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How Pervasive is ISP Outbound Email Filtering? 281

Posted by Zonk
from the making-me-nervous dept.
Erris writes "A member of the Baton Rouge LUG noticed that Cox checks the text of outgoing email and rejects mail containing key phrases. I was aware of forced inbox filtering that has caused problems and been abused by other ISPs in China and in the US. I've also read about forced use of ISP SMTP and outbound throttling, but did not know they outbound filtered as well. How prevalent and justified is this practice? Wouldn't it be better to cut off people with infected computers than to censor the internet?"
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How Pervasive is ISP Outbound Email Filtering?

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  • I use Comcast, and so far this is one thing they have not interfered with, at least in my area.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FauxPasIII (75900)
      I use Comcast, and my outbound tcp/25 is blocked entirely. I can _only_ go to their SMTP relay.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by simcop2387 (703011)
        hmm thats strange, i'm using comcast in the atlanta area and can easily do smtp to other hosts on the internet.
      • Re:Not Comcast (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bender Unit 22 (216955) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:42PM (#22254206) Journal
        I'd say that every ISP should do that, that is, if you could get it unblocked if you requested it or via some online account management.
        99% of all people wouldn't need it anyway(except the bots on their machines) and the ones who do, would know how to open it. Of course it is a not the ideal way to solve the problem, but it's all we got for now.
        • Re:Not Comcast (Score:4, Insightful)

          by cheater512 (783349) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:39PM (#22255072) Homepage
          Blocking every port under 1024 and having a touch tone phone interface to unblock them would be ideal.
          That way there is no way for a bot to automate it (ok maybe if they still have a analog modem but unlikely) and its pretty easy to unblock yourself while keeping the ISP's workload low.

          That would cut out a lot of the net's problems overnight and make it extremely difficult to bypass.
      • Re:Not Comcast (Score:4, Informative)

        by DCTooTall (870500) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:49PM (#22254340)
        that's actually been a pretty common net-wide standard for awhile to block port 25. Logic being that many old spam virus's used to set up an smtp server on the infected machine and start spamming directly from the infected computer bypassing the isp's SMTP server. By blocking port 25 on the outskirts of the ISP network and forcing customer to use their SMTP it allowed better access controls to prevent spam. and more importantly, kept entire ranges of Dynamic IP's from getting blacklisted due to spam.


        In the past few years with the increase in teleworking, remote access of email, and personal domain names, as well as the evolution of the spam-virus, that ISP's have moved to allow access to port 25 outside their network, instead doing IP access controls on their outgoing SMTP server, and using SMTP Auth to allow people to connect from outside their network.
        • by rmerry72 (934528)

          That's actually been a pretty common net-wide standard for awhile to block port 25.

          For a certain segment of the ISP market, ie your "home users who have no choice anyway". Maybe its more widespread in your country. I've never had an ISP that blocks any port. I have no need for a filtered part of the Internet. I'm a grown up and I can take and demand access to the whole thing.

          Down here, the big ISPs block lots of things (email, servers, ftp, etc): Telstra, Optus, Dodo, etc. But they are aiming at a mark

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Sorthum (123064)
            It's not you being a grown-up, it's your idiot neighbors who click everything under the sun without regard to security. I think the solution is to block by default, and have a mechanism to open it up, as other posters have stated.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by rmerry72 (934528)

              It's not you being a grown-up, it's your idiot neighbors who click everything under the sun without regard to security. I think the solution is to block by default, and have a mechanism to open it up, as other posters have stated.

              Oooh, yeah let's regulate it. What would be the mechanism to open it up?

              • Licences? Pass an exam every two years to prove your qualified to operate your computer?
              • Or a blue slip for your computer? Only registered computers can connect?
              • How about turning the Net into consumption o
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by element-o.p. (939033)
          The problem with an ISP using SMTP-auth for connections outside their network is that SMTP-auth is only as secure as the least secure password used in your customer base. Given that people are generally lazy and prioritize convenience over security, that means odds are that any decent sized ISP *will* have at least one (and probably very many more) weak passwords, and *that* means that the ISP's mail server *will* be an open relay as soon as the spammers figure it out.

