Thursday, January 06, 2011

How to get unblocked from Hotmail/Live

For the past couple of weeks, I've been trying to get my domains unblocked from Hotmail/Live. I set up a new domain for Barebones CMS (barebonescms.com) and put forums on the site and forgot to add a SPF record for the domain. A couple weeks ago, Hotmail/Live servers decided that e-mail from barebonescms.com was invalid and therefore refused delivery. Due to the holidays being crazy, I was unable to get around to dealing with the problem.

Then I discovered that Hotmail/Live was actually blocking ALL e-mail from my e-mail server regardless of domain. This sent me on a search to see how I could get unblocked. Of course, the first step was to fix my DNS records to add a SPF record. SPF-aware mail servers should really be assuming a default of:

v=spf1 mx -all

Or:

v=spf1 a mx -all

That way, most of us don't have to fiddle with silly things like this.

The next two steps to getting off the Hotmail/Live block list is to go here:

https://support.msn.com/

And request to join both the "SenderID" and "Junk Mail Reporting Partner" programs. Those are the minimum required to get off their block list. Of course, because of Internet delays revolving around e-mail and DNS, it can take 24+ hours before any changes are to be made to their servers and then another 48+ hours to take effect.

During this process, I ran into a couple nifty little tools that everyone who runs an e-mail server should be using:

https://www.senderscore.org/

Sender Score is a pretty accurate measure of how much e-mail volume a specific IP address is churning out. The score is calculated based on anonymous ISP data. Hotmail/Live appears to use this information to determine the reputation of a specific IP address, which is likely used in their spam filter to determine whether to accept the message, drop it in the spam folder, or simply reject the message altogether. The graph they display is really nice for determining trends for a specific IP but is otherwise meaningless.

The other nifty tool I ran across is Microsoft Postmaster Smart Network Data Services. This tool is a little more difficult to set up but you can see issues regarding the specific IP address associated with a mail server. For example, if someone reports an e-mail as spam or Hotmail/Live detects a virus coming into their servers from a specific IP, that information is made visible using that tool.

All of this takes time to complete. By the end of this week, though, my own situation should be cleared up. Hopefully this helps someone else. The moral of this story is: Don't forget to set up SPF records on new domain names.

4 comments:

  1. Hey Thomas, this is a great article. Thanks for sharing your experiences! We are going through a similar issue. I just wanted to know if were successful in clearing up your problem?

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    Replies
    1. Yes and no. The problem got cleared up, it came back later, and then went away on its own. Somewhere along the line, an unrelated incident caused me to lose access to the tools afforded by the SenderID and Junk Mail Reporting Partner programs. I figured it wasn't worth the hassle to go through the process again.

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    2. You have to be a IT expert to answer those questions. If I were an IT expert, I probably wouldn't be on the blocked list.
      What the bloody hell is a transroute??? and several other questions...

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    3. If you aren't running an email service but your IP address is on their block list, make sure your computer is malware free then unplug your cable/DSL modem and then plug it back in. It will be issued a new IP address once it boots up and you should be able to send e-mail again. This article is for both my personal reference and for those who run email servers.

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