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Dateline: 4 February 2000 Early Edition
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Swamped With Feedback
Wednesday's item on XTRA and their attitude to the ORBS tester service being hosted by MIS has generated a raft of feedback.

Firstly I'd like to thank all those who took the time to send me their thoughts and comments -- there were simply too many messages to respond individually.

To summarise -- the vast majority of respondents heaped praise on the work that ORBS performs in trying to limit the amount of UCE that hits our mailboxes every day, however there were a few who claim that ORBS is excessively "heavy handed" and, in their opinion, shoots first and asks questions later.

Here are some excerpts from both sides of the fence:

The technology used by Alan is first rate, this is not in dispute. However his assertion that he has the right to test servers is incorrect. ... In addition to this Alan lists all open relays in his database in a publicly accessible list, perfect resource for spammers. In my personal view this makes Orbs a spam support service. If Alan would work _with_ the community rather than his current approach which is "I'm right, you're wrong and I've the right to check your network" then he wouldn't have the problems and we'd have a resource which is highly useful to the net at large.
United Kingdom

Thank you for a balanced article on the above subject. Over the last several months we have introduced partial filtering of mail originating from Telecom/XTRA. This became necessary following their apparent reluctance (or technical incompetence) in closing abusive relays ... Mr Thompson might be surprised at the bad feeling that his arbitrary, biased, backward and totally ill-informed attitude will surely provoke in many professionally run parts of the internet.
I was amazed when I saw one of the latest Xtra adds on the tele, in there they state that they no longer know how much email their servers process. Now we know why,
New Zealand
I administer several companies' networks one of which got put into the ORBS database temporarily. I appreciated their service notifying us of the problem and helped to fix it... If XTRA regard scanning the SMTP port on customer's computers as an offence then perhaps they should stop port scanning customer's computers themselves. As part of their 'security' procedures XTRA regularly perform port scans on customer's computers,

One writer said they were grateful to XTRA for running open mailservers because it saved them having to change their email setup when using other ISPs for Net access.

Another writer documented the process they encountered when ORBS probed their mailserver and they found themselves on the blacklist. They commented on the "polite" email they received and the way ORBS explained how to get off the list. After closing their mailserver, the writer noted that "complying with ORBS cut down the traffic on my mail server by more than 30%, giving my users additional bandwidth and giving me peace of mind."

So as usual -- there is no black and white. As I said in my original article, ORBS has many friends and some enemies -- this will probably be forever the case.

The most saddening email I received was from Alan Brown this morning in which he advises " our suppliers have given ORBS 14 days to remove the tester from its current location or be disconnected." Alan goes on to say "anyone who'd like to volunteer a host or 2 to run testers is welcome to contact me for details of requirements."

An interesting aspect of the email received is that this issue has prompted many of Aardvark's international readers to send their comments. Over the past two days there has been a steady stream of responses from as far afield as Canada, the USA, the UK, Australia and other countries.

I had several requests for the "evidence" that XTRA was running an open mail relay -- all those who asked should now have received a copy of the email (complete with headers) I sent as a test.

Aardvark will keep an eye on this situation and report any developments in coming weeks.

As always, your comments are gladly received.


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