Manawatu ISP still in standoff with IBM over spam

A Palmerston North ISP is continuing to block email from anywhere in IBM's global Internet service until IBM mends its reputation as "a haven for spammers". Mail sent from ibm.net domains to Manawatu Internet Services accounts is returned with the message: "IBM is a junkmailer haven. Find an ISP who cares about curbing network abuse because your current one doesn't, has an abusive postmaster and expects other site admins to do IBM's homework for free." Alan Brown of Manawatu Internet Services - whose clients include the Palmerston North City Council and local MP Steve Maharey - says he applied the block two months ago, "after four months of being stuffed around".

A Palmerston North ISP is continuing to block email from anywhere in IBM’s global Internet service until IBM mends its reputation as “a haven for spammers”.

Mail sent from ibm.net domains to Manawatu Internet Services accounts is returned with the message: “IBM is a junkmailer haven. Find an ISP who cares about curbing network abuse because your current one doesn’t, has an abusive postmaster and expects other site admins to do IBM’s homework for free.”

Alan Brown of Manawatu Internet Services - whose clients include the Palmerston North City Council and local MP Steve Maharey - says he applied the block two months ago, “after four months of being stuffed around”.

Late last year, in his capacity as an administrator on the global undernet.org IRC network, Brown also had IBM “g-lined” for net abuse, meaning subscribers on ibm.net accounts were banned from the network “long enough for [IBM] to get the message”.

IBM New Zealand spokesman Chris Thompson says the complaints are being taken seriously and Brown has been tele-phoned personally by a number of IBM employees. “We’ll endeavour to contact him again and talk to him about it.”

Thompson says IBM has a procedure for dealing with abuse of its accounts by spammers. The first step is emailing postmaster@ibm.net with details of the abuse.

Brown says he recently received a call from IBM’s Cindy O’Brien, who administers the postmaster address, “who ranted at me about not following the procedures”.

“The problem is, the procedures don’t work. Before the block went on, we were getting 50 to 200 articles every day. There are spammers on ibm.net accounts who boast about posting millions of articles. IBM has a reputation for being a place where it’s impossible to lose your account — or at least very difficult.”

IBM first hit the headlines as a source of junk email a year ago when it was implicated in what became known as the “joes.com” spams — a global flood of junk messages which saw the ISP streamline its abuse procedures.

Complaints cropped up again in September, when a number of domains began blocking traffic from ibm.net. According to Ed Falk’s spam tracking page, “IBM started to take a more aggressive stance against spam” from late September”. Volumes of email and Usenet spam have dropped since then, although they still run high enough to be monitored daily. Falk notes that “IBM admins now respond in person in some circumstances”.

The problem now seems to lie less with users on ibm.net accounts, but those with companies such as Prodigy and Bell-south’s US Internet service, which both lease dial-in capacity from IBM. Brown says IBM “has no control of its dial-ins” and is offering “technical solutions to a social problem — these people should be served with trespass notices”.

Junk mailers are often relaying messages via mail and news servers in foreign countries, with Europe being a particular target. They have struck here too, with news servers at a number of companies being abused, and the Internet Group (Ihug) forced to reconfigure its mail server last year to prevent relaying after it was swamped by huge quantities of spam.

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