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Verizon's Aggressive New Spam Filter Causing Problems 311

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the annoyances-and-other-corporate-bothers dept.
aviancarrier writes "Verizon DSL has turned on a very aggressive spam filter that is blocking lots of long-time legitimate emails. Emails get bounced with an error: 'XX@verizon.net: host relay.verizon.net[206.46.232.11] said: 550 Email from your Email Service Provider is currently blocked by Verizon Online's anti-spam system. The email "sender" or Email Service Provider may visit http://www.verizon.net/whitelist and request removal of the block.' That whitelist web page lets you request one address at a time to be whitelisted with no guarantee for their response time to process it. I have tested multiple email sources and only one got through. As a VZ customer, I just spent 28 minutes on a call to tech support, eventually got a supervisor who knows nothing about the new spam feature, and would only agree to email a manager who doesn't work weekends about it. I warned her that VZ has a public relations problem but she was too clueless to understand." Many users have submitted this problem so it seems to be a pretty far reaching problem. There is also a discussion going on over at Google about this problem.
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Verizon's Aggressive New Spam Filter Causing Problems

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  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:05PM (#15190416) Homepage Journal
    I went to the referenced URL and it sure looks to me like, using the
    ISP form, you can request multiple domains and multiple IP addrs in a
    single request.

    Also, the discussion over at Google currently has a whopping 6 entries.

    Much ado about nothing?
    • This sytem from Verizon is a step in the right direction. AT&T's spam blocking is totally lame, wish they would learn a thing or two from their competitors. I do admin my own domains but keep my at&t for special purposes. It is possible to filter over 99% of spam through a combination of techniques.
      • Yeah, this system from Verizon is junk. It blocks legitimate email constantly. We currently have 2 businesses in the same building. For some reason, Verizon is constantly blocking one of our business domains from the other business domain. And no amount of phone calls or emails or removal requests have done anything for us. We will shortly be moving to a new provider.
      • Actually, no, the system from Verizon (VOL) is not a step in the right direction.

        Imagine the impact to email in general if EVERY ISP and company use such a bonehead system. Everytime you sent email to a new person (customer / client,) you would have to *find*, then fill out some bizzaro web form. MAYBE in a week or so you will finally be able to send your email. Exactly how does this help things???

        VOL's problem is that the group running their email service is a bunch of totally incompetant BOFH a-holes. Ins
        • Pesky Supervisors! (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Error "550" has a couple of causes. The cause that you're experiencing is what is called a "whitelisting issue". Unfortunately, Tech Support has nothing to do with this process. Its entirely managed by the Verizon Anti-spam team. You can access and fill out a form at www.verizon.net/whitelist.

          I've spent a fair amount of time tracking down the error that you're looking at. Its primarily caused by 2 things. Your server sends Verizon spam or its misconfigured.

          1. Your server is a known open relay or h

    • Also, the discussion over at Google currently has a whopping 6 entries.

      Much ado about nothing?

      It has probably not reached epidemic proportions yet, but as a former Verizon DSL customer, it does not surprise met that their idea of SPAM filtering is to block most legitimate incoming traffic. They tend to have a brute force approach to technical problems. Their tech support has been spotty for a long time; I would sometimes get really sharp people who could scope something out in minutes, other times I wo

    • I admin a small ISP and I can tell you that the postmaster inbox had about 25 emails this morning with "I can't email xxxx@verizon.net." Additionally, we've had a few irates in the call center today. This was enough to rattle the nerves a bit, and I actually spent a few hours searching through the logs to see if we were naughty, since the whole thing seemed pretty arbitrary and there was no abuse evidence provided from Verizon. After seeing this, I'm slightly relieved it's not our fault. I took some time to
    • Well this is really not news to me. I work for an anti-spam company (not a very good one) and I personally noticed this first occur about 12-18 months ago. At that time Verizon decided to block pretty much all oversees mail. Being based in the UK caused no end of issue, although I seem to recal having PTR records did help some.

