Feeds

Hotmail's antispam measures snuff out legit emails, too

No warning, little recourse

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Microsoft representatives say the upsurge in spam - which they estimate to be about 40 per cent in the past year - has forced them to employ new techniques to safeguard Hotmail users and infrastructure. Once upon a time, messages were flagged largely based on the domain that sent it (e.g. Cyberpromotions.com) and by keywords - (think "get rich quick") that were embedded in them. With the growing use of image spam and botnets used to blast them to every corner of the globe, Microsoft has had to employ additional measures.

"The rules of deliverability have really changed," says Brian Holdsworth, senior product planner for Microsoft safety technologies, a group that is responsible for fending off the spam menace. "It's no longer just me, my email address and the domain I own. It's where I'm hosting it at and the reputation of my host."

Holdsworth was unfamiliar with Firth's case, but he speculates Firth's domain may be blocked because the provider hosting it may be home to a large number of infected machines. In such cases, all sites sitting on top of the host can be affected. Microsoft provides a service that allows hosts to review the reputation assigned to them by SmartScreen. (The service is not available to customers such as Firth.)

Microsoft representatives say they are making important progress in combating spam, having reduced the amount of junk mail landing in inboxes by half in the past year. What's more, of about 5bn messages sent to Hotmail users daily, as many as 4.5bn are spam. They say they are committed to resolving the problems such as Firth's and add that most large email providers are struggling with the same issues.

Perhaps, but according to Dominic Ryan, who runs a website called IIS-Aid, other providers do a better job. Ryan found that email his site tried to send to users with Hotmail addresses was also getting blocked, and he got to wondering how many other services might block his domain. So he set up a simple test in which he sent an identical email to accounts with ten different services.

Only one account - you can probably guess from which provider - failed to receive it.

"I have basically given up on Hotmail support," says Ryan, whose credentials include being a three-time Microsoft IIS MVP. He now bans the use of Hotmail addresses for users registering on his site and sends an automated response to those sending messages to fellow users with Hotmail accounts warning that the dispatches will probably not get through.

Of course, the biggest friendly-fire casualties in Microsoft's war on spam are the Hotmail users whose legitimate emails are killed before ever landing in their inbox. Firth and Ryan have been working diligently to alert these individuals to the problem, but so far they're warnings have gone unheeded. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Same old iPad? NO. The new 'soft SIMs' are BIG NEWS
AppleSIM 'ware to allow quick switch of carriers
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Brits: Google, can you scrape 60k pages from web, pleeease
Hey, c'mon Choc Factory, it's our 'right to be forgotten'
Of COURSE Stephen Elop's to blame for Nokia woes, says author
'Google did have some unique propositions for Nokia'
It's even GRIMMER up North after MEGA SKY BROADBAND OUTAGE
By 'eck! Eccles cake production thrown into jeopardy
Mobile coverage on trains really is pants
You thought it was just *insert your provider here*, but now we have numbers
Don't mess with Texas ('cos it's getting Google Fiber and you're not)
A bit late, but company says 1Gbps Austin network almost ready to compete with AT&T
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.