by August 4, 2005 0 comments



The ROKSO (Register of Known Spamming Operations) is a list of the 200 top operators in the world, who are estimated to contribute about 80% of all spam. One of the criteria for being listed in the ROKSO is that at least three ISPs should have previously terminated the operator for spamming.

Three Indians figure in the ROKSO list, maintained by SpamHaus.org. We met up with one of them, Somnath Bharti. 

Bharti, an MSc graduate from IIT Delhi runs an IT firm ‘Madgen solutions’ based in Delhi. The Spamhaus case against Bharti is that he is spamming on behalf of a company called Topsites
LLC.

Two ISP’s-Estelcom based in Gurgaon and SRILRPG in Delhi, host Somnath Bharti in India. Of these, we contacted Estelcom, as Estelcom had more IP addresses listed in the
ROKSO.

According to Somnath, he got listed in the ROKSO after Conrad Longmore, an editor at the Open Directory Project and the webmaster of dynamoo ran a story on him
( http://www.dynamoo.com/diary/topsites_topsitezus.htm
). 

Says Bharti, “Each of the e-mail which we send does respect all the laws laid out for business communication through 
e-mail like

  • Coming from a valid IP address
  • Valid reply-to address
  • Contents are purely business in nature, ie, it’s NOT Viagra or porn, etc.
  • Carries a functional unsubscribing link which when once used no e-mail is ever sent again on that address. There is a facility of unsubscribing the domain name itself after which no e-mail is sent at any address of that domain. This is strictly observed and practiced.
  • Carries a physical address in USA, ie, a local contactable and traceable address
  • We have customer support working 24×7 which answers all customer queries within 24 hours.
  • We are contactable by phone, online chat and e-mail”.

SpamHaus, meanwhile, states “The USA’s CAN-SPAM Act merely outlaws the sending of spam with false or misleading sender information (and other specified conditions). That in no way makes the sending of ‘non-forged’ spam OK. Nor does CAN-SPAM override anti-spam filter policies. CAN-SPAM specifically permits networks (including ISPs) to prohibit spam per their own policies”.

In our interactions with Estelcom (Brajesh Jain, Vice President), what emerged was that they had taken up the issue with Mr Bharti, who in turn had assured them that he was not spamming.

It did not take too much effort to figure out that Bharti had been sued in the California Superior court for spamming by Dan Balsam. We established contact with Timothy Walton, Balsam’s attorney and here is what he had to say.
“The court record contains a declaration I made under penalty of perjury on September 8, 2004: “Directories LLC, Topsites, LLC, Paperless Mail, Inc. Paul Aunger, Somnath Bharti and David Nale have agreed to use only confirmed opt-in e-mail addresses when sending commercial messages and have further agreed to pay Plaintiff Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000) in damages.” Most settlements are out of court. In this particular case, however, the judge had to approve the settlement. Upon application, the judge dismissed the defendants and they agreed to pay.”

In his defense, Bharti claims that defending the case in the USA would have been far more costlier than settling it and that that is why he chose to settle. 

In our meetings, Somnath Bharti and Estelcom claimed that they were in touch with SpamHaus but SpamHaus was extremely slow in taking action.

Our experience with other ISPs trying to get their SBL listings removed was quite on the contrary. SpamHaus acts fairly fast. To cross check, we contacted Spamhaus, and they denied that either Somnath or Estelcom had contacted them. Here is what Steve Linford, CEO of Spamhaus had to say about the matter.

“As far as I can tell we have never been contacted by either Somnath Bharti or
estelcom.com. 

However, there would be no point in Somnath Bharti contacting us, unless he wants to tell us that he has stopped spamming, as we do not remove any records simply because the spammer asks us to. 

Using
block lists to reduce spam

You can use standard block lists to reduce the
amount of spam that even reaches your mail server. The procedure is very simple.
The theory as well as the practice is very simple. Every mail that comes in is
checked against the records of the block list to identify whether it is likely
to be spam or not. Depending on your confidence level on the block list, you
could opt to drop a message identified by the block list as spam at the SMTP
handshake itself, route it to a separate folder on you mail server for manual
checking, or tag it and move it to the addressee’s mail box. Bouncing back a
message identified as spam is not recommended.

It is not advisable to query multiple block
lists for the same mail server. Some of the lists include some other lists. For
example, the SBL includes the CBL, BOPM and NJABL blocklists.

The method of querying the block lists is also
fairly similar. Typically, you would be required to set the DNSBL record of your
mail server to query the zone of your choice from the following list.

Left part of
the network is completely on IPv6 and the right portion is on
IPv4. ISATAP router is used to establish connectivity between both

If by mistake, one of your IP addresses is
listed in any of the block lists (and this can happen), the process for removing
it is fairly easy and transparent.

We would advise all system administrators to
regularly check at the more popular block lists, whether any of the IP addresses
under them are listed.

Popular
block lists
Name Full
name
Zone
SBL Spamhaus
Block list
sbl.spamhaus.org
XBL Spamhaus
Exploits Block List
xbl.spamhaus.org
SBL
& XBL
Both
SBL and XBLtogether
sbl-xbl.spamhaus.org
Spamcop Spamcop
block list
bl.spamcop.net
CBL Composite
block list
cbl.abuseat.org
BOPM Blitz
open proxy monitor
opm.blitzed.org
NJABL Not
just another bogus list
dnsbl.njabl.org
Dynablock Easynet
Dynablock
dynablock.njabl.org
NJABL&
Dynablock
NJABL
and Dynablock together
combined.njabl.org
AHBL Abusive
Hosts Block list
rhsbl.ahbl.org

If Somnath Bharti’s ISP, Estelcom, contacts us to say that spamming is “not illegal” in India and therefore Estelcom will not terminate Somnath Bharti, then we would of course not remove any listing-as we do not care if spam is legal or not.
In fact if an ISP in any country tried to tell us that spamming is “not illegal” as an excuse to keep selling service to spammers, we would consider the ISP to be knowingly aiding a spam operation and we would warn the ISP that if he continues assisting the spam operation then we will consider the ISP and the spam operation to be in business together and we will list the ISP”.

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