-written software that sends legitimate e-mails. It purposefully introduces a delay in the sending of legitimate e-mail, and reports spurious errors that can make it difficult to determine when your server is having a real problem. rPTR, Smart Hosts, and SPF – On the internet, computers speak in numbers called in IP addresses. Humans use names via DNS to translate into the numbers. However, you can also translate a number into a name. This is called a reverse lookup. Having a valid answer for a reverse lookup, called a reverse PTR or rPTR makes your mail server more legitimate. Some ISPs, like AOL, will not even accept e-mail from a server that doesn’t have one. A reverse lookup should match exactly. For example, mail.macsysadmin.se instead of static-71-163-15-129.washdc.fios.verizon.net. If you don’t have a static IP, you really MUST be using a Smart Host. This is the feature in the mail preferences to Relay E-mail through your ISP. Mark Martinec, another member of the SA Project Management Committee, also points out that you should really, really use the Smart Host or MSA of a domain used in your From address. Submitting mail through anything but the MSA for the From address will likely contribute points towards the threshold to tag an e-mail as Spam. So, via your user’s Mail User Agent, they should be submitting the e-mail to your domain’s Mail Submission Agent, preferably on a standard submission port 587 and authenticated through AUTH or POP-Before-SMTP or similar. In the same vein, when using @gmail.com in the From address, the e-mail should be submitted through that domains MSA, smtp.gmail.com:587. The Gmail web interface, technically just another MUA, would automatically be setup to use a proper submission method. The reason away from using an ISP’s Smart Host to an MSA for the domain is due to the widespread e-mail address forgery in Junk Mail. This fraud has necessitated increasingly stricter methods to distinguish the valid addresses from the forged address. One of these stricter methods is SPF. Using these methods, like SPF or Sender Policy Framework by adding an SPF Record for your domain will help control forged e-mail. SPF allows other servers that receive your e-mails to check your domain’s DNS. There you can set policies that tell the MTA on the receiving end what MTAs are allowed to transmit e-mail for your domain. The website www.openspf.org can assist you in configuring this record.
DictionaryAMaViS- A Mail Virus Scanner – A Mail Virus Scanner scans e-mail attachments for viruses using third-party applications available for UNIX operating systems. It is written in Perl, and is the application which calls SpamAssassin in OS X. https://gitlab.com/amavis/amavis https://www.amavis.org/ Backscatter (outscatter and misdirected bounces, blowback, or collateral spam, et al.) – A side effect of e-mail spam, viruses, and worms where e-mail servers receiving spam and other mail send bounce messages to innocent users. These usually come in the form of “Your mail could not be delivered..” or “Your mail contained a virus..” messages. These messages are classified as spam because they aren’t solicited by the recipient and are delivered in bulk quantity. The vast majority of SPAM comes from forged e-mail addresses. Information/Websites used in creation of this text – http://www.spamresource.com/2007/02/backscatter-what-is-it-how-do-i-stop-it.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outscatter Blacklist (See DNSBLs) – a basic access control mechanism that allows every access, except for the members of the black list (i.e. list of denied accesses). The opposite is a whitelist, which means allow nobody, except members of the white list. As a sort of middle ground, a greylist, contains accesses that are temporarily blocked. Information/Websites used in creation of this text – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blacklist_%28computing%29 Deep Header Parsing aka Deep Header Inspection – Some anti-spam tools will actually look at the reputation of IP addresses in each of the received headers of an e-mail. Reputation mechanisms usually involve multiple sources, e.g., DNSBLs and Honeypot-driven reputation services. Here’s a sample header:
http://www.emailsecuritymatters.com/site/blog/best-practices/deep-header-inspection-use-with-caution/ http://www.spamhaus.org/pbl/ DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) – an e-mail authentication system which verifies the domain of a sender. It resulted from the combination of DomainKeys and Identified Internet Mail. A server can therefore identify e-mails from forged e-mail addresses and identify it as spam. A domain owner generates private/public key-pairs that will be used to sign messages originating from that domain. The public-key is placed in DNS as a text file. The private-key is kept on the mail server which sends e-mail for the domain. When a user sends an e-mail, the e-mail is embedded with a digital signature based on the private key and sent. The receiving server uses the domain name and elements in the key to perform a DNS lookup for a specified text file in the digital signature to find the public key. If the e-mail passes this lookup, it is legitimate. ADSP is an optional extension to DKIM. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DomainKeys_Identified_Mail http://www.elandsys.com/resources/sendmail/domainkeys.html http://www.dkim.org/ DNFTEC – This acronym goes all the way back to 1996. Its the original “don’t feed the trolls.” DNFTEC stands for ‘don’t feed the energy creatures’ and a great description of what/who these are can be found here: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/dsp.cgi?msg=6284 “There is a certain type of being that’s all too common in the online world. I call them “Energy Creatures,” a term I first heard on one of the commercial services. Energy Creatures are a bizarre lifeform which grow and feed off of the negative energy generated by others. Energy Creatures’ favorite feeding tactic is to try to hurt people’s feelings or get them angry. Then they can feed off the pain and anger they’ve generated. Their second favorite tactic is to hurt one person or group’s feelings while gathering the sympathy of others. That way, when the injured party lashes back, others will jump to the Energy Creature’s defense. Then the Energy Creature need do nothing except feed off the attention and the negative energy generated by the people fighting.” While energy creatures are normally thought to frequent the various forums around the internet, the same term can be applied to spam mailers. Its more common today to find that spammers are actually members of organized crime around the world or are hackers with large robotic networks of hijacked computers called botnets. These fall under the DNFTEC acronym because they are trying to steal your money, personal information, contact information, of all of the above. PCCC highly recommends that users just mark the spam mail as such and move on. Do not hit the ‘click here to be removed from our list’ link since most of the time those just confirm to the spammers which e-mails addresses are actually live. DNS – The Domain Name System (DNS) is an internet directory service. DNS’s most basic service is to translate hostnames into IP addresses, and DNS also controls e-mail delivery. If your computer cannot access DNS, your web browser will not be able to find web sites, and you will not be able to receive or send e-mail. The DNS system consists of three components: DNS data (called resource records), servers (called name servers), and Internet protocols for fetching data from the servers. The billions of resource records in the DNS are split into millions of files called zones. Zones are kept on authoritative servers distributed all over the Internet, which answer queries based on the resource records stored in the zones they have copies of. Caching servers ask other servers for information and cache any replies. Most name servers are authoritative for some zones and perform a caching function for all other DNS information. Large name servers are often authoritative for tens of thousands of zones, but most name servers are authoritative for just a few zones. Information/Websites used in creation of this text – http://www.dns.net/dnsrd/docs/whatis.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_Name_System DNS Blacklist (DNSBL) – A published list of IP addresses that can be queried through the Internet. DNSBLs are used to publish IP addresses associated with e-mail spam and spamming. Most mail servers can be configured to reject messages from addresses on a DNSBL. An address found in a DNSBL may be directly associated with spam, or may have made the list due to Web server vulnerabilities that can be used by spammers. There are many DNSBLs available, each published and maintained by different individuals and organizations. Information/Websites used in creation of this text – http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/D/DNSBL.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNSBL DSNs – Delivery Status Notification – DSNs are automated e-mail messages from a mail system informing the sender of the status of his/her e-mail. DSNS are classified in these categories
Delivered-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Received: by [[18.104.22.168]] with SMTP id e5cs33412ibd; Fri, 16 Apr 2010 08:38:08 -0700 (PDT) Received: by [[22.214.171.124]] with SMTP id e9mr1978437rvi.51.1271432287560; Fri, 16 Apr 2010 08:38:07 -0700 (PDT) Return-Path: email@example.com Received: from SERVER.somedomain.com (mail.somedomain.com [[126.96.36.199]]) by mx.google.com with ESMTP id 11si4715430qyk.0.2010.04.16.08.38.06; Fri, 16 Apr 2010 08:38:07 -0700 (PDT) Received: from myserver.mydomain.com (unverified [[188.8.131.52]]) by SERVER.somedomain.com (XYZ MTA) with ESMTP id <B0001262286@SERVER.somedomain.com> for <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Fri, 16 Apr 2010 11:38:08 -0400 [BRACKETED]: IP addresses that will be verified.