          This isn't just theory -- at an ISP
      • Re:Not Comcast (Score:5, Interesting)

        by squallbsr (826163) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:52PM (#22254396) Homepage
        I also have Comcast, I was able to send email over SMTP (port 25) any time I pleased. That was until my brother decided to bring over his virus ridden, spam spewing, zombified windows machine over and hook it up to my network (while he was house sitting). They promptly blocked port 25, I got home and couldn't send email.

        I had to call their very rude Security Something Department, they said my options were
        1. 'Use a different port because other ports can be secured while port 25 cannot be secured.'
        2. Use the Comcast alternate port SMTP-AUTH Server (of which I don't know my login/password for)

        I told them I wanted option 3:
        3. Re-open port 25.

        They decided to tell me that they could as a ONE TIME courtesy re-open the port, but 'it will probably be blocked again because the problem that caused it to be blocked probably wasn't fixed' (even after I told them that I had found the problem and fixed it, in addition to monitored all transmissions over port 25 for an hour)... So I fixed my OpenBSD firewall pf rules to only allow 'trusted' computers to only be able to contact MY email server, and access the whole internet unfettered, the 'guest' machines have access to web and a handful of other ports (none of which is 25)...

        Moral of the story: Stop using windows... /flamebait
        • Re:Not Comcast (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Matt Perry (793115) <perry.matt54NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:59PM (#22255346)

          Moral of the story: Stop using windows...
          I'd say the moral is don't let people to connect devices to your network without your approval and possible oversight. It's not Windows' fault that your brother connected his infected machine to your network.
      • Re:Not Comcast (Score:5, Informative)

        by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:21PM (#22254830) Homepage
        You may have at one point been flagged as being 'infected with a virus'. This is when my comcrap connections always got nuked (I host a mailing list). But instead of filtering just outbound, they would kill everything.

        I got tired of fighting with them (and after the headaches they caused with my overpriced business class connection when they took over for the ISP they bought out I was not going to pay for that service again), and discovered DynDNS's mailhop outbound and mailhop relay services. Problem solved. You can have stuff forwarded in on a nonstandard port and sent out that way too.

        http://www.dyndns.com/services/mailhop/outbound.html [dyndns.com]
        http://www.dyndns.com/services/mailhop/relay.html [dyndns.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        25 blocked ubiquitously here too. Instead of using cox's smtp service, I use the SMTP relay service at http://www.smtpport.com/ [smtpport.com] to tunnel regular smtp to my own company server through a nonstandard port. A decent workaround for when you don't have shell access or secure smtp. So far cox hasn't filtered or blocked it.
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "I use Comcast, and my outbound tcp/25 is blocked entirely. I can _only_ go to their SMTP relay."

        I subscribe to Cox business accounts...I get a static IP address, a low level SLA, and no bandwidth caps, or ports blocked...and pretty good speeds. I've been VERY happy with it.

        I switched to them years back when I was with Bellsouth trying to upgrade my DSL to get a static IP etc. They said they didn't have any to give out (after over a month waiting on the answer)...I found that Cox cable would do what I wa

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by konohitowa (220547)
      A friend of mine uses Comcast in the Indianapolis area. I talked to him on the phone and he was surprised that I hadn't received an email from. We went through several tests and concluded that Comcast was indeed scanning his outbound email and filtering items that hit some type of keyword filter. He was able to send the email only when he slightly altered the subject text. The annoying part of it was that it was a "silent" filter - he got no indication that the email had been rejected. It just went straight
  • Profit comes first (Score:5, Insightful)

    by techno-vampire (666512) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:23PM (#22253852) Homepage
    "Wouldn't it be better to cut off people with infected computers than to censor the internet?"


    If they did that, it would lower their income and cut into their profits. Filtering outbound email costs less, at least in the short run and that's all the typical MBA is interested in. Their idea is to move to a new company before the long-term damage they've caused becomes evident. (I'm not just wanking, here; I asked an MBA about it once and that's what he told me.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chyeld (713439)
      However, filtering also raises the "you are now liable for what they say to an extent" issue that the whole Safe Harbor thing was suppose to fix for ISPs and could definately cost a huge pile more than just cutting access and losing customers.
      • Well, yes, but as I said, that's long-term damage. Very few MBAs give a damn about what happens in the long term because they don't expect to stick around long enough for it to matter.
      • by soren100 (63191) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:53PM (#22255270)

        However, filtering also raises the "you are now liable for what they say to an extent" issue that the whole Safe Harbor thing was suppose to fix for ISPs and could definately cost a huge pile more than just cutting access and losing customers.
        People have raised that idea as wel about AT&Ts plan to filter their network for copyrighted material.

