Industry Updates

Spamcannibal’s brief zombie run

Earlier this week the spam blacklist Spamcannibal, which had been returning no listings for a few months, had its domain expire and become redirected to some pretty nasty auto-downloads. Many of us suspected malware because of the multiple redirects and prompts to download a Flash update, but that has yet to be confirmed.

In the meantime, though, Al Iverson was able to get in touch with the operator, who has since retaken control of the domain and is working to sunset the list in a more respectable fashion. So Spamcannibal remains dead, but at least the malware zombies no longer have control of the domain.

– BG

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Industry Updates

UCEProtect gets busy; Spamcannibal calls it quits (maybe?)

UCEP

This past Friday, May 25th, was a very busy day in the email and privacy world. The EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect, prompting all sorts of privacy policy updates (which in turn prompted all sorts of emails about those updates). From my own experience and the shared experiences of many others, it seems most of these emails cast a very wide net – devoid of targeting or list hygiene. Many of us received updates from brands we don’t remember engaging – and others with which we never did. As a result of all this email, the German UCEProtect blacklist was also very busy, seeing a surge in IPs appearing on its blacklists (h/t Word to the Wise). We’ve seen a small surge in the number of client IPs on UCEProtect as well, but haven’t been able to correlate it directly to GDPR notices. As Laura notes, UCEProtect is not typically a list that causes many bounces, so seeing your IP(s) there is more of a nuisance in most cases.

spamcan1In other blacklist-related news, it appears the Spamcannibal blacklist has shut down. The domain (don’t go there, really) now presents a number of nefarious redirects instead of the blacklist content. No official announcement has been provided, but the Spamcannibal list was considered among the less-reliable blacklists by many in the industry. If the shutdown is permanent, the impact is likely to be minor as the list was not widely used for inbound mail filtering.

– BG

Industry Updates

Protected Sky blacklist a fraud?

Had trouble with your IPs being listed on the Protected Sky blacklist (bad.psky.me)? You’re not alone. Since the blacklist came onto the scene in 2015, many senders have bemoaned the lack of delisting process and high rate of false positives, as well as the inability to contact anyone working for the list provider.

Recently, Spamhaus issued a statement revealing that this list was fraudulently republishing IP listings from the Spamhaus blacklists by siphoning the data from a user of the Spamhaus data feeds. The affected user has since added security measures to prevent this data from being passed to Protected Sky.

Personally, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen mail rejected solely due to a Protected Sky listing, but after this announcement it’s a pretty safe bet that anyone left using the list likely won’t be doing so for long.

Thanks to Laura at Word to the Wise for the heads up on Spamhaus’ statement. 

– BG

Deliverability 101, Delivery Essentials

Deliverability 101: Spam traps

It's a trap!Recently we presented a basic guide to blacklists using a rather colorful example ripped from today’s headlines. In that post we described what happens when you’re on a blacklist, but as a sender you probably want to know how to avoid getting blacklisted in the first place. And if you’re already blacklisted, you’ll certainly want to find out how you got there. Understanding spam traps can help with both.

What is a spam trap?

While the name might conjure thoughts of being lured into a sticky situation via canned meat, a spam trap is actually an email address. Sometimes referred to as honeypots, spam traps are addresses that exist for the purpose of identifying senders who are not following best practices.

A spam trap isn’t used by a real person to send or request email. Each trap is monitored by the trap operator (typically a blacklist or mailbox provider) and any mail sent to the address can cause the sender to be put on a blacklist. While the potential exists for blacklisting based on a single message sent to a trap, providers most often look for patterns of repeated hits. This could mean multiple mails to the same trap address, mail to multiple distinct trap addresses, or both.

There are two main types of spam traps in the wild: pristine and recycled. Pristine traps were created for the sole purpose of being a spam trap. These addresses have never been used by a real person and have never requested any emails. If you send mail to purchased lists or scrape addresses from the web, there’s a good chance you’ll run into this type of trap.

Recycled traps, by contrast, are the type most commonly seen by legitimate email marketers. These email addresses did, at some point in the past, belong to a real person. That person likely sent emails, signed up for mailing lists, and provided the address to others as their point of contact. Then, for whatever reason, that person abandoned the address – maybe due to an organizational change or migration to a new mail provider.