      So they have been evil again, wow, i'm shocked truely shocked.

      enjoy
    • About 3 years ago Verizon began rejecting about half the mail from a mailing list I run to it's subscribers there. Normail mail got through 100% of the time but stuff from a mailing list about a certain type of old German cars got nukked.

      For two years 3 grey haired polite chaps used to dealing with local governments (successfully) tried to find out WTF and how to fix it.

      After two years Verizon told us all to use a different ISP if they expected reliable email.

      Apparantly is IS rocket science.
  • 28 minutes? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jordan Catalano (915885) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:06PM (#15190429) Homepage
    Here's a trick for Verizon Online phone service: Call up, listen to menu items, then say -nothing-. Don't ask for an operator, don't enter in your phone number: just chill for about two minutes while the prompts repeat. In under three minutes, you'll be transfered to a live operator.
    • Re:28 minutes? (Score:5, Informative)

      by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:12PM (#15190478)
      Bookmark this page. [gethuman.com] It will be your best friend.
      • Re:28 minutes? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LMacG (118321) on Monday April 24, 2006 @01:43PM (#15191151) Journal
        [Full disclosure for the following comment -- I program voice response systems for a living. However, I only implement what they force me to, and sometimes that sucks.]

        From that page:

        We will soon publish a list of the best and worst mass-market consumer companies in the US based on how long it takes to get to a human on the phone and on the quality of support received.


        That's very nice, but it doesn't seem like a very intelligent way to measure customer service. As a trivial example, suppose you want to know your credit card balance. A decently programmed voice response system can give you that information quickly and clearly, and in much less time than it would take to get the same data from a human. If you're lucky, the IVR won't even try to sell you something that you don't need.

        Yes, I know that there are times when the available pre-programmed options are not useful and speaking to a representative is the only option. But do you want to have to wait in queue for an agent who has to handle ninety-twelve "what is my balance?" calls before it's your turn? Now ask yourself why the call centers are being outsourced to overseas providers ...

        This "I only will deal with a human" attitude is pointless. Better to demand that corporations fix their IVR systems, because they're not going away. (And maybe I'll get hired to write more VUI specs instead of having to implement what 'the business' thinks it wants.)
        • Re:28 minutes? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by radish (98371)
          If it's a straightforward "what's my balance" question I won't even call - that's what the website is for (if they don't have a decent website, I don't do business with them). The _only_ time I call companies (I'm a geek, real human-human conversation scares me!) is when there's something wrong I need to speak with someone about. Thus, any system which hinders that is a PITA.
        • Re:28 minutes? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Alan Shutko (5101)
          When I just need my card balance, I check the web site. I haven't _called_ for my balance in 8 years.

          When I call in, it's because I have a problem or a question that isn't answerable by automated systems. After spending the last few years exploring phone trees exhaustively before finally saying "Yep, they can't handle it" and getting to a rep, I'm perfectly happy to rate companies on how easy that last step is.
        • I'll pile on with the other responders. Not to belittle your work or anything, but there is nothing, nothing I wish to do on the phone other than talk to a real live person. I might possibly tolerate one prompt that lets me choose a department (sales, customer service, etc.) to direct my call. If I have to deal with an IVR system and it is not absolutely necessary, I just do without.
        • Re:28 minutes? (Score:2, Insightful)

          by dubl-u (51156) *
          This "I only will deal with a human" attitude is pointless. Better to demand that corporations fix their IVR systems [...]

          On the contrary. When IVR systems suck less, I'll use them more. (There are a couple good ones that I actually use regularly.) But until then, the way I demand better IVR is bypassing them. So when you get asked why the IVR system isn't meeting goals, tell 'em that it's the sucky UI.
          • Believe me, I have.

            I used to work with a guy who would have been happy if no calls were ever allowed to get to a real live person. I think there should be no barriers at all. We used to fight, a lot; but his side of the table controlled the budget, so guess who won?

            Of course now I just work with people who think adding speech recognition to a system means re-recording the prompts so that they say "press or say 1."

