Spam, canned

This consultant pilot fish does work for several area businesses, but one tends to give him more trouble than the others. "Their corporate policy was originally to allow their people full, unrestricted use of the Internet," he says.

"After a number of server crashes and widespread virus outbreaks, I'm allowed to place a firewall with restrictive filtering features and a good antivirus solution. I also ensure the e-mail server is not an open relay."

Flash forward two months. Fish gets a call: No one there can connect to the Internet. The admin has checked with the ISP, which claims it's not on that end.

Fish runs his tests, and everything on his end works -- he can ping all the way to the ISP's default gateway. He calls the ISP. After several hours on the phone (at a hefty hourly fee from the ISP), a tech discovers the problem: The company's network has been blocked because of spam abuse complaints.

"I ask him what info he can give me, and I start checking the firewall logs and system logs," says fish. "I see a lot of traffic from one particular PC, so I shut it down and inform the tech, who promptly turns our system back on. I ask that the provider contact me directly if this happens again."

Turns out the user of that PC has been downloading songs and who-knows-what-else. Fish explains the situation to the company's owner and suggests locking down everything. "I disable the adapters and unplug everything and take away the switch they were using to connect," he says. "I think all will be good until I can get in and check every PC."

One week later, fish gets another frantic call from the admin: no Internet. Fish calls the ISP. It's more spam complaints -- a lot more. Fish tightens the firewall again, then checks the logs, but sees nothing unusual.

While he's scanning for viruses, he gets a call from one of the ISP's senior techs, who has taken an interest in the case.

He tells fish that he's rechecked the spam complaints, and they've all come from one e-mail address: the personal e-mail account of an employee at the office.

Sighs fish, "The system is set up so that most, including this gentleman, have their e-mail forwarded to their home accounts from the company server.

"This individual, instead of deleting the e-mails he no longer wanted, was reporting them as spam.

"After counseling him in proper e-mail management, I close the case."

Sharky doesn't want spam -- I'd rather read your true tale of IT life. Send it to me at I'll send you a spam-free Shark shirt if I use it.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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