Blog , 19 Mar 2019

Blacklist Hygiene Needs to Evolve in the Age of Cloud

Tobias Knecht,

Founder and CEO, Abusix

It seems that every innovative technology carries the risk of abuse. For example, when telephones became commonplace in American homes, marketing professionals were quick to create lists of phone numbers for their sales staff to call with unsolicited offers that many people considered annoying and intrusive. When the internet became widely accessible, marketers were quick to create lists of emails that they could bombard with unsolicited offers that were also considered annoying and intrusive by most recipients. Although the first national attempt at reducing telemarketing calls did not occur until 2004, attempts to control spam emails started as early as 1997 with the introduction of the first blacklist. Unfortunately, in many respects, most blacklists have failed to adapt their hygiene practices to new technologies, including cloud computing, smartphones, and apps.

The Problem With Most Blacklists

Once an IP address appears on certain blacklists, getting it delisted can be extremely difficult and time-consuming. Since inclusion on a blacklist can go undetected for an extended period of time, companies and even some email providers can suffer financial losses and impaired reputations without having a clue as to what is impacting their business.

Sometimes, the blacklisted IP has done nothing wrong. For example, a website owner may choose a shared hosting plan in which multiple websites are hosted on the same server. If one of the website owners is a prolific spammer or a scammer, every site on the server can be penalized. If a hacker succeeds in infecting a company’s network with malware that goes undetected by the company, that company’s IP address could be blacklisted. A company launching a massive email campaign that far exceeds its historical volume could also make an ISP believe that the company is spamming. Another potential pitfall can be encountered due to the practice among cloud hosting providers of reusing IP addresses; a new customer could be assigned an IP address that was blacklisted while it was assigned to the previous customer.

The current attitude about blacklists at most ISPs is that those on the list are guilty until proven innocent. Although policies vary, it is not uncommon for a listed domain to remain on the blacklist unless and until a delisting request is made. Unfortunately, this is frequently just the first step in clearing the domain’s reputation; it may be necessary to provide proof of innocence before the domain can be removed.

The issue becomes even more complicated due to the number of blacklists available. Blacklists vary in terms of policies, standards, and rules. Therefore, most email providers use multiple blacklists to identify more threats and improve accuracy. However, without an effective automation process, combining the information and making the right decisions can be impossible.

A New Approach Is Needed

In some respects, many blacklist owners are still trying to handle a 21st-century problem with 20th-century tools and attitudes. They place too much emphasis on quantity and too little emphasis on quality. They offer far too little transparency for those appearing on their blacklists, and they may keep a domain blacklisted forever unless they receive a removal request and whatever evidence they desire.  Abusix Mail Intelligence was created to provide a modern approach to blacklists. Our service can help you identify and block malicious messages, discover why you have been blacklisted, tell you how to resolve the issues that led to the blacklisting, consolidate multiple threat feeds, and obtain real-time data to block malicious URLs and IPs used for email attacks. Abusix Mail Intelligence can block new threats in seconds when our competitors need minutes. Furthermore, Abusix Mail Intelligence has an average cost that is 25 percent less than our competitors. Go ahead and trial Abusix Mail Intelligence for 14 days for free.

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