Monthly Archives: May 2007

Messaging Services Firm MxToolBox, Inc Adds Seven Blacklists to Blacklist Lookup Tool

MxToolBox, Inc. announced today that it has added six blacklists, also known as blocklists, RBLs, or DNSBLs, to its popular email blacklist lookup tool. The MxToolBox blacklist lookup tool will now check IP Addresses for listing on the MSRBL-Images, MSRBL-Phishing, MSRBL-Spam, MSRBL-Viruses, MSRBL-Combined and SpamHaus PBL blacklists, in addition to the 130 plus blacklists the tool currently checks.


The company added the lists to the tool to improve the quality of results for users. ?We constantly work to make sure we have the most valuable, up-to-date list of Blacklists available to our users,? Founding CEO Eric Rachal said. ?If there is a list that might cause deliverability problems for legitimate email users, we want to make sure that it is included it in our tool.?


Blacklists are lists of IP Addresses that have sent spam or have exploitable characteristics. Blacklists are commonly employed by email administrators to block incoming spam. There are dozens of blacklists available for use and each has a unique criteria for including an IP Address. For example, some lists include IP Addresses serving machines that are infected with worms and viruses, and others list IP Addresses within dynamic ranges. While blacklists certainly help fight spam, they can also block legitimate emails from non-spamming IP Addresses, an event referred to as a false positive.


The MxToolBox Blacklist Lookup tool is a free service that allows email administrators and users for non-spamming organizations who are having email deliverability problems to identify any blacklists that list their IP Addresses and see the reasons for the listing. The company also provides free blacklist consultations to companies who are listed or want to proactively avoid being listed. For non-spamming companies with blacklisted IP Addresses that cannot solve the problem, MxToolBox offers unique paid services to permanently eliminate the problem.


Joel Harvey, Director of Marketing explains, ?The blacklist tool is not about email blacklists as much as it is about email deliverability. That is what our tool and our services are designed to do?enable and ensure the delivery of legitimate, non-spam email. The first step is to find out that you have a problem, like a blacklisted IP. The next step is to find out why. You may have a virus, you may have some configuration issues, or you may have an IP Address in an un-trusted range. The final step is to take action so that your critical outbound email starts flowing again.?



About MxToolBox, Inc. is a popular website among IT professionals across the globe. The website has free tools that help users uncover, diagnose and fix messaging related problems. The company?s suite of free tools include MX Records Lookup, Server Diagnostics, Blacklist Lookup, SPF Records Lookup, and Free Mail Server Monitoring.   


MxToolBox, Inc. offers innovative on-demand messaging infrastructure to the small and medium business market throughout North America. The company provides leading edge ?Flip the Switch” messaging services to small and medium sized businesses, including email spam and virus filtering, blacklist protection, hosted email and groupware, email disaster recovery and email archiving.

Email Disaster Recovery is Email Peace of Mind

Are you ready if your email server blows up? That is the question we asked ourselves at our headquarters this past Friday morning. Fortunately for us, the answer is YES. Shortly after most of us had just come into the office and started to get the coffee flowing and neurons firing, a strong natural gas smell began to permeate the office. We all quickly grabbed our things and headed outside. Within a few minutes, inhabitants of the entire office building were in the parking lot nervously milling about. We heard sirens and saw the fire department’s special operations brigade coming towards the building….

Most of our employees use our Hosted Business Email solution, but we also run a small server in our office (note–the network of servers that support our services are geographically dispersed throughout the country), mostly for file storage and for a few of the laggards who we have not yet migrated to the hosted platform. While we were in the parking lot waiting to see if our building was going to blow up, I began to think about what would happen to our business and the businesses of all of our building mates if the building actually did go up in flames. I knew that we would be fine. The data on our servers and computers is remotely backed up, we have disaster recovery enabled for our email users who are hosted on our mail server and we could essentially continue business without any interruptions. But, what about everybody else? From the looks on their faces,  I do not think they had adequate data backup or email disaster recovery measures in place.

Luckily, the building did not blow up. As it turned out, there was a large spill of the liquid that is put into natural gas to make it smell bad about one-half of a mile upwind from our building. The smell carried into our air intake units and the building was inundated with a natural gas smell. The incident really got me thinking, though. We were close to pushing the “big red disaster recovery button,” which would have immediately switched our systems over. Even though we did not have to use it, I am more thankful than ever that we are ready to continue business in the face of any disaster. Of course, what if we did not have a rock solid messaging disaster recovery plan? What if we were like all of those other folks in the parking lot, terrified that the building might blow up and blow up their businesses with it. I guess I would not be writing about the incident…I would probably be scouring the web for a good disaster recovery service provider. But here is the biggest question–why didn?t they have a plan before today?

MxToolBox exists to keep business messaging flowing smoothly. We always say that while we are technically in the email services business, it is more appropriate to say that we are in the reliability business. Our messaging tools help administrators troubleshoot problems and our messaging services permanently solve problems. After several years in the industry, we know that nobody wants email problems, and everyone loves to solve them. But, what about the problems that don’t exist today? Some small Business IT service purchases are what you might call “reactive” purchases and others are more “proactive.”