        The answer I have to that is "9/11 Changed Everything".

        Seriously -- when the US government asked the telcos to commit surveillance crimes against the US citizens, only Qwest refused. Usually, breaking the law is a bad thing, but the US government was offering lots of money to the telcos, and presumably the promise not to prosecute. So the only company that got in trouble was the one following the law. And somehow the Qwest CEO that refused the deal ended up in jail. Meanwhile Dick Cheney is desperately trying to get immunity for the cooperating telcos for their crimes. See how that works?

        So on the surface of things scanning and filtering our email might seem to be a bad busines move. But if the same US Government that got illegal telephone surveillance of US Citizens is also going for illegal surveillance of our emails, email filtering starts to make much more business sense.

        It used to be that the idea of the US government secretly finding out what was in your emails was in the tin-foil hat realm. But the illegal surveillance of telephone calls would have been as well, along with secretly torturing people in secret overseas prisons. As well as "constitution-free" zones such as Gitmo that are paid for by US taxpayer dollars.

        So if you have a government that scans your telephone calls, email, and web-surfing habits, you get very close to a goal of "total information awareness", which was one of the government's programs that was renamed and shuffled around after the public got very upset.

    • by SeaFox (739806) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:42PM (#22255110)

      If they did that, it would lower their income and cut into their profits.

      That's assuming they actually close the customer's account or credit for the time out. Some ISPs do not, since the issue is generally a virus or other malware on the customer's PC (in other words, not the ISP's fault).

      But you response overall is still correct. If they keep mucking around with the email, they still save money because eventually the customer gets sick of it and gets a Yahoo account instead. Now Comcast is still getting the same $40/month, but without having to provide mail services.
  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:26PM (#22253896) Homepage
    If an ISP doesn't filter their outgoing email to make sure that it's own users aren't spamming, they WILL get blocked. I'm on a super-secret anti-spam mailing list which I can't tell you about, and everybody there cheerfully admits to blocking their own users' outgoing spam. It's necessary.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ajayrockrock (110281)

      If an ISP doesn't filter their outgoing email to make sure that it's own users aren't spamming, they WILL get blocked. I'm on a super-secret anti-spam mailing list which I can't tell you about, and everybody there cheerfully admits to blocking their own users' outgoing spam. It's necessary.


      dude, spamassassin-users [apache.org] isn't that secret. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by adminstring (608310)
      The first rule of the super-secret anti-spam mailing list, which you have just broken, is that you do not talk about the super-secret anti-spam mailing list!
  • Looking further... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:26PM (#22253912) Homepage
    Digging further into the Cox situation, the Cox subscriber said:

    I tried to send an email. The email only contained text. The text Cox
    objected to was "http://my_homebox_IP_number/"


    I haven't checked the Cox TOS lately, but don't they prohibit running a home web server like all the other residential internet providers? Hasn't this been the case since for essentially the same length of time that the Internet has been a commercial venture?

    • Prohibited (Score:3, Informative)

      by dereference (875531)

      I haven't checked the Cox TOS lately, but don't they prohibit running a home web server like all the other residential internet providers?
      Yes [cox.com]. They may not actively police it, of course, but there it is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rob1980 (941751)
      Yes, I'm guessing they set the filter up so you can't email somebody a link to http://my_homebox_ip_number:8081/ [myhomeboxipnumber] and have it be a spoofed Paypal signin page or something like that.
      • by mabinogi (74033)
        hmmm, I hadn't thought of that aspect of it.
        I wonder if they just filter emails with addresses in their netblock? That would actually make sense.
        If they just filtered mails with any numeric URL in them it'd be bad though.
        • by droopycom (470921)
          I'm sure they dont check if the IP is in their own block, that's not what its about.

          About 99% of emails containing an url with a numerical IP are spams. I certainly would not fault cox for blocking those outgoing spams.

          Cox certainly has a certain number of customers whose PCs are routinely infected with spam sending trojans. The filter was probably enabled by a scruffy looking unix admin, muttering about how clueless those Windows users are, rather than a pointy-haired boss trying to limit the use of home s
      • by Sleepy (4551)
        By that logic, you could get around the block by putting a domain name on your IP... which is exactly what a smart phisher would do anyways.

