Herald caught in anti-spam crossfire

, posted: 30-Mar-2004 22:50

Allegations of spamming made against Herald sister company UBD has caused email from the media group to be blocked by users of the Spamhaus Block List (SBL) which protects an estimated 200 million mailboxes worldwide from spam.

UBD, which provides business information such as mailing lists for direct marketing purposes, was accused of
spamming and selling mailing lists. The Herald and other New Zealand companies in the APN group share a mail hub with UBD and were thus collateral damage of the listing, which was entered into the SBL early on Sunday morning.

Spamhaus is a volunteer anti-spam organisation which collates a real-time database of IP addresses used for sending spam. These are then published as the SBL, which is used according to the Spamhaus website by "a number of the world's [internet] backbones, many large tier-1 providers, and ISPs in all countries" as well as "a number of US and European Government and military networks".

Speaking from the UK, a Spamhaus investigator said that the organisation had received complaints from New Zealanders who had been "blown off by UBD" when they asked to opt out from spam. He added that "clearly, the gentle approach wasn't going to cut the coconut in this case", hence the SBL listing.

The investigator said SBL listings were based on a policy that stated "no bulk email must be sent out without the recipients' consent". To get off the SBL, the investigator said that UBD's internet provider would need to contact Spamhaus and "state categorically that action would be taken within a reasonable time scale" to cease the spamming.

UBD general manager Peter Batcheler said the spamming arose from a company using a two-year-old CD ROM with addresses. Batcheler said that in the past, the registration form used for the contact database included a field for email addresses.

He said that the spamming was "abuse" of the CD-ROM, and added that UBD would remove the email addresses from the database. The company identified on the Spamhaus website as having used the UBD CD-ROM for spamming is IMG Hospitality New Zealand.

In the spam, IMG describes itself as the "official hospitality supplier at major sporting events in Australia and
New Zealand". Its financial controller declined to be named, but said IMG had bought the UBD CD-ROM under the premises that it contained "business addressees" that "had given permission to be contacted".

When told about the Spamhaus SBL listing, the financial controller said it was "no surprise, given the current spam situation". He added that the mail out would have "made that situation worse in fact" and that IMG would not attempt future mass emailings without ensuring the recipients had given permission first.

APN's group communications manager, Drew Collins, said that Spamhaus had contacted him to say that the listing would be removed within 24 hours, as UBD and APN had taken the necessary steps to prevent further spamming. Outbound email to national and international destinations had been affected, Collins said.

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The problem with naming and shaming

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