Another crack at reducing spam

There are pathological people who are quite happy to spoil something good for everyone else if it is to their advantage. The internet in general is a great example of that and spam in particular.

On a good day, I receive about twice as many spam emails as legitimate emails. On a bad day it is worse.

Add to that there are constant attacks on the server and websites by people who are trying to hack a site so it will send spam, adding to the problem, and it is an ongoing pain in the arse.

RBL SPAM filtri | DNSBL | DNS blacklist | Hitrost.com
It makes a blog post more interesting to have some sort of image, but don’t be fooled, this is grossly inaccurate. The ratio of spam to legitimate email (for me) should be reversed.

In an effort to reduce the incoming spam count I have enabled one of the RBL’s (Realtime Black Lists).

The risk is always that it causes too many false positives – marking legit email as spam – and becoming a headache in itself.

If this works, it should be obvious within a day or so. Stand by for an update ūüėõ

Don’t push gmail

If you can get past the fact that Google has overtaken Microsoft as the symbol of internet evil, gmail is pretty good. Especially the spam filtering.

In the past when people want their @domain emails in their gmail account I have simply forwarded it i.e. pushed the emails to gmail. But this has a down-side.

Imagine your account receives a whole lot of spam. You then forward it to your gmail account. Gmail doesn’t see it as coming from someone else to you, they see it as coming from you to gmail. Google responds by blocking your IP address (since you are seen as a spammer) which also happens to be the IP address of every other account on the 123host server. i.e. everyone gets blocked by Google.

I have a new strategy now, I am getting gmail to pull the emails from 123host. I won’t get into the details here on how to do it, it isn’t hard but it is a little complex.

From now on all new 123host -> gmail will be set up as gmail pulling and I will slowly switch over you pushers.

WordPress management

While doing some research for a recent email to all customers about a severe WordPress bug, I came across a solution where I can manage the administration side of your WordPress site without having to log in to it.

The task I look after on your behalf include

    • Updating WordPress
    • Update plugins
    • Update themes¬† (on request. I am reluctant to update themes in case it over-writes your customisation)
    • Scanning for malware and known vulnerabilities
    • Wordfence Security
    • Uptime monitoring
    • Broken link checking
    • Monthly report to you
    • Ensure https compliance
    • much more

123host is pretty much all inclusive.  I have always disliked the way some hosting businesses start with a cheap base price and then charge extra for every little thing.

However subscribing to this service is quite expensive for me and I pay based on the number of sites connected, so if you would like to have me manage the trickier part of your WordPress dashboard the cost is $55 inc GST per year* for your first site and $33* for additional sites.  This about $1 per week for peace of mind!

* yeah, the fine print - these prices were correct when I wrote this, it might have changed.

Hiccup with _some_ outgoing mail [UPDATE II]

UPDATE: ¬†The issue is now resolved. ¬†When the email reputation went bad the mail server was moved to a different IP address that had a good reputation. ¬†The spam hadn’t been stopped so after a day or so that also had it’s reputation battered. ¬†BUT…in the meantime the original IP address had time to repent as it wasn’t sending any email at all, much less spam. ¬†Suspecting this would happen the email server was put back to the original IP address and it did come good. ¬†Email is back to normal. ¬†Apologies for any hassles.

There is a system of rating email server reputation based on the quality of the mail they send. ¬†Too much spam and you get a bad reputation. ¬†This is all evaluated automatically by some servers somewhere…there are lots of them that do it.

What is happening is that due to a WordPress site infected with spam sending script, servers have decided that the 123host mail server deserves to sit in the naughty corner.

Some ISPs use the naughty list to say “we won’t accept mail from you until your behaviour improves”. That’s where we are at right now. Note that it is only some ISPs. ¬†If you are getting bounced emails, maybe the people you are sending to have their email hosted there.

I am pretty confident the spam source has been stopped and things will return to normal soon.  I am working on this with the data centre right now.

I will update this when I know more.

Outlook receiving but not sending [RESOLVED]

I am aware of the issue of outlook receiving email but not sending.

Been working on it much of the afternoon without a result so far so have escalated it to people who are smarter than me.

If it is affecting you please open a support ticket from another account if you can, that way I can keep you informed with what is happening.

[UPDATE]  This has been a tough one to crack.  Some changes were made on the server.

In outlook go into the account settings and change the outgoing SMTP server port to 465 and be sure that SSL encryption is selected – how you do that differs in each version of outlook.

Any problems, open a support ticket at https://123host.com.au

Rounding up MIA emails

If you think using WordPress is complex, I invite you to join me behind the scenes running a web server.  Actually you can get a glimpse by logging into cpanel.YourDomain.com.au and seeing the extensive list of things you can break.

The way some things are set up is pretty arcane and I am going to explain one of them and how to fix it.

Your account has what is known as a system mail account.  The email address is (YourAccount)@hostname.123host.com.au and system emails often end up in this mailbox.

The problem is that it is the black sheep of mail boxes. ¬†Most people don’t even know it exists and hardly anyone ever checks it. ¬†It usually only contains bounce messages and system notifications that while boring, are pretty important for you if you want to keep your site running smoothly. ¬†Imagine not receiving bounce email messages…you would never know that your emails from your website aren’t getting delivered. ¬†I have found system mail accounts with literally thousands of notifications, the first one I saw explained the problem the person was contacting me about.

Enough theory, what you are going to learn is how to forward those system emails to a real email address.  Ready?