        No, I strongly expect that they are:
        1) filtering URLs with their IP range in it.
        2) Resolving URLs to the IP address (then following 1)

        Item # 2 is trivial to do... SpamAssassin has plenty of body text checkers looking for URLs (see URIBL_* plugins). It would be trivial to fork one of these applets to look for their cable user IP space.

        It's also trivial to get around eith
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mabinogi (74033)
      That's got nothing to do with it though.

      Whether or not you're running a home server, sending an email containing a URL certainly shouldn't breach the ToS. They're not going to filter emails referring to a breaching server, they'd contact you about the server or terminate your service.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Vellmont (569020)

      I haven't checked the Cox TOS lately, but don't they prohibit running a home web server like all the other residential internet providers?

      They might. What does that have to do with this situation? It's very unlikely Cox has some kind of filter that looks for specific references to their own IP address pool, and filters out email with that criteria. It's just not worth the effort.

      What's MUCH more likely is they have a spam filter that looks for email that looks like spam, i.e. "http://some-ip-address:some
  • by sgt scrub (869860) <saintium.yahoo@com> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:27PM (#22253930)
    They could do inline virus filtering easier, cheaper, and still not be intrusive. IMHO they are being rude when they could be helpful.
  • by Stanistani (808333) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:28PM (#22253942) Homepage Journal
    I will no longer be able to point to my home server on these lists because Cox
    rejects such messages as spam. The message given when I try is:

    Sending failed:
    Could not write file The message content was not accepted.
    The server responded: "ID_INTENTIONALLY_REMOVED This message was
    undeliverable. This message has been found to be a potential spam message,
    and has therefore been blocked. Please visit http://coxagainstspam.cox.net/ [cox.net]
    for more information.".
    Disk full.
    The message will stay in the 'outbox' folder until you either fix the problem
    (e.g. a broken address) or remove the message from the 'outbox' folder.
    The following transport protocol was used:
    smtp.east.cox.net

    . . .

    I could care less that their disk is stuffed and suspect it is misdirection.

    This censorship is only a minor inconvenience but the message it sends is
    ugly. It says, in so many words, that the internet is for your consumption
    not participation. Changing messages to point to my physics page gets around
    the immediate problem, but most people do not have such a thing nor should
    they be forced to host things on someone else's computers. I'm paying for my
    bandwith, why can't I use it for what I want? Finally, subscribers now know
    that every word of every message sent is filtered. Will they filter my IM
    conversations next?
  • by pongo000 (97357) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:35PM (#22254060)
    It's not clear to me that Cox actually scanned the message body in its determination that the e-mail in question was spam. There could have been any number of indicators that caused Cox to reject the outbound message.

    I also note that Cox's TOS specifically prohibits the hosting of servers:

    Servers. You may not operate, or allow others to operate, servers of any type or any other device, equipment, and/or software providing server-like functionality in connection with the Service, unless expressly authorized by Cox.


    A more accurate title for this story would be: "User in violation of Cox TOS upset over Cox efforts to enforce TOS."

    My advice to said user? Buck up and get business-level service, or find yourself a real hosting service for your mail server.

    • by rmerry72 (934528)

      A more accurate title for this story would be: "User in violation of Cox TOS upset over Cox efforts to enforce TOS."

      They are not enforcing their TOS; they are blocking legitimate traffic. Does their TOS say "You will not send an email with a URL to your own IP address"? Put another way, should the police be able to block you bragging in an email that you did 100 MPH on the freeway?

      Sounds like one of those useless ISPs that block/fake BitTorrenting and force you to use their email servers. ISPs that ar

      • by pongo000 (97357)
        Look, I'm certainly not an apologist for Cox. But I've fought this same battle for many years with several different ISPs, and it's a losing battle. And I found this little gem amusing as well:

        I'm paying for my bandwith, why can't I use it for what I want?

        I think that comment pretty much sums this up as a non-story about a petulant user who is pissed that he can't get around Cox's roadblocks. I won't say it's been a waste of my time, though, as I'm sitting here posting a response. I find it amusing that

        • by rmerry72 (934528)
          I find it amusing that there are still people out there trying to fight this silly battle. They came for port 25, and...well, you know the rest of the tale.