- 2xx/3xx – successful
- 4xx – failure, asking sender to try later
- 5xx – permanent failure
- 200 Non standard success response
- 211 System status, or system help reply
- 214 Help message
- 220 Service ready
- 221 Service closing transmission channel
- 250 Requested mail action taken and completed – Your ISP mail server has successfully executed a command and the DNS is reporting a positive delivery.
- 251 User not local: will forward to: – Your message to a specified e-mail address is not local to the mail server, but it will accept and forward the message to a different recipient e-mail address.
- 252 Recipient cannot be verified – Recipient cannot be verified but mail server accepts the message and attempts delivery
- 354 Start mail input and end with . – Indicates mail server is ready to accept the message or instruct your mail client to send the message body after the mail server has received the message headers.
- 421 Service not available, closing transmission channel – This may be a reply to any command if the service knows it must shut down.
- 450 Requested mail action not taken: mailbox busy or access denied – Your ISP mail server indicates that an e-mail address does not exist or the mailbox is busy. It could be the network connection went down while sending, or it could also happen if the remote mail server does not want to accept mail from you for some reason i.e. (IP address, From address, Recipient, etc.)
- 451 Requested mail action aborted: error in processing – Your ISP mail server indicates that the mailing has been interrupted, usually due to overloading from too many messages or transient failure is one in which the message sent is valid, but some temporary event prevents the successful sending of the message. Sending in the future may be successful.
- 452 Requested mail action not taken: insufficient system storage – Your ISP mail server indicates, probable overloading from too many messages and sending in the future may be successful.
- 453 Too many messages – Some mail servers have the option to reduce the number of concurrent connection and also the number of messages sent per connection. If you have a lot of messages queued up it could go over the max number of messages per connection. To see if this is the case you can try submitting only a few messages to that domain at a time and then keep increasing the number until you find the maximum number accepted by the server.
- 500 Syntax error, command unrecognized or command line too long
- 501 Syntax error in parameters or arguments
- 502 Command not implemented
- 503 Server encountered bad sequence of commands
- 504 Command parameter not implemented
- 521 does not accept mail or closing transmission channel – You must be pop-authenticated before you can use this SMTP server and you must use your mail address for the Sender/From field.
- 530 Access denied – A sendmailism ?
- 550 Requested mail action not taken (Relaying not allowed, Unknown recipient user, …) – Sending an e-mail to recipients outside of your domain are not allowed or your mail server does not know that you have access to use it for relaying messages and authentication is required. Or to prevent the sending of SPAM some mail servers will not allow (relay) send mail to any e-mail using another company’s network and computer resources.
- 551 User not local: please try or Invalid Address: Relay request denied
- 552 Requested mail action aborted: exceeded storage allocation – ISP mail server indicates, probable overloading from too many messages.
- 553 Requested mail action not taken: mailbox name not allowed – Some mail servers have the option to reduce the number of concurrent connection and also the number of messages sent per connection. If you have a lot of messages queued up (being sent) for a domain, it could go over the maximum number of messages per connection and/or some change to the message and/or destination must be made for successful delivery.
- 554 Requested mail action rejected: access denied
- 557 Too many duplicate messages – Resource temporarily unavailable Indicates (probable) that there is some kind of anti-spam system on the mail server.