You need your cpanel login for this. ¬†It was in the initial welcome email, you know, the one you should have kept safe. ¬†If you can’t find it, open a support ticket and I will send it to you.

Once in cpanel, do not be daunted by all the offerings and don’t mess with what you don’t understand, you can break the whole internet…well your bit of it anyway.

Head down to the Email section and click on Default Address

default-section

This is where it might get confusing, so take your time.  If this is what your screen looks like, with it forwarding to your system account, we need to fix that.


default-systemIf the screen looks like this, you might also want to change it.  Any emails are being bounced, you will never see them and they may be useful

default-discard

This is where you do your good work. ¬†We are going to tell the server to send all email to another address if it doesn’t have a matching mailbox or forwarder already. ¬†You need to do it for each domain separately.

default-forward

Now there is one minor thing about this that could become a major thing. ¬†I’ll tell you a story about the heady early days of my interwebs¬†experience.

I discovered this “Default Address” thingy and realised that it meant Any.Email.Address@MyDomain.com would get to me. ¬†This was fantastic, or so I thought. ¬†If I gave my email address to the hairdresser it would be hair-chick@MyDomain.com. ¬†When I sent my email address to my mum it was ILoveSteve@MyDomain.com. ¬†It was cute, it was fun. But like cute, fun puppies things soon get out of hand.

I started getting spam on some of these email addresses. ¬†I started getting spam on email addresses I hadn’t given to anyone¬†– remember that any and every email address would get to me. ¬†Eventually I had to wean people off those fancy emails and stop the fun and games.

This may not happen to you, I tend to work that bleeding edge where people say “what can possibly go wrong?”.

Use the them wisely Grasshopper and no one will know about your new powers.

If you have any questions or need some help, open a support ticket.

 

Beware some domain registration emails

I regularly receive an email from confused customers asking “is this email real?” and I always praise them for being wary. ¬†There are many many scams on the internet and I am happy to help sort the scam from the spam and the ham.

This particular email is sent regularly and it can actually be prevented (see below).

fs

The email is skilfully written to be as confusing as possible – note the highlighted line. ¬†It sounds ominous “Failure to complete your Domain name search engine registration by the expiation date may result in cancellation of this offer”. ¬†Well whoopee do! ¬†They may cancel the offer¬† of registering your domain on search engines…something that is completely unnecessary.

So if you receive this, convert it from scam to spam.

And if you want to not receive this sort of email, for $5.50 per year 123host offers domain privacy which will hide your real email from the scammers.

Getting spam under control – hopefully

I have implemented a new spam control system at 123host and in 12 hours I have already seen how effective it seems to be.

The system is known as ‘grey listing’ and here is how it works: ¬†the 123host mail server will pretend it is busy and temporarily reject any email from a sender the server does not recognize. ¬†The sending server will then try to send it again.

Spam usually fakes where it has come from, so the the (faked) originating server responds with “don’t know what you are talking about, there is no such email to resend” and the offending email is not accepted, much less delivered.

On the other hand, if the email is legitimate, the originating server will wait a short while and then try again, this time the 123host server will accept the email and remember the sending server for 7 days.

This has nothing to do with content or email addresses, it is simply testing the authenticity of the sending server. ¬†It isn’t foolproof but it is already working well as far as I can see.

Gmail holds spam for 30 days before it is deleted, this is my mailbox today ūüėõ

spam

I receive about 10 spam emails every hour! ¬†The good thing is that gmail has a fantastic spam filter. ¬†I see maybe one spam per day in my inbox and haven’t spotted a false positive (not spam classified as spam) in a couple of weeks. ¬†TRIVIA: ¬†Bad emails are known as spam, good emails are known as ham.

Since I started greylisting this morning, I would have expected to receive about 120 spam emails. ¬†In fact I have ‘only’ received about 30. ¬†Still a lot, but a 75% reduction is remarkable. ¬†And I imagine that for people who receive less spam it is more noticeable.

If anything unusual seems to be happening with your incoming email (apart from less spam Рwhich is unusual), please let me know by opening a 123host support ticket.  I forgot to mention in the newsletter that you can edit the Configure Greylisting configuration in the mail section of cpanel.  But it is limited to enabling or disabling it for a specific domain.

spam100

123host.com.au updated

When I first started 123host I did all the billing and management manually, it wasn’t too hard since most accounts belonged to me, friends and family and there wasn’t much money involved ūüėõ

tt wasn’t long before it started to get out of hand¬†so I bought some software, that despite being a bit quirky, does a great job of automating much of the work.

Good news is that there was a major upgrade recently, particularly in the client area which from my initial play (I don’t use it much myself) seems much easier to use.

Even better is that many email related functions have been replicated in the client area so you hardly need to go into that big scary cpanel any more.

At the 123host home page¬†log in via the link in the top right corner. ¬†Use your email address and the password you received when you created your account – this is not your hosting password or if you are using it, your WordPress password. ¬†So many passwords…sigh…

Click Services and then My Services in the dropdown menu

myservices

 

 

 

 

Next select the hosting package you want to work on, though most people will only have one

choosedomain

 

 

And either celebrate or be intimidated by the new array of choices

clientarea
The quick shortcuts and quick create an email account are the most commonly used functions. ¬†If you don’t undestand any of them you would do well to leave them alone, though if you want to look but don’t touch that is a good way to learn.

I am always happy to help you with anything you are not sure of.