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BT 'security upgrade' causes email headaches

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BT broadband customers who don't use an @btinternet.com address are being forced to jump through hoops to send email, as the national telco says it is tightening its anti-spam policies.

A change in BT's rules means individuals and businesses who use a desktop SMTP program such as Outlook or Thunderbird with their own domain name are being confronted with error number 553 when they try to send mail. SMTP error 553 is raised when a remote server rejects the mail because the sender's domain is not on its approved list.

Users started noticing the problem earlier this month, but the policy change seems to have really bitten over the Easter weekend. One frustrated Reg reader who asked to remain anonymous said today: "I use it for social and business purposes and have spent all Easter weekend trying to sort it out - I've had enough and am changing email supplier."

BT did announce the change on one of its help sites. It tells non-@btinternet email users that they need to "validate" their domain. Nevertheless, many people have been caught unawares and the process seem unnecessarily bureaucratic.

A BT spokesman said the change had not been made in response to a particular increase in spam, but that it was part of an "ongoing programme of security improvements".

He said customers who are having problems should visit this page. Confusingly, the advice on how to get your BT email working again is provided by Yahoo!, a BT consumer broadband partner.

In trying to sort the validation process for his mum, blogger Phil Gyford aimed his frustrations at BT's various branding efforts. He had to log in to several sites before he could make the changes BT are demanding. He wrote: "If I'm paying for your service, a service whose helpline costs even more money, I don’t expect to be sent to a help page that requires me to guess which of your brands I have to visit, then which service I have to log in to, and then travel through three different brands before I reach a destination that bears a passing resemblance to the first instructions.

"Never mind forcing people into this tortuous branded hell purely for having the temerity of wanting to use their own email address, rather than your own branded one, in the first place." ®

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