Glue – The method in which one program is interfaced with another. There are many ways of doing this including using a program.s API, calling the other program directly, etc. SpamAssassin can be called in multiple ways and ‘glued’ into various filtering methods. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glue_code GNU-Unix-like Operating System – A Unix-like operating system that aims to be a complete Unix-compatible operating system consisting of completely free software. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU GPG – GNU Privacy Guard – A protection system that encrypts data to be sent to another computer. It was created in the GNU Project, but now is compatible most operating systems. You can install a GPG plugin on OS X Mail called GPGMail. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Privacy_Guard HELO greeting (pertaining to AntiSpam) – Spam can be greatly reduced by a number of checks confirming compliance with standard addressing and MTA operation. In many situations, simply requiring a valid FQDN (Fully Qualified Domain Name) in the SMTP HELO statement is enough to block 25% of incoming spam.
telnet 143 - THIS ESTABLISHES A CONNECTION TO THE DOVECOT IMAP SERVER AT abc1 login - THIS LOGS IN THE USER USING THEIR PASSWORD abc1 select inbox - THIS CHECKS THAT THE INBOX CAN BE FOUND #IF THERE IS A MESSAGE IN THE INBOX YOU COULD REVIEW IT abc1 fetch 1 body[text] - THIS SHOWS A TEST MESSAGE IN "INBOX" FOR THE USER abc1 logout - closes the connection to dovecotIMAP on :143
- Refusing connections from hosts that begin transmission prior to presentation of the receiving host’s HELO banner.
- Refusing connections from hosts that give an invalid HELO – for example, a HELO that is not an FQDN or is an IP address not surrounded by square brackets
Invalid: HELO localhost Invalid: HELO 127.0.0.1 Valid: HELO domain.tld Valid: HELO [127.0.0.1]
- Refusing connections from hosts that give an obviously fraudulent HELO – for example, issuing a HELO using the FQDN or an IP address that doesn’t match the IP address of the connecting host
Fraudulent: HELO friend Fraudulent: HELO -232975332
- Refusing to accept e-mail claiming to be from a hosted domain when the sending host has not authenticated
- Refusing to accept e-mail whose HELO/EHLO argument does not resolve in DNS. Unfortunately, some e-mail system administrators ignore section 3.6 of RFC2821 and administer the MTA to use a nonresolvable argument to the HELO/EHLO command. All of the examples above are fairly simple checks, all conform to existing standards and RFCs, and all are missing from most commercial MTA implementations available today.
- During the SMTP conversation, the mail is filtered by MIMEDefang. If the mail is being forwarded, MD calls SpamAssassin and the mail is scanned for Spam.
- AFTER the SMTP Conversation concludes (by replying to the final “.” with a 2xx SMTP reply code), the Milter has one more pass at the e-mail and if the mail is delivered locally, the mail gets handed over to the delivery agent. In our case, that’s procmail.
- For local users, spamassassin is called by the global /etc/procmailrc script as part of the MDAs work. When the spamc command returns (possibly having altered the mail), procmail drops it into your INBOX.
