An open letter to free webmail providers

June 24, 2005

Dear free webmail providers: I have a simple request for you that will help the spam problem. Please stop allowing people to send out mail through your systems from IP addresses that are well known as heavy spam sources, especially of things such as advance fee fraud.

I got yet another '419' advance fee fraud spam today, sent through a free webmail provider. Selected headers are:

Received: from ([]) [...]
Received: from ([])
   by (8.13.2/8.13.2/Debian-1) [...]
From:   Ed Bahir <>
Subject: Your Kind Attention Required Please!

The IP address is in the CBL, in the SBL, in SORBS, in Spews, in the AHBL, indeed it's somewhat hard to find a DNSbl that it's not in. One its two SBL listings is from January 2004, more than a year old by now.

Yet didn't bother to do anything, and blithely let this spammers send his email out. As a result, I (and likely a bunch of other people) got spammed. Also as a result, will not be able to send us any email any time soon. is far from alone in behaving with such little regard for other people. Major webmail providers also blithely allow CBL and SBL listed IP addresses to send out email through them, to the extent that I've made our antispam system do the checks for them. (Amazingly, all of it is advance fee fraud spam. Who would have thought?)

It's really past time that this stopped. That it doesn't stop makes me feel rather angry, and also feel that free webmail providers don't actually give much of a rat's ass about spam (whatever their public statements).

Dear free webmail software authors:

A lot of people just installed your webmail software without thinking about it. Maybe they haven't gotten '419' spam from free webmail providers themselves and can be excused for not thinking about it, but frankly I can't imagine that you have that excuse.

So please make your webmail software default to refusing to send out mail from IP addresses on the CBL and the SBL at least. You can do it with one DNS query to the XBL, so it's real easy. You can make it only a default, so someone who wants to can turn it off. But that way, at least your software would put some obstacles in the way of '419' spammers by default.

Written on 24 June 2005.
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Last modified: Fri Jun 24 16:14:18 2005
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