  • by terrahertz (911030) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:08PM (#15190445)
    ...you need to power-cycle your DSL modem, disconnect everything but a single ethernet cable from your modem to your PC, reboot your PC, count to 30 while hopping on one foot, and say the alphabet backwards first before anyone at Verizon will turn on their brains and acknowledge they have a problem. Plus...28 minutes on the phone?? Pffft. You don't get the "real" tech support until they keep you on the line for at least 60 minutes.

    Don't you know how they troubleshoot already?

    • by IAmTheDave (746256) <basenamedave-sd@@@yahoo...com> on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:48PM (#15190761) Homepage Journal
      "Sir... Sir... I'm going to have to ask you to find your Start Button."
      "I have OSX"
      "Sir... I understand, but I need to walk you through this. Please locate your Start button."
      "You don't understand - I'm on a Mac, I don't have a Start button."
      "Sir... You're not making this any easier. Once we go through this we can identify your issue."
      "Actually, my issue is that my cable modem arrived without a power supply."

      - Actual conversation I had with tech support. Long live tech support. Long live tech support scripts.
      • To be fair to Verizon DSL, their tech support line does ask you if you're using Windows, a Mac, Linux, or something else before transferring you to the appropriate person. I recently switched my DSL service and I was shocked that they actually acknowledge the existence of non-Windows computers.

        Of course, their tech support people once I got through were fairly clueless, insisting first that my old DSL provider hadn't shut off my service yet, despite the fact that a Verizon page stating that my PPPoE passw

        • Switch to Verizon business service. Sure, it's 60% more expensive, but in exchange you get no PPPoE, static IPs, no silly blocked ports or server restrictions, and intelligent tech support that answers the phone quickly. I've only had to deal with them once so far, but it took about 45 seconds for me to explain to the tech why I thought the problem was on their end, the guy confirmed and fixed the problem.
          • Actually, I switched to Verizon from an ISP with no PPPoE, static IPs, and who let me run whatever servers I wanted on my machine because the regular residential service is much cheaper than I was paying. Well, it's also 4x faster, which was a bigger factor in finally getting around to giving up running my own mail and web servers and switiching.
      • by Alioth (221270)
        Tech support scripts? Sounds like you were talking to a very short shell script!
    • It has to be a Windows box connected directly to the DSL modem.

      That way, you end up generating real spam while you're trying to get your real mail through.
  • by Abalamahalamatandra (639919) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:09PM (#15190447)
    I ran a bulk-sending system (legitimate!) to email Frontier Airline's frequent flyer members, and Verizon was the biggest single problem getting mail through. I don't think I ever did get them to accept our runs at all.

    The big thing they already had in place was that they want to connect back on port 25 to the sending system AND make sure it responds initially with the same name it's using to send mail out. Not a bad thing overall, I suppose, but I can see how it would block quite a few messages from providers that use separate sending servers from their receiving servers. I finally had to set up SMTPFWDD on both outgoing servers to accept connections and silently drop any emails they get, that helped, but I think they still rate-limited heavily.

    I'd say if you depend on getting your email, Verizon's not a good ISP to use.
    • I've been having the same problem with a program that emails customers (non-bulk).
      I suspected that they were doing something like that...

      Have you tried SPF?

      If that doesn't work, I suppose masquerade-as on the relay server might work.

  • How about the holy-crap-thank-you-for-the-whole-error-message-wh ere-is-the-stack-trace department?

    - Andrew
  • Now thats rich. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Cisco Kid (31490) * on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:10PM (#15190463)
    Verizon is a spam sewer itself.

    http://www.spamhaus.org/sbl/listings.lasso?isp=ver izon.net [spamhaus.org]
  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:11PM (#15190471) Homepage
    "I warned [a tech support supervisor] that VZ has a public relations problem but she was too clueless to understand."

    Having worked in tech support for a large company, I can assure you that the position of supervisor for a tech support call centre really doesn't have nearly as much influence on coprorate public relations as you seem to think that it has.