- For non-local users, MD can be configured to spam test the e-mail prior to delivery
POP vs. IMAP – POP and IMAP both have various Pros and Cons associated with each protocol. Advantages of POP3 include:
telnet 110 - THIS ESTABLISHES A CONNECTION TO 2004.89 POP3 SERVER user - THIS LOGS IN pass - THIS AUTHENTICATES WITH THE MAIL SERVER YOU WILL RECIEVE NOTIFICATION THAT "+OK mailbox open, Messages (where XXX is the number of messages in your inbox) retr (WHERE XXX IS THE NUMBER OF THE MESSAGE YOU WOULD LIKE TO RETRIEVE, 1 BEING THE FIRST MESSAGE IN THE BOX) - THIS RETRIEVES AND DISPLAYS ON-SCREE IN PLAIN TEXT 'AND' HTML THE SPECIFIED MAIL MESSAGE quit - SIGNS OUT OF THE CURRENT TELNET SESSION WITH THE POP3 SERVER
Message storage is limited only by the capacity of your computer. Minimum use of connect time. Minimum use of server resources. It is less likely to exhaust disk space on the server.Disadvantages to POP3 include:
Reading your e-mail from multiple computers or e-mail programs results in messages scattered about. Messages are stored on your computer. If your computer fails you may lose all your e-mail. You are not able to preview new messages before downloading, nor do you have control over which messages can be downloaded. Once delivered, e-mail messages are stored on your local computer and deleted from the mail server.Advantages of IMAP include:
Messages are stored on the server and are not affected if your computer fails. Easily use multiple computers or e-mail programs to read mail. Faster start-up time, as only message headings are transferred initially Optimization for low-speed connections.Disadvantages to IMAP include:
Mail is not usually available if you are offline. Sensitive to size and requires periodic archival of e-mail messages Subject to storage quotas Very few ISPs and e-mail providers offer IMAP as it is considered a high end option and it’s complex for them to support Not all e-mail programs support it properlyInformation/Websites used in creation of this text – http://saturn.med.nyu.edu/it/help/email/imap/index.html http://www.washington.edu/computing/windows/issue13/imap_pop.html http://www.uoregon.edu/~mcshtml/email/popvsimap.html http://www.it.northwestern.edu/accounts/email/imap/pop-imap-comparison.html Why Port 25 is Blocked and Alternate Ports that Are available Port 25 is often blocked by ISPs to help inhibit the distribution of spam. “But I’m not a spammer!” Many people say that and many people aren’t spammers, but times are changing. As noted above in the DNFTEC section, more and more spammers are actually members of organized crime or just hackers in general. Many pieces of malware that are out in the wild don’t do anything except make your computer a member of a larger network of hijacked computers called a botnet. Botnets can be very useful to people with bad intentions. Spammers use botnets to send out their millions of spam messages to the internet and as a result, eat bandwidth. The reason ISPs block port 25 is just in case your computer gets hijacked and becomes part of a botnet, it can’t automatically send out e-mail. http://www.pccc.com/base.cgim?template=port_25_blocked Ports like 2025, 2525 are non-standard ports that some ISPs provide. There is no standard to these port #’s. 587 is a standard submission port. It requires authentication and more ISPs are supporting (or even requiring) you to use this port. 465 is a standard SMTPS or SMTP over SSL port. postmaster.aol.com – presents a set of standards, guidelines, and best practices regarding e-mail policy. Information/Websites used in creation of this text – http://postmaster.aol.com/guidelines/ Real-time Blacklist (RBL) – The first DNSBL (DNS Blacklist) was the Real-time Blackhole List (RBL). Initially, the RBL was not a DNSBL, but rather a list of commands that could be used to program routers so that network operators could blackhole, a routing term to send all the packets into nothingness, all TCP/IP traffic for machines used to send spam or host spam supporting services, such as a website. The purpose of the RBL was not simply to block spam—it was to educate Internet service providers and other Internet sites about spam and related problems, such as open SMTP relays, spamvertising, etc. The RBL was also released in a DNSBL form and authors of Sendmail and other mail software were urged to implement RBL clients. This allowed the mail software to query the RBL and reject mail from listed sites on a per mail server basis instead of “blackholing” all traffic. Information/Websites used in creation of this text – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real-time_Blackhole_List#Terminology Reverse DNS (rDNS) – rDNS is a process to determine the hostname or host associated with a given IP address or host address. Reverse DNS is setup by configuring PTR records (Pointer Records) in your DNS server. The Domain Name System is used to determine what IP address is associated with a given domain name. So, to reverse DNS lookup an IP address is to look up what host and domain name belongs to that IP address. There are many reverse DNS lookup tools available for free on the internet at various sites. Information/Websites used in creation of this text – http://www.tech-faq.com/reverse-dns.shtml http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse_DNS Request for Comments (RFC) – Documents published as a series of memos encompassing new research, innovations, and methodologies applicable to internet technologies for review by peers or to convey new technologies/protocols. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) adopts RFCs as Internet Standards. Information/Websites used in creation of this text – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Request_for_Comments RFC-Ese (RFC 2119) – It’s important to understand this RFC to understand RFCs in general as it works to remove some of the vagueness of the English language that might otherwise creep up when interpreting RFCs and similar technical documentation. Taken from http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2119.txt
- MUST – This word, or the terms “REQUIRED” or “SHALL”, mean that the definition is an absolute requirement of the specification.