          I agree with you. You're not bying a real internet connection when you buy through someone like Cox so you shouldn't complain. Just up and leave - if you can - or shut up and take it if you can't. Else go dark. The real Net is still hear for the rest of us.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Niten (201835)

      A more accurate title for this story would be: "User in violation of Cox TOS upset over Cox efforts to enforce TOS."

      The problem is that the TOS are bogus, and there's absolutely nothing the customer can do about it. It's not as though we have a half dozen other cable subscribers to choose from and to keep each other honest; aside from the phone company, Cox is the only game in town for many folks. The theoretical benefits and corrective effects of free-market competition do not operate in such an environment.

      Seriously, "servers of any type [...] server like functionality"? Congratulations, you've just described an

    • Yep (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:13PM (#22254734)
      Cox does have business level cable and I've been quite happy with it. Used to use Speakeasy DSL but got spooked when Best Buy purchased them and switched to Cox. Thus far (little over a year) it has been great. I run 3 servers which do a moderate amount of traffic (maybe 50-100GB up a month) and have heard not a peep out of them. No ports are blocked that I can see, the servers run HTTP, HTTPS, SSH, IMAPS and SMTP between the group of them and it all works fine. They even have an SLA such that in extended downtimes you get monetary credit.

      The difference, of course, is that I pay a good bit more. I'm not sure what a consumer level cable connection costs for 10mb/1mb but my understanding is it is somewhere in the range of $50/month. I pay more like $150/month for the business grade with 8 static IPs (the IPs do add a good portion of that).

      However I'm ok with that. My usage is much in excess of what you'd get from a normal consumer, I'm ok with the fact that I have to pay for that. It's still not a bad price all things considered.

      If you want the cheap consumer connections, then you need to deal with the consumer restrictions which usually include "no servers". It isn't as though they are being assholes and saying "No you can't ever do this," they are just saying "If you want to do this, you need a more pricey service."
    • Servers? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gillbates (106458)

      Or server-like functionality?

      So, what exactly, defines a server? When you think about it, there's just traffic between two points. From a semantic perspective, posting to /. could be seen as "serving" text to a remote computer...

      But, I think this kind of highlights the apparent Cox conceptual model of the internet:

      • Businesses create the news, opinions, and "interactive" content. The subscriber consumes the content business creates. Subscribers do not participate in opinion, create content, or ot
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by arminw (717974)
        .....So, what exactly, defines a server?.......

        How about; A computing device that accepts random, unsolicited connection from other computing devices". It's generally the kind of connection that a NAT router prevents unless especially set up to allow that. As part of the service, many ISPs supply a wireless NAT router which blocks incoming traffic from the local network.
    • by Ucklak (755284)
      I get a 'Potential Spam' popup from Thunderbird with a similar 'COX thinks this is spam' if I send in text only. I send in text and HTML and it goes through.
    • by MrNemesis (587188)
      My advice to said user? Buck up and get business-level service, or find yourself a real hosting service for your mail server.

      Define "real hosting". Not everything requires a data centre; I define hosting as "fit for purpose", if my home mail server sends out 20MB of email a month I can hardly see why I need to pay for an entirely different server and internet connection that I upload the same 20MB to, which then uploads the 20MB elsewhere. Here was me thinking the internet was all about multiple different n
  • Holy WTF?!? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:40PM (#22254168) Homepage Journal

    I can understand and am sympathetic to ISPs who force outbound traffic to go through their servers. I'm not saying I agree with it, but I really do get what they're trying to accomplish. I also understand ISPs having spam filters on their outbounds, and think that's actually a pretty good idea. If you really need to send a virus so someone, then you should be technically competent to encrypt it or otherwise shield it from a scanner.

    But never in a million years can I even remotely condone actually scanning the text of emails and rejecting ones an ISP doesn't like. That's just Evil.

  • Wouldn't it be better to cut off people with infected computers than to censor the internet?

    Yeah, that's great until MSFT convinces one of them that Linux is a virus.

    But we're prepared to wipe the slate clean, give you a fresh start. And all you have to do is install Windows.

