Escalated listings, and listing multi server hosts… why do you do it…?

Jun 21 2010

The question of escalated listings is not a simple one to many people, but escalated listings in reality are simple and are there for a simple reason.

First as per the title of this document a little explanation is in order. Many people confuse escalated listings with single IP multi server hosts (aka Virtual server hosts). The differences between the two are very simple.

A multi server host (aka virtual server host) has one or more IP addresses and lots of virtual hosts. The virtual server hosts can be full virtual machines or can be just virtual webservers, the difference is not important here as the net effect is a single piece of hardware uses a single IP address for multiple clients (people/customers). When the IP address sends spam, it is listed at places like SORBS and mail from that host (for all the servers) is blocked or marked as spam.

An escalated listing on the other hand is where a whole network of IP addresses i listed in SORBS and all hosts and IPs (whether assigned to a single customer or multiple) are listed and therefore blocked or result in spam folder issues.

Why does SORBS create escalated listings?

The simple answer is to stop spam.

You ask, “How does listing innocent IPs help stop spam?”

Simple, some providers don’t care about spam, to them the bottom line is all that counts. Spammers pay lots of money for servers and as such the company doesn’t want to kick them off their servers. As an exmple one of the SORBS servers in the USA is a 16 core server with 3T of monthly traffic, which we pay around $1700/month for. $1700/mo is no insignificant amount and if you are a sales person with a monthly sales target of $10k per month (ie if you don’t hit that minimum every month you get fired) and you have a spammer that rents 3 of these servers, you don’t need a lot more servers to hit your monthly target. Better yet most sales people get commission for sales over their minimum, so the more of these servers you sell the more you make. Bear in mind at this point a normal web service host that you might purchase is usually around $100/mo… A significant difference!

So why list multiple hosts, well in the example above a sales person making even just $1700 per month from his spamming customer is not going to terminate (or even chastise) a customer that is causing abuse reports. He’s not going to care if the SORBS admins add the IP address the spammer is using to the SORBS lists. What he will care about is if his other customers suddenly start complaining, he’ll be even more likely to terminate the spammer if he starts losing money. So thinking about the maths, you have one spammer paying in $1700/mo and 20 customers paying in $100/mo, you’re going to ignore the issue unless 17 of your customers decide to go somewhere else…

Now does SORBS like this idea? No of course not, we’d prefer to send in the abuse report and see the spammer removed from the network post-haste. We don’t want to list innocent people, and so we use it as a last resort. Our Spam DB FAQ details about escalated listings and how we do it, we rarely follow it to the strict letter of the policy, mostly allowing a lot longer time limits and more spam before we escalate. For known spammers we follow the policy strictly being very forceful as quick as possible.

SORBS’ goal is to stop spam, not to make money, and not to help anyone else make money. The simple fact is if you are using the same server as a spammer you will be blocked, if you are in the same network as a spammer you will be blocked. If you are using the same ISP as the spammer and the ISP chooses to continue hosting the spammer and ignore SORBS you will be blocked, and in the latter case we recommend you go find another ISP.

So what’s the chances of you moving from one ISP to another ISP with spammer problems?

Well that question depends on how much you are spending. If you go looking for the cheapest servers, the chances are you’ll find the servers where spammers have already been or where they are still. The best thing you can do is talk to a sales person and ask them about SORBS listings, ask them what would happen if you get listed. If he says, “oh don’t worry about it we’ll help you sort it”, or “whilst your paying your monthly fee, we don’t care” or some other variant, find another ISP, they are the providers that will cause you trouble in the long run. If on the other hand they say, “well we’ll terminate your contract on the first sign of trouble due to our strict AUP, and we might even charge you a cleanup fee”… Choose that ISP, the chances are they’ll never experience an escalated listing issue!!!

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