Reactive service purchases are usually purchased as a reaction to a painful problem. For example, many of our spam, virus and blacklist solution clients became clients after one or all of these became a problem that could no longer be ignored. Likewise, many of our Hosted Email customers chose our solution only after their previous host messed up really bad, or their in-house mail server melted down at the worst time. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this approach, so long as anyone following it can accept that at some point in the future, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, there will be a painful, “my hair is on fire” type problem that will grind business to a halt and leave them desperately scrambling to marshal a solution. 

On the other side of the coin, we have proactive purchases. These are purchases that are made to avoid a problem that is either non-existent, or not yet “to the level.” We have some spam, virus and blacklist solution and email hosting clients that fall into this category. Businesses in this category saw something they didn’t like on the horizon and moved to fix it before it caused them any pain. Our best example of a proactive service is Email Disaster Recovery.

The Disaster Recovery service is designed for organizations that manage an email server in-house and want an “email insurance policy” to ensure that if the mail server goes down they will not lose email. When a client adds Disaster Recovery to their service portfolio, they know that if their server goes down for any reason–natural disaster, fire, theft, loss of power, etc.–inbound email to that server will not be bounced into the ethers AND they will be given failover web mail access to continue sending and receiving email until the mail server is working again. Disaster Recovery for email servers is available as an add-on to our spam, virus and blacklist solution. Our most basic Disaster Recovery option is only $1 per user, per month. Yet, almost without fail, the majority of companies that buy the service are companies that have recently experienced catastrophic email failure and felt the dramatic impact that such failure has on a business.

It is not for nothing that email has been dubbed “the killer app.” Everybody knows that if email goes down for a substantial period of time, then business will suffer. For my money, 100 pennies a month per person is nothing for the email peace of mind I get with a rock solid email disaster recovery solution at the ready.


Note: Our Hosted Business Email clients automatically have bulletproof disaster recovery built-in to the service package.

New Image Spam Technique

Image spam gained prominece as a major vehicle for spam delivery roughly one year ago. At first, most spam filters were ineffective at blocking the image based messages. Since then, image filtering has become more effective and, as a result, spammers have had to continuously alter their images, in some cases making them unreadble. To get around this problem, the spammers are now adopting a new Image Spam delivery technique to bypass spam filters and deliver crisper, cleaner looking images. The new technique works as follows:

  • Upload Images to a Legitimate Photo Sharing Site (Flikr, Shutterfly, Picassa, etc..)

  • Imbed an image link in the body of the spam message 

  • The image is downloaded when the message is opened, or, when/if users allow their mail client to download the image

We have not had reports from our clinets that these messages are getting through to them. If you find that these messages are bypassing your filters, the simplest thing to do is to quarantine/deliver to junk mail any message containing a URL from photo sharing sites.


France Launches Anti-Spam Platform “Signal Spam”

France has launched a central platform for French internet users to report spam, which will be used to generate a blacklist, notify ISPs and prosecute spammers.

French speaking Internet users can copy and paste a spam message (and presumably the message headers) into a form on the signal spam website, or they can install a plugin that is compatible with most mail clients that will allow them to report a spam message by simply clicking a button icon in their mail client.

It will be interesting to see if a) this catches on, b) has any effect on spam levels in France, and, c) has an effect on spam levels elsewhere.

Spam and Malware a Growing Problem for Small Businesses

A survey of 400 small and medium sized business found that spam and malware infections have grown dramatically from 2006 to 2007.

In January 2006, 64% of emails received by small businesses were spam. By December 2006, the number grew to 85%. Not surprisingly, the number of spam bot infections within small companies grew from 15% to 40% during the same time period.

The findings highlight the need for enterprise grade security solutions for small companies. Small Businesses have two options:

1) Utilize an professional hosted email service that has industrial strength security, or

2) Manage email in-house and utilize an industrial strength email security service.

An inordinate number of Small businesses remain very vulnerable to the growing number and complexity of messaging threats. The cost of not plugging security holes, even for micro businesses, is far greater than the cost of implementing an appropriate solution.

Prostitute Spam

A new wave of image spam with subject lines like “Find a Girl in Your Town” touting a website that claims to help recipients find prostitutes in their area is making the rounds now. The messages contain a URL that must be typed into a browser. The URL links to an explicit web site with a search tool for prostitutes by region and city.

It is not clear if the site works, if it hosts malware, or both. As usual, if you receive this email, you should NOT type in the link and visit the site. All moral arguments aside (of which there are obviously many), you should assume that the site hosts malware and that visiting it will compromise the integrity of your computer/network.


Death Threat Spam

A new social engineering spam scam emerged last week. The Death Threat Spam has a message purporting to be from a hitman who has been hired to kill the recipient. The text of the message varies slightly, but is essentially the same–

“I have been hired to assassinate you for $_________ (the amount varies from high six figures to low five figures). I do not know why they want you dead, but you are now being watched.” The message goes on to say that the recipient is being monitored by the sender’s “boys,” that their phone is tapped and that any attempt to contact the police will result in thier immediate death. Of course, the sender provides an out for the recipient. “If you contact me within 24 hours, there may be a chance for you to live.”

Presumably, any user who is scared (gullible) enough to reply to the message will be directed to wire money to an account in exchage for their life.

Responding to the message will certainly open the door for more direct harrassment, as the spammers/scammers will assume that the person on the other end has bought the story, is scared and, perhaps, willing to play ball.

One has to wonder how many people have falled for this? Death Threat Spam…where does it end?