  • by cmburns69 (169686) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:46PM (#22254292) Homepage Journal
    Some antivirus packages also block some outbound email as well. At a previous company I worked for, we had to send out numerous survey invitations. Norton would quietly queue and scan all the outbound data (going to port 25)-- which worked in many cases. Except that it was slow. And there was now way of knowing how much data (if any) was still queued. And if the computer was restarted before Norton finished processing the queue, the data was silently lost (even though a "Accepted for delivery" message was returned to the sending program).

    These limitations wouldn't be hit by your normal 1-or-2 emails at a time users. But for the rare legitimate high volume senders, like us, it was a problem. IT wouldn't let us turn off Norton alltogether (and rightly so, as we'd seen virii on our network in the past), and there was no way to selectively disable that "feature". Eventually we forced to make our outbound mail server listen on a different port, so that Norton wouldn't scan/lose the data.

    At least with COX you get a notification saying that the message couldn't be sent, with Norton, the messages might just quietly disappear.

  • by merc (115854) <slashdot@upt.org> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:47PM (#22254304) Homepage
    I would like to first state that I am a Cox cable internet subscriber in the Phoenix area. I also happen to wear the abuse desk hat for Arizona's oldest ISPs.

    I can say without question that the amount of spam we get from cox is almost NIL. I constantly see spam coming out of Comscat's network, also Verizon and from time to time Time Warner but RARELY Cox. In fact I can't remember the last spam I received that originated from their network.

    I don't mind that my egress SMTP port is blocked forcing me to use a MSA (mine is configured to use SMTP AUTH with TLS, which works nicely). The fact is that Cox has their act together in my opinion. The fact that they are a white hat in the abuse category makes me want to continue doing business with them. I don't think what you're seeing here is intentional censorship. It would actually be irresponsible for Cox not to filter outbound mail traffic, since they are bound to have customers that run malware infected / zombied host computers.

    Anyway, I say "good job Cox" :)

    P.S. I work for an ISP that is NOT Cox--which one might think after reading my glowing statements (in fact we compete against Cox)
    • by rmerry72 (934528) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:16PM (#22254764) Homepage

      It would actually be irresponsible for Cox not to filter outbound mail traffic, since they are bound to have customers that run malware infected / zombied host computers.

      You know, I'm getting sick of the prevailing attitude that ISPs and other "institutions" should limit legitimate activities with a technology and filter everybody's behaviour because some customers are bad apples (either intentially or through ignorance).

      Don't penalise me and limit my activities - limit those who are adversly behaving. ie, block those that do have malware infected machines not mine! I do the right thing and protect my systems. Why should I should I be penalised by the highest common ignorance factor?

      You are promoting this attitude by saying "We will do business with them because they bottled up their customers nicely and it saves us work" instead of "They have lower quality customers and have to bottle them. Not going to touch that crowd".

      What am I saying? We live in a moddle-coddled world where nobody takes responsibility for they're own actions but instead focuses on fretting and controlling everybody else's actions. Arse above tit. With liberty comes responsibility.

      • by Nimey (114278)
        So it would be better for Cox to allow any old botnetted-computer to spew spam?

        If your mail situation is that important, buy a business-class account.
        • by rmerry72 (934528) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:45PM (#22255144) Homepage

          So it would be better for Cox to allow any old botnetted-computer to spew spam?

          No. Kill the connection of those computers. Don't block and filter my computer because Joe Idiot has malware. Cut him off and make it his responsiblity to clean his property. If I had a spiking phone that was causing disruption to the telephone network they'd disconnect my phone not start filtering your phone conversations. If my car was a defect I wouldn't be allowed to drive.

          If your mail situation is that important, buy a business-class account.

          Come on, are you telling me sending an email is an add on to the basic funtionality of the internet, and optional extra? "Oh, you want "clean" water? Well I suggest you upgrade to our business service. Our residential water pipes only deliver untreated effluent."

      • by merc (115854)
        You know, I'm getting sick of the prevailing attitude that ISPs and other "institutions" should limit legitimate activities with a technology and filter everybody's behaviour because some customers are bad apples (either intentially or through ignorance).

        In principle I agree, except they're not trying to limit legitimate activity but the illegitimate. In this case malware infected computers sending out massive amounts of garbage isn't filtering behavior of a person, but automated abuse. Perhaps as an tech
        • by rmerry72 (934528)

          Actually, you are enforcing my point, not conflicting it. That's exactly what Cox is doing, taking responsibility over their servers and their traffic. Their system is imperfect but better than an open sewer pipe going directly to the public lake (if you'll excuse the metaphor).