Once the recipient abandoned this address it sat dormant for some period of time (generally at least 6 months), during which time the address would have rejected all mail. After that period, the address was reactivated and became an active spam trap.

How do spam traps get on my list?

Since spam traps are designed to identify senders not using best practices, it stands to reason that failure to follow best practices typically leads to their presence in your database. Mailing to recipients who have not given opt-in permission, sending to old or outdated lists, and lack of proper bounce handling are some of the most common reasons spam traps end up within your list. In addition, typographical errors at the time of address collection can introduce traps into your list – particularly with less accurate address collection methods such as point-of-sale address transcription or collecting addresses via telephone.

What happens if I have spam traps in my list?

When you send mail to a spam trap address, the trap monitor will note the sender of the message and typically take some action against that sender. Most trap monitors also maintain their own blacklists, and in many cases these blacklists are publicly used by many ISPs and mailbox providers to filter mail. In short, sending to spam traps will probably get you on a blacklist, and that blacklisting will probably get your mail rejected by at least one major email provider.

I’m not being blocked. Why does it matter if I have spam traps in my database?

If you receive word (from your ESP, delivery monitoring service, or a trap owner) that you are sending to spam trap addresses, it’s tempting to gloss over the warning if you’re not seeing any large-scale delivery issues. A word of advice? Don’t ignore spam traps.

The presence of spam traps in your contact database is an indicator of an underlying issue with either your email acquisition practices or your list maintenance protocols. When you have spam traps in your list, you are sending mail to contacts that don’t want it or never requested it. This means that alongside the traps, you are also mailing real people who will (at best) ignore your message or (at worst) report you to their mailbox provider or a third-party spam filtering service. Even if the spam traps haven’t gotten your mail blocked (yet), you can bet the spam complaints and low engagement are keeping you out of your recipients’ inboxes.

How do I get the spam traps out of my list?

Removing spam traps from your list is, by design, a difficult process. A spam trap doesn’t (usually) bounce or reject mail. It doesn’t provide any signs or signals that it’s a trap. The trap operator doesn’t want you to be able to spot the traps in your list, because then you could simply remove the traps and not address the underlying issue.

If you have traps in your database, the best place to start is typically contacts who haven’t engaged with an email (opened or clicked) recently. Typically, we recommend targeting contacts who haven’t opened in 6-12 months. Send a confirmation request to those non-openers, asking them to confirm they are real and they still want your messages. Once that message is sent, you’ll want to suppress from your list anyone who doesn’t respond. It’s also a good idea to repeat this process at least once a year.

In conjunction with addressing spam traps already in your list, you want to make sure you cut off traps at the source. Check your list acquisition practices to be sure all of your incoming recipients have opted in for your mailings. Add CAPTCHA to any public-facing web forms to prevent automated sign-ups. Think about adding a confirmation step to your opt-in process. This could be a traditional confirmed opt-in (COI) where recipients have to click a link to be confirmed, or it could be a “soft confirmation” that considers an open to be a confirmation action.

If you can take actions that make it harder for spam traps to end up in your list, you’ll proactively decrease your risk of dealing with the difficult process of culling your list to get rid of them later.

Have a war story or questions about dealing with spam traps? Leave a comment or shoot me an email to chat!

– BG

Delivery Essentials, Events

Shield your sender reputation

capshield05UPDATE: The webinar is over, but don’t worry! You can download the recorded version here. 

Do you know how a blacklist works? How about a blocklist? Did you know there’s a difference?

Or that complying with anti-spam laws doesn’t guarantee a good reputation?

If not, don’t worry – most senders have lots of questions when it comes to sender reputation.

Chances are, you’re probably doing something right now that could get your IP address or domain blacklisted, which could have a major impact on your email deliverability. And even if you’re not, there’s likely more you could be doing to safeguard your sender reputation.

Tomorrow afternoon, I’m hosting a webinar designed to break down how blacklists work, what happens when you’re listed, and some steps you can take to help ensure your reputation is in top form. It’s at 2pm EST, and you can sign up at the link below.

http://www.realmagnet.com/land/protect-sender-reputation-tips-trends-avoid-deliverability-pitfalls-2/

If you can’t make the webinar but still have questions about reputation or blacklists, feel free to post in the comments here or email me!

– BG