Outbound Anti-Spam 101: Four Critical Steps to Prevent IP Blacklisting

By Ken Simpson, Co-founder and CEO of MailChannels

For many service providers that offer email hosting, IP blacklisting is a challenging issue. If your network’s IP addresses become blacklisted, your customers receive an unwelcome surprise: delivery delays or bounced messages.

This can be a problem because customers are sensitive about email. They get upset if the email experience isn’t what they expect: fast delivery service, anytime they want.

The outbound spam problem
Spammers make life difficult for hosting providers by infecting their servers to send out spam. The provider’s own infrastructure then becomes its biggest problem; spam attacks emanate from within, damaging the provider’s IP reputation. It costs them business because once the IP is blacklisted, email traffic halts and customers lose confidence in the reliability of the network.

It's a funny predicament. The global anti-spam systems that block inbound spam are causing the IP blacklisting problem for legitimate companies.

Most service providers are unaware of an outbound spam leak until their network is blacklisted from recipient networks. They are stuck in a reactive state, scrambling to find the compromised accounts after the damage is already done.

The result is a costly expense to fix the mess: resolving blocked IP addresses, handling upset customers, getting hit by chargeback fees, and increased load on support staff.

How to stop outbound spam in its tracks
Outbound spam is different from inbound spam. Instead of analyzing IP addresses from the Internet, as in the case of spam that’s received, outbound spam requires analyzing the reputation of customer accounts on the network.

Parallels and MailChannels have identified four critical steps that must be taken to prevent systems from being blocked by other networks:

  1. Check if your IP addresses are already blacklisted.
  2. Stop the bleeding - secure your network by filtering outbound spam before it leaves your network.
  3. Neutralize threats - identify and shut down compromised accounts to prevent future email abuses.
  4. Separate your users into classes of IP addresses to create a cleaner IP reputation for legitimate customers.

What techniques do you employ to stop outbound spam? How do you proactively identify compromised accounts before they start spamming? Tell us in the comments section below.

Ken Simpson is co-founder and CEO of MailChannels, one of four successful technology startups that he’s helped establish. A longtime anti-spam crusader, Ken is also a member of the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG). Read more articles from Ken and other anti-spam experts on the MailChannels blog.

Posted on November 11, 2014 and filed under Guest Bloggers.