    Most of the people in her position would be surprised to find out that any one from the head office even knows that they exist, let alone cares about what they do or asks their opinion on issues like PR. It's normal to be annoyed when a company like Verizon screws up like this, but lashing out at the tech support staff just because they're the easist people to reach really doesn't help anybody.

    • Having many friends who work in call centers for "tech support", they tell me this supposed "supervisor" is actually just the person sitting next to them.
    • Thats just another way of saying "I'm no good at my job". Whether you feel appreciated by your corporate overlords or not, you're a customer facing part of the company and you are therefore every bit as important to PR as sales. Even more so in a large way - anyone calling tech support *already has a problem* and your attitude and ability to solve that problem are a *huge* PR influence.
      • by bunions (970377) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:44PM (#15190730)
        Saying a phone line tech support manager is bad at her job because she can't do anything about an engineering 'feature' in under two days is impossibly naive.
      • It's much easier to cause a problem than to solve one. Sure, you could start a 'PR Nightmare' in a low-paying customer-facing position, but you're not empowered in the slightest to actually solve them. It's not as if the 'supervisor' in a tech support centre has the authority or influence to actually change anything, especially in a company as large as Verizon. Just as important to PR as sales? Not really. Sales (executives in the larger companies) get to actually change PR. Tech support merely tows t
    • Verizon keeps the support centers completely isolated from any of Verizon's actual workings. I'm pretty sure the support people have no ability to contact anyone at Verizon, no matter how far a call is "escalated." This way, Verizon can happily ignore complaints and/or drag its feet as much as it wishes. What are us customers going to about it? Verizon is an entrenched monopoly. It owns the lines. Except in some very rare cases, our only choice is to suck it down.

      What you say is true, of course. It's
      • "Eventually"? From what I have heard that train has already left the station.
      • What are us customers going to about it? Verizon is an entrenched monopoly. It owns the lines. Except in some very rare cases, our only choice is to suck it down.

        That's why you Americans need regulation, not de-regulation. Get a proper regulator who will bitchslap the incumbent monopoly when they suck, and force them to allow competition over the lines they supervise, but don't own. Like ours does.
    • It's normal to be annoyed when a company like Verizon screws up like this, but lashing out at the tech support staff just because they're the easist people to reach really doesn't help anybody.

      I disagree. Part of the what is so frustrating about dealing with a company like Verizon is the massive diffusion of responsibility. It is almost impossible to get a hold of someone who is really responsible and accountable to you, because everyone's job is so specialized and compartmentalized. If they can't sol
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Most of the people in her position are, in fact, employed by an outsourced call center - likely either in Canada or in Dallas/Ft. Worth; At best, they are the people who managed to make people /feel/ /better/ (not necessarily solve the problem) and get them to hang up quickly - over a period of nine months to a year, and are then bumped to a level II tech.

      I worked at one of these outsourcers. Most of the intelligent & ethical tech pros there were diligently finding other employment as fast as they could
  • by amstrad (60839) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:12PM (#15190488)
    Attempts to contact Verizon to verify claims have been met with resistance.
  • by aviancarrier (570516) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:19PM (#15190538)
    Sometime this morning two of my email addresses got whitelisted and could get through again to Verizon Online. Earlier in the morning I received form emails from Verizon's whitelist group saying they have attempted to contact the blocked company/domain.

    Regarding the person who accused me of being a spammer: No. Just a husband trying to email my wife's VZ account.

    Regarding the "lashing" out at the customer service supervisor: I was trying to get her to help her own company out. The fact that she was not told anything about a new level of spam filtering nor had (she claims) a way to contact a manager on a weekend about a PR problem may be a standard problem for that level of supervisor, but I wanted to give her a way to be a hero internally and stop a PR problem from getting worse.
    • Regarding the "lashing" out at the customer service supervisor: I was trying to get her to help her own company out. The fact that she was not told anything about a new level of spam filtering nor had (she claims) a way to contact a manager on a weekend about a PR problem may be a standard problem for that level of supervisor, but I wanted to give her a way to be a hero internally and stop a PR problem from getting worse.

