Challenge Response Emails Going Directly Into The Spam Folder

from the well-that-works dept

While so-called challenge-response anti-spam systems have grown in popularity, they still seem like the wrong approach to spam. If you think about it, they basically assume all mail is spam, until someone proves otherwise. That sounds like they have a serious false-positive problem. All email is considered spam. For some, that’s fine, but it can lead to other problems. Seriously overhyped challenge-response startup Mailblocks is discovering just some of those problems. It turns out that major ISPs, including AOL and Earthlink, are automatically treating Mailblocks’ challenges as spam. In some ways, it’s only fair. Mailblocks considers all mail spam until proven otherwise, so why shouldn’t other ISPs consider their mail spam? Of course, what this means is that anyone who sends a mailblocks user an email from one of these ISPs doesn’t know that his or her message hasn’t been received and assumes it has been. Meanwhile, Mailblocks users have no idea that the person has emailed them either. Of course, what’s most amusing about all of this is that Mailblocks is owned by AOL. Yes, that’s right, AOL is blocking its own challenge-response emails as spam.

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Comments on “Challenge Response Emails Going Directly Into The Spam Folder”

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Chris (user link) says:

No Subject Given

We’ve disagreed on this before, and we will again I’m sure 😉 I’m a Mailblocks user and I love it. I see almost no spam in my inbox, zero, nada, none. I do take care to peek into my pending folder every couple of days to make sure something important isn’t there. However, I can’t remember the last time I actually found any good mail that was blocked.

And, I have another email adress that bypasses mailblocks that I give out to friends and relatives, so they don’t have to deal with it.

Tim (user link) says:

Re: No Subject Given

Well of course you won’t get much. You’re lending your support to an organization that increases the risk of innocent users getting C-R challenges as a result of viral/spam impersonation, etc. Should I ever see such backscatter from others’ mails, rest assured it will be added to my local Bayes and communal razor2 databases, regardless of who it’s from. It’s only fair – the backscatter is junk-mail.

Steve Mueller (user link) says:

Re: Another E-mail address

And, I have another email adress that bypasses mailblocks that I give out to friends and relatives, so they don’t have to deal with it.

Why? Can’t Mailblocks whitelist people? If it can, they won’t have to deal with it at all. It sounds more like you won’t have to deal with it (by whitelisting them).

All it takes is one person to forward you and a bunch of other people a joke and, if that E-mail gets to a spammer after lots of forwarding, they’ll have your unprotected address.

Steve Mueller (user link) says:

Silly Challenge-Response Systems

I’ve had a couple of people I’ve sent mail to use a challenge-response system. While it was mildly annoying to have to jump through hoops to try to contact them, it wasn’t so bad.

However, one of those people was misusing the system (in my opinion). I had filled out the contact form on his Web site ( and that submission generated a challenge! Hello! The point of Web form contacts is so that people don’t get your E-mail address, so why challenge the submission.

I had asked to copy myself on the submission, so maybe he used my address as the sender, which probably would generate a challenge, but he should have used his address and put me in the CC list to avoid that.

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