- MUST NOT – This phrase, or the phrase “SHALL NOT”, mean that the definition is an absolute prohibition of the specification.
- SHOULD – This word, or the adjective “RECOMMENDED”, mean that there may exist valid reasons in particular circumstances to ignore a particular item, but the full implications must be understood and carefully weighed before choosing a different course.
- SHOULD NOT – This phrase, or the phrase “NOT RECOMMENDED” mean that there may exist valid reasons in particular circumstances when the particular behavior is acceptable or even useful, but the full implications should be understood and the case carefully weighed before implementing any behavior described with this label.
- MAY – This word, or the adjective “OPTIONAL”, mean that an item is truly optional. One vendor may choose to include the item because a particular marketplace requires it or because the vendor feels that it enhances the product while another vendor may omit the same item. An implementation which does not include a particular option MUST be prepared to interoperate with another implementation which does include the option, though perhaps with reduced functionality. In the same vein an implementation which does include a particular option MUST be prepared to interoperate with another implementation which does not include the option (except, of course, for the feature the option provides.)
- Guidance in the use of these Imperatives Imperatives of the type defined in this memo must be used with care and sparingly. In particular, they MUST only be used where it is actually required for interoperation or to limit behavior which has potential for causing harm (e.g., limiting retransmisssions) For example, they must not be used to try to impose a particular method on implementors where the method is not required for interoperability.
- Security Considerations These terms are frequently used to specify behavior with security implications. The effects on security of not implementing a MUST or SHOULD, or doing something the specification says MUST NOT or SHOULD NOT be done may be very subtle. Document authors should take the time to elaborate the security implications of not following recommendations or requirements as most implementors will not have had the benefit of the experience and discussion that produced the specification.
SMTP AUTH – SMTP-AUTH is an extension of the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) to include an authentication step through which the client effectively logs in to the mail server during the process of sending mail. Servers which support SMTP-AUTH can usually be configured to require clients to use this extension, ensuring the true identity of the sender is known. SMTP-AUTH is defined in RFC 4954. Information/Websites used in creation of this text – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMTP_AUTH Sender Policy Framework (SPF) – SPF is an anti-forgery system in which the Internet domain of an e-mail sender can be authenticated for that sender, thereby discouraging spam mailers, who routinely disguise the origin of their e-mail, a practice known as e-mail spoofing. SPF allows the owner of an Internet domain to use a special format of DNS TXT records to specify which machines are authorized to transmit e-mail for that domain. For example, the owner of the example.org domain can designate which machines are authorized to send e-mail whose sender e-mail address ends with “@example.org”. Receivers checking SPF can reject messages from unauthorized machines before receiving the body of the message. Principles of operations are quite similar to those of DNSBL, except that SPF exploits the authority delegation scheme of the real Domain Name System. SPF and other authentication-based measures are designed to redress a vulnerability in Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), the main protocol used in sending e-mail, which does not include an authentication mechanism. Information/Websites used in creation of this text – http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid14_gci953520,00.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sender_Policy_Framework TTL – (Time to Live) – Occur in the Domain Name System (DNS), where they are set by an authoritative nameserver for a particular resource record. When a caching nameserver queries the authoritative nameserver for a resource record, it will cache that record for the time (in seconds) specified by the TTL. Shorter TTLs can cause heavier loads on an authoritative nameserver, but can be useful when changing the address of critical services like web servers or MX records, and therefore are often lowered by the DNS administrator prior to a service being moved, in order to minimize disruptions. Information/Websites used in creation of this text – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_to_live#Time_to_live_of_DNS_records
