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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Newly-obtained AC-EMWIN IP Address Blocked...

Last week, we discovered that the Alachua County Office of Emergency Management was..."blocking" us. Well, it wasn't quite that simple...

After doing some further research, we discovered that the problem wasn't nearly so simple as one agency blocking us. Apparently, there are multiple varied sources out in Internet-land which keep track of IP addresses which spam. Then people - especially many government agencies - subscribe to these lists in an effort to try to weed out spam. Unfortunately, after a while, the spammers then release the tarnished IP addresses back into the Internet wild. Then the companies who sell them - the Internet Service Providers, or "ISPs" - turn around and RE-sell them again (now that the IPs have had plenty of time to glean plenty of bad reputation) to innocent, unsuspecting people in the general public.

Along comes now the Alachua County EMWIN Project, which just moved it's server to a better location with a generator backup and two Internet lines for the "just in case" situations. Upon moving to this new location, we acquired a "new" IP address. Unbeknownst to us, this pariticular IP address was one which had such a bad reputation that it was listed not just in one but in MULTIPLE spam-tracking databases. These databases apparently have the power to "blacklist" the IP addresses to such an extent that in some cases people were not able to receive our alerts.

When we first began to notice this was going on, it was because we were getting some emails stating that some of our alerts to some people were being blocked because our IP was being blacklisted as a source of spam. The emails weren't very clear though, and made it seem as if it might be the end user who had had us blocked. On further backtracking, it became apparent that the user wasn't responsible at all. The user's ISP was using these blacklists to block emails from so-labelled IP addresses. The County of Alachua uses at *least* one, called Barracuda Central. And when we checked, that's when we found that we were listed in about five.

We sent out a few querying emails to some computer-related listgroups in the hopes that someone might be able to shed more light on how to combat this. A few people helped out with links to places which help you find OUT how many databases have you listed. This began an effort to try to get us "delisted" from all of the blacklists.


Apparently, us end users have to watch out for this. APPARENTLY, places like Cox and AT&T aren't going to TELL you if the IP that they're selling you has a bad reputation; and APPARENTLY, they don't bother to *check*, either. So it's on us. We're assigned the "new" IP address, and we have NO idea that it's been used by someone else in a bad way. And then the nightmare starts.

I've spent the last week trying to communicate with five different blacklist databases to try to get us delisted. I think I've been successful, but it's going to take a while to find out. Apparently, like the search engines, they're all interconnected. One borrows from the other, borrows from the other, and so on. So you have to find out all the contact information, and write all the emails. Then you have to wait 48 to 72 hours for most of the databases to recognize and remove you. And in some cases, it can take even longer.

...Good lord! What a pain in the ass! I think that the ISP sellers should be the ones who "clean up" the reputation FOR you if they're going to sell you an IP address. Meanwhile, I think we've cleaned up the mess, now. What was it that the little lady said in Poltergeist, again? Oh yes... "...THIS house...is CLEAN." (poses for the camera)

Let's hope we never have to go through THAT again. :(

Alachua County EMWIN Project

Alachua County EMWIN Project
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