      This has been posted a bit in the main thread, but I'll restate it: the "customer s

    • Regarding the "lashing" out at the customer service supervisor: I was trying to get her to help her own company out. The fact that she was not told anything about a new level of spam filtering nor had (she claims) a way to contact a manager on a weekend about a PR problem may be a standard problem for that level of supervisor, but I wanted to give her a way to be a hero internally and stop a PR problem from getting worse.

      And while your intentions were no dount good, you probably came across as arrogant. Dep
  • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:22PM (#15190558)
    Emails to Verizon to find out more information have gone unanswered...
  • ISP Blocks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kingradar (643534)
    Just a quick note, I run an email service, and I've had the most problems getting past blocks from:

    AOL
    Excite
    Comcast

    The easiest was AOL, they have a number you can call 24 hours a day to get removed (but it takes 48 hours for the removal to take effect). The other two have been blocking mail from my servers for two weeks. I have filled out contact forms, and left voicemails to no avail.

    I haven't recieved a complaint about Verizon yet, but that could be because I have SPF records.
  • Unfortunately, email spam fighting is always more work than you'll ever have resources available for, and it'll never be 100%.

    Even if you let users manage it, about 60% of them won't have a clue, they'll bollocks it up for themselves, and they won't be able to distinguish between your web appliance and the OEM Norton Antispam which continually misconfigures itself again and again.

    I wonder if we should just ban email altogether so that we can actually get some other work done.
  • by mabu (178417)
    This is ironic considering Verizon is one of the major SOURCES of spam. We've ended up wholesale RBL'ing most of their DUL space. Here's a good Sendmail-based blacklist [blogspot.com] to start with.

    Generally speaking, I think it's a good idea to implement something like this, but the problem with Verizon is that they need to filter port 25 on their broadband IP space first and foremost, like AOL and Bellsouth and many other providers are starting to do.

    Ultimately, what Verizon is doing is not a bad thing. It will force
  • by AFCArchvile (221494) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:36PM (#15190665)
    I warned her that VZ has a public relations problem but she was too clueless to understand.


    Perhaps she was too jaded from hearing customers complain that Verizon has a PR problem.


    "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."


    From what I've heard (and what I experienced from having their service in the second half of 2000), this is nothing new for Verizon. They're only interested in the money-making aspects of the telecom business, and drag their feet on everything else. The setup of this aggressive new spam filter was probably one of those "money-making" items, since it means far less spam traffic and decreased accusations of hosting spam bots. Of course, when customers start complaining that they can't send email to specific addresses, they have to deal with Verizon's understaffed, undercapable customer service departments, who will most likely be faced with fierce opposition from the suits in opposing the "grand money-saving, liability-reducing spam filter".


    Also, keep in mind that when Verizon acquired MCI, they acquired UUNet, a tier-1 ISP with some serious spam problems of their own [infoworld.com]. I wouldn't be surprised if taking on UUNet's elephant-on-their-back was part of the rationale behind the new spam filtering policies.

  • This is a major PR issue! I'm sure if you contact them, the New York Times will run a front page article about the lack of a guaranteed response time for Verizon's whitelisting service. That is, unless anything else at all happens on the planet today.
  • At first I was thinking, "'discussion at google', doesn't he mean usenet?" But apparently he was correct since google seems to have extended usenet to have their own "groups" that aren't actually in the usenet heirarchy.

    Oh wow, now I see they are also hosting mailing lists as "groups" as well. Way to muddle the terminology; I guess that is the point. I hate marketing/advertising people.

  • As always, in such things I may be mistaken, or the condition may be transient, but I no longer seem to be able to access their web-based email with Firefox for Windows 1.0. It used to work perfectly. Of course, IE works...
  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:45PM (#15190733)
    Why is Verizon blocking any of it's customers' mail by default and then putting the onus on them to fix any problems that arise in the first place? This should be an opt-in service for those who want to make sure they don't miss anything.
  • SPEWS is a good example of idiotic spam filtering. They list my site as a spammer because I hosted DNS for a netblock that was grabbed and abused by a spammer. I spent some time on Use(less)Net trying to correct the situation, and was met with suspicion, paranoia, and abuse.