telnet 25 - THIS ESTABLISHES A CONNECTION TO THE SMTP SENDMAIL SERVER helo - THIS IS THE "HELO"(aka "Hello") GREETING, INITIATING DIALOG WITH THE MAIL SERVER BY IDENTIFYING THE MACHINE YOU'RE USING. mail from: rcpt to: data subject:<– THIS MUST END IN A <.> . <– INPUT A PERIOD, THIS “SENDS” THE MESSAGE AT WHICH POINT THE SERVER WILL PROVIDE A DSN REGARDING YOUR SENT MESSAGE quit – THIS ENDS THE SESSION WITH THE SMTP SERVER
How to send email that will be stopped as spamBy Dianne F. Skoll How to send e-mail that will be stopped as SPAM Why? How many times have you been required to send an e-mail to someone, but really didn’t want to? You know, those pesky class assignments that you have not bothered to work on, your sample resume for your dad to check out. Well now I’ll let you know how you can send those e-mails and have them not get to the destination so that you can tell your dad/professor: “I did send it, but the stupid SPAM scanners rejected it as SPAM.” The Methods
- Send e-mail that has an attachment but no message in the body Just attach whatever spreadsheet/document to your e-mail and put no text in the body. SPAM scanners score this very high. Many times this is enough in itself to get your e-mail rejected.
- Send e-mail with profanity in the Subject Though this does not score as high as the first method it does score quite high. This works because most SPAM scanners really want to stop that porn SPAM. This works even better if you try to obfuscate the profanity with something like spaces, periods, asterisks between the letters.
- Send e-mail with profanity in the body of the mail Sort of like number 2 but does not score quite as high. Trying to obfuscate the profanity will raise the score more though. Don’t zip up the body and send it as an attachment (unless you do it with no text in the body (#1)) because the SPAM scanners don’t check for profanity in a zip file.
- Send e-mail with a Word document as an attachment Word documents as attachments really raise the score nicely. Remember though, don’t zip them up or they won’t raise the score. Besides, zipping them would make your e-mail smaller and easier to deliver.
- Send e-mail with no Subject Not putting a subject on your e-mail scores fairly high as well.
- Send e-mail with a Subject that is all CAPS This is a surprisingly simple method that will raise the SPAM score
- Send e-mail with the body in all CAPS Combined with #6 this can be fairly effective in upping your SPAM score
Email Hygiene RecommendationsRaptor Email Security will accept and score messages from senders with poor email hygiene but it’s more likely that they will be marked as spam. This is made even more likely if there are many very similar messages coming from a common source. To avoid this, senders are encouraged to follow postmaster best practices including: 1. Have a non-generic valid reverse pointer (DNS ‘PTR’ record) for your mail relay’s IP address: a hostname which does not include the IP address in any manner and which has an A record that resolves back to the IP address used for outbound SMTP. Ideally this name is also the one used by the mail relay to identify itself in EHLO/HELO commands and Received headers. Why: Using a name that is clearly intentional and has simple proper resolution sets your sending machine apart from the botnets populated by devices like PCs, mobile phones, and cloud VMs which are frequently compromised and used to send spam. 2. If you send ‘bulk’ mail (i.e. mail that isn’t from one human to a small number of other humans) you should use a unique domain name (such as a subdomain of your primary domain) for each class of mail you send. Person-to-person, transactional B2C, discussion lists, and marketing email should each have their own domain with their own user namespace and DNS records (SPF, DKIM, DMARC, etc.) Why: Different classes of mail carry different reputational risks, different importance, and different handling requirements. Using distinct domains aids in this. It also provides flexibility so that you can handle different classes on different infrastructure or selectively outsource mail functions (i.e. mailboxes to a mailbox provider, marketing to a marketing ESP, etc. ) 3. Use SPF records to publish the legitimate sources of your email, ideally with a -all ending but definitely not