          Not such a bad analogy and I take your point. Except they are filtering my traffic not theirs. And that's the crux I think. My data is considered their data if it goes through their wires! In the sewer example, ownership of the sew

  • by cbone00 (323341) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:50PM (#22254356)
    I own part of a small ISP and CLEC in the South.
    We do not use spy on our customers phone calls or throttle their P2P traffic. We are not considering monitoring their Internet traffic for copyrighted (or any other) data.
    Maybe some of the big boys are out there using these draconian tactics, but your average, everyday, garden variety, small ISP is just trying to make a living providing a quality alternative to the behemoths out there.
    Please don't lump us in with those guys.

    All that said... We *do* filter inbound email traffic for viruses and SPAM. We do block inbound port 25 to our dynamic IPs.
    We view these actions as our duty to our customers and to the rest of the Internet to do our small part to help at least slow down the rampant propagation of SPAM on the Internet.
    We currently block about 95% of the email that hits our domains - and that number is slowly climbing. Do we occasionally throw out the baby with the bath water? Probably so, but it is rare. I can't even remember the last complaint we have gotten about this, so this tells me that our filters are highly effective.
    As for blocking port 25, we do this to guard our address space against our own customers being irresponsible with their PC's and not keeping virus software up to date. Getting our address space blacklisted would effect ALL of our customers.

    It is not about getting rich. Hardly so. Email is the probably the biggest drain on resources that any ISP faces. If we didn't take these steps, we probably would not be in business.

    Everyone wishes we had the less evil Internet of yesteryear back, but it isn't going to happen. The Internet is a cesspool. We have to defend ourselves in the best way we know how.
    • by Niten (201835)

      We do block inbound port 25 to our dynamic IPs.

      How is that supposed to stop spam ending up in the user's mailbox, exactly? If the user has a server running on port 25 to receive those messages, then clearly he understands the concept of spam and would presumably have weighed the pros and cons of any such configuration for himself. It seems pretty overbearing that you would presume to protect the user from himself in this fashion.

      If you're blocking this particular type of traffic for price/performance reasons, then be upfront about it (although in

  • ILOVEYOU (Score:4, Funny)

    by AEton (654737) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:50PM (#22254360)
    About ten years ago, it became impossible for me to send e-mails to my girlfriend with the subject line "ILOVEYOU."

    The error message from Comcast -- something about rejection -- was pretty classic.
    • Girlfriend? What is that? Some new kind of alchemy? I've never heard of such a thing as "girlfriend". Although I think I might want one, it sounds interesting
    • I mean, c'mon, about ten years ago, subject line of "ILOVEYOU"...

      What? You don't remember? Okay then, GIT OF MA LAWN!
  • With Godaddy, where I have a domain hosted, if I try to send something that looks like a Paypal/ebay spoof, it gets rejected while sending. (Even if I am sending it to the paypal/ebay spoof reporting addresses.)

    This might or might not be a good thing... dunno.
  • I've noticed that a number of people I'm in contact with (I run an email list for my band) have email systems that bounce back anything with a link in it, saying it's spam. (For example, the URL for the band's website, stuff like that.) When I pursued it with my girlfriend, she had no idea it was happening, and investigated her system settings and definitely had all spam filter options turned to "off".

    Unfortunately, I've started to get accustomed to dealing with this (strip out links & resend individual
  • Comcast sucks too. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:02PM (#22254548)
    In the Boston area, comcast fuckers are blocking port 25. So, even though people have legitimate uses for the internet connection they pay for, these companies are taking it on themselves to block standard connection protocols.

    First its port 25, because of spam. Then it will be P2P because of copyright. Then it will be ssh because of terrorism. Then it will be, inspired from the new york story yesterday, filtering web content to prevent false alarms.

    Fuckers. Bury your head america.

    When people talk about fascist Germany, they focus on the extermination of jews and the holocaust, and while those were horrific acts, they are not what the Nazi party was about. They were the result of the acts of fanatical and arguably insane men who had gained power in the Nazi party, not the Nazi party, per se'

    The Nazi party was about power and the exercise of it. It was about bringing pressure on the citizens from all aspects of society to conform to it. It used social structures and industries and laws to bring people under control. It is EXACTLY what is happening in america today. Its all the little things slowly picking away at the big things, until the big things crumble. Freedom of speech? Nope, now we have "free speech zones," where no one will hear you. I could go on, but the /. crowd already knows.