    There's only one place that my site regularly exchanges email with that uses SPEWS, and I know exactly who to talk to for the fix. The problem is, it keeps on happening every couple of months. What a Pain in the Ass.
  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:47PM (#15190747) Homepage Journal
    My company implemented my blocking methods [freesoftwaremagazine.com] and saw an instant reduction in spam from a deluge to a tiny trickle. The three most effective filters are:

    1. Requiring HELO,
    2. Rejecting non-FQDN HELO strings ("foo.bar" will get you in, but "myleetmailserver" won't), and
    3. Rejecting HELO strings that blatantly lie (you're not "localhost" or my public IP address, no matter how many times you ask).

    More and more ISPs are starting to implement the same compliance checks. Would any of these reject your system's mail? Several of our customers had misconfigured outbound servers and we helped them fix their systems. We were only early adopters, though; if we hadn't caught the problem then a major ISP or five would have started rejecting their email without being so helpful.

    Maybe VZ is in the right this time. Are you sure they're not?

    • Still more effective is to check that the remote obeys the sequencing specified in the SMTP protocol, i.e. it does not send commands before it has received the welcome message. Especially when this welcome message consists of multiple lines with continuation markers.
      Most SPAM mailers fail this test.
    • Those look like easy enough suggestions, now how do I do that in postfix?

      (I know, I know, rtfm & etc)
  • by CODiNE (27417)
    SPAM filters are REAAAAAALLY annoying to me as a Sidekick user. The email servers are actually handed by Danger Inc, and I'm not sure exactly how it works but I think they're relayed through TMobile's servers or some other such weirdness so we can have a @tmail.com on our emails instead of @danger.com.

    Problem is several ISPs block all emails from these devices. "Relaying Prohibited" or something like that. The one I know for certain is Mindspring, but strangely Earthlink emails get through just fine. I g
  • I'm SO happy... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mediis (952323)
    ...that I no longer work for the VZ mail team. And I can say, without a doubt that I'm VERY happy that I don't sit next to the Spam Cop... I know he reads /. and he would be VERY pissy for the next week or so. I may be burried in work, but at least I'm not burried in public ire.
  • by VGR (467274)
    Verio is doing it too. Not long ago, I sent e-mail to a friend about a dirty joke I'd heard. It got rejected by Verio's SMTP server. (Not bounced; Mozilla displayed a dialog indicating the server refused to send it, with the only the status "Denied" given as the reason.)

    I tried resending several times. I restarted Mozilla. I typed the password very carefully. It would not send.

    Then I took out the dirty words and left the rest of the message, and it went through on the first try.

    I'm not a child, and I
  • One of my systems handles > 40K messages per day, and I can attest that Verizon email recently became a problem. I added an SPF record, and that instantly solved the problem. (I also filled out the online Verizon form, but haven't heard back yet). Summary: try SPF. http://www.openspf.org/wizard.html [openspf.org]
  • I got hosed last week forwarding a phishing email. I got a fake chase bank email - I've been getting them a lot lately - and I forwarded it to abuse@chase.com, like I always do. The next link I click gets hijacked and I'm looking at a WoW page that says my network has been disabled because I have a virus that's sending out phishing emails.

    45 minutes later I finally convince the guy that I'm pretty sure my ubuntu box is not infected. Apparently they locked out my connection by dropping a new bin file onto
  • Is there any way to get the RSS feed for Slashdot to honor your settings for which numbnut editor you don't want to see articles from? I keep getting ambushed by ScuttleMonkey's asshattery when I follow links from the RSS feed.
  • I sent a reply to an email a friend of mine sent me (he is a Verizon customer). I got the same message quoted in this story. I've been corresponding with this friend (him using the same Verizon account, and me the same non-Verizon account) for months.

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