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ORBZ shuts up shop, cites criminal charges

Anti-spam blacklist blackout

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Application security programs and practises

Updated ORBZ, the anti-spam blacklisting service, is shutting down.

Ian Gulliver, the administrator of ORBZ (Open Relay Blocking Zone), sent a message to its mailing list explaining that the service was been shut down because of "criminal charges for denial of service relating to the Lotus Domino issue".

Last August, Gulliver sent a message to the BugTraq mailing list stating that the ORBZ scanner creates "oddly formed mail envelopes that can cause Lotus Domino to enter a mail routing loop" resulted in the crash of a mail server.

The issue, which we're told was never particularly serious, was fixed in Lotus Domino version R5.0.9 (see below).

That would have been the end of the matter, if it weren't for (most unusually) the bug becoming the subject of criminal action, according to Gulliver's message.

"I received an official court notice this afternoon to turn over all information relation to ORBZ accounts. This came from the 10th Judicial District court of the State of Michigan," he writes.

"I was happy to try to weather any civil issues that may have come up, and I was committed to seeing it through. However, the threat of jail time is too much; I don't believe in this fight quite that much."

Gulliver advises users that because of the court the ORBZ Web site Web site will disappear (we can still ping the site but can't access it) and email will stop working (our email bounced - confirming this has happened already).

Users should consider ORDB and SpamCop for spam filtering as an alternative to ORBZ, he advises.

Alex Shipp, of managed services firm MessageLabs, whose SkyScan AS (anti-spam) service used public blacklists of open relays provided by ORBZ said the demise of the service will make life at least temporarily easier for spammers.

There are around 50 services of varying quality that will pick up the role ORBZ has vacated, he added, so the withdrawal of ORBZ is more a temporary setback in the war against spam than something more serious.

ORBZ was created in June last year by the principal of anti-spam organisation ORBS, Paul Cummins, after its demise following a New Zealand court case, brought by Actrix and Xtra. Both successfully claimed they had been falsely added to ORBS' blacklist. ®

Update

A Notes administrator has kindly informed us that the potential undetected routing loop bug which is the focus of all the flak was fixed in Lotus Domino version R5.0.9. You can read the details on this here.

With normal anti-relay configuration in place, the exploit didn't work anyway, according to the admin.

"There was an additional workaround available, for situations where normal anti relay settings couldn't be used. This vulnerability never has been a big issue, in my opinion," he writes.

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