    Just like the Reichstag fire in 1933, the world trade center in 2001 gave the neocons the ability to enact limits on freedom. After that, industries which were once regulated in order to protect the citizens are now deregulated and destroying citizens who do not conform, RIAA, MPIAA, walmart, etc.

    ISP censorship is just one more piece of it. The internet is becoming the primary conduit of communication and fascist america must have its citizens controlled, just lake Nazi Germany needed its citizens controlled.

    All this isn't a conspiracy theory either. No conspiracy theory need exist. Our government (of the people, by the people, bla bla) is supposed to protect us. If it stops protecting us from big companies, those companies will naturally do the work for their own gain.

    Now everyone in the USA is afraid. Some of terrorists, some of losing heath care, some of losing their job, their house, what ever. Fear, as the nazi's will tell you is a powerful tool to harness.

    Welcome to neocon amaerica where companies sue their customers because they can. Companies dictate what you can do with your property, because they can, and if you do anything about it or protest, you can lose your job which means your house and health care.

    Sorry for the rant, but I can't be the only one who sees this whole thing in this way
  • I worked for a mid-sized business ISP HQ'd in Des Moines and headed up the abuse dept for a short while. We had clients all across the country for whom we sold spam/virus filtering and firewall services to. We never filtered any outbound e-mail whatsoever unless the client specifically requested it and then paid for the extra service of running their outbound e-mail through postini. All incoming e-mail was run through postini whether or not a client requested it. We offered outbound mail services free o
  • ... my inability to order lunch meat, specifically Spam(tm) using e-mail.
  • I'm on one of their "faster" dynamic IP residential plans and I can only send mail from my mail server by smtp authenticating against a valid earthlink account. Otherwise, I get an smtp time out message in postfix no matter what.

    Earthlink cannot provide me with a static IP which is easy enough to blame on the telco.
  • I just use GMail over SSL by changing by bookmark from:
    http://mail.google.com/ [google.com]
    to:
    https://mail.google.com/ [google.com]

    Problem solved!
  • I found out my e-mails were sent to /dev/null and never returned or anything. It was because of http://antfarm.ma.cx/ [antfarm.ma.cx] ... This happened a few months ago, last year.
  • About two months ago, I was attempting to send a song sample to someone from an AOL account - the full song is to be used by a professional DJ, and the clip was being used to properly identify the song, as there are dozens of artists and versions. I didn't send the whole song, just the first 20 seconds or so. AOL refused to deliver the email with the MP3 attachment. I just repeated the experiment, and it went through. I guess they decided that blocking all MP3 attachments isn't a great thing to do.
  • by 1sockchuck (826398) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:52PM (#22255244) Homepage
    According to the NANOG list (North American Network operators Group), Comcast has been discarding emails that include a link created using EasyURL [merit.edu], one of many services designed to provide shortened URLs for email links. This could be an anti-spam policy, as URL forwarding through these services is sometimes used by phishing scams to obscure the link's true destination.
  • If what was blocked was a URL that contained his home IP address, then yes, that sounds more than reasonable to me. Hell, it makes sense for ISPs to not only block outbound email that contains a link to IP addresses in their own DSL ranges but also to IP addresses listed as dynamic by various RBLs - as a mail admin at a University, who sees all kinds of problems caused by crap coming out of ISP mail relays, I applaud this effort. Maybe they should start looking at using a few URIBLs to filter outbound mail
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @07:17PM (#22255582)
    I use an alternate-port SMTP service: my mail doesn't go through my ISP's server. That was after my outgoing mail got blocked and their customer service (I use the term loosely) people couldn't tell me why. I was just told that the problem should "correct itself" in a week or so. Well, it eventually did but by then I'd taken steps to never be in that position again. Now I just poll their mailbox for the occasional notification but I haven't sent a message through my ISP's SMTP server in years.
  • by failedlogic (627314) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @08:13PM (#22256240)
    My IS fil ers my o -bound pac ets to many we ites. Ju t make it har er to re d wh t I wri e. I'm a re ly a go d spell er trust me.

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