with ?all If your users might use their individual addresses for random online systems that might use a user’s address to send mail, you may need to use “~all” to let them work. Why: SPF is a policy that you set per domain that lets other servers on the internet know what IPs are permitted to send email for a domain. SPF records are DNS TXT records made up of a series of rules matching legitimate client IPs and can end in – all, ~all, or ?all, indicating how non-matching IPs should be viewed: definitely bad, probably bad, or neutral. You should publish records ending in “-all” for any domains used for any sort of bulk mail, as you should be able to define all of the legitimate sources for those precisely. If you have user addresses used by individual humans in a domain, you may want to use ~all to accommodate the fact that people will use their email addresses in ways you can’t predict. Using ?all may seem even safer but in practice that is considered by some receiving sites to be a sign of a domain run irresponsibly or incompetently. 4. Add DKIM signatures to all mail that you originate OR relay (such as discussion mailing lists.) Use the “relaxed/relaxed” canonicalization, which normalizes aspects of the header and body of signed messages. Why: DKIM (Domain Key Identified Mail) is a mechanism for adding a cryptographically secure signature for an email message as a header line, signing a hash of the canonicalized message body and an arbitrary set of canonicalized headers, verified by a public key published in the DNS. The “relaxed” mechanisms for canonicalizing the body and headers help protect the signature from trivial breakage due to immaterial formatting changes that can happen in transit. 5. Publish a DMARC record. Watch the reports of errors (or hire someone else to do so, e.g. Dmarcian) and address any reports of legitimate mail failing DMARC by fixing SPF or DKIM signing errors. Use a “p=none” policy unless you have a strong reason to do otherwise Why: DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) is a framework which uses SPF and/or DKIM to authenticate the From header and uses a formatted TXT record in DNS to publish reporting parameters and domain policy for how receivers should treat non-authenticated messages using the domain in their From header. The safest DMARC policy attribute is “p=none” which means you don’t recommend any particular action by recipients who encounter a DMARC failure in mail claiming to be from the covered domain. It is also possible to use “p=quarantine” or “p=reject” but you should understand the risks. A ‘quarantine’ policy means that you are telling receiving sites that DMARC failure is a serious enough problem that they should not deliver it normally, which often means mail silently disappears, giving no indication to the intended recipient that it ever existed while indicating to the sender that it was accepted for delivery. A ‘reject’ policy means that they should not accept the mail at all but rather simply reject it at the SMTP “end of data” stage. Because DMARC can be broken by mail handling practices that have traditionally been considered perfectly normal (e.g. transparent forwarding, mailing lists that add topic tags, some types of canonicalization of addresses in headers, etc.) you should always use p=none for domains that have human users who might try to post to a mailing list or send to addresses that are forwarded. 6. Deploy DNSSEC for any domain used in email. Why: DKIM, DMARC, and SPF all publish data that is critical to authentication via the DNS, which by default is accessed via unencrypted UDP, subject to spoofing. DNSSEC assures that the records a client gets from DNS were in fact published by the domain owner (or at least, by someone able to insert records in both the parent and subject domain.) Without DNSSEC, some mail systems will treat the records needed for DKIM, DMARC, and SPF as non-existent. 7. If you have end users who generate email, train and encourage them to:
- Send plain text email when possible, never send HTML-only email.
- Use OpenPGP or S/MIME to sign messages routinely.
- Use OpenPGP or S/MIME to encrypt messages as needed.
AcknowledgementsThis compendium was compiled and edited by Kevin A. McGrail This page consists of information assembled from various sources with contributions from:
- Dorian Chan for his work as part of the Google Code-In
- Dianne F. Skoll and MIMEDefang
- Robert Schetterer
- The Perl foundation, Google Code-In
- The Apache Software Foundation SpamAssassin Project Management Committee
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