July 12, 2008

Frustration As ‘Aggressive’ Xtra Filter Treats Valid E-Mails As Spam

By MCENTEE, Claire

YAHOOXTRA's "aggressive " spam filter is causing further frustration, this time preventing e-mails from getting through to Xtra customers using e-mail clients such as Outlook Express.

Legitimate e-mails are instead treated as spam and sent to the bulk or junk folder in YahooXtra's webmail client.

NZ InfoTech reported in November that many e-mails forwarded by web- hosting companies from customers' business websites to Xtra addresses were being deleted by the spam filter.

Liz Brooker, a customer of Internet service provider Wasp New Zealand, says several personal e-mails and e-mails finalising a Trade Me auction never reached their intended recipients.

"Five e-mails never got through to one person from my Gmail or home accounts. They are marking e-mails as spam and not delivering them to third-party programs such as Outlook Express."

She says a friend who has a business account with Xtra had a number of business e-mails sitting in his YahooXtra webmail client's spam folder, but did not even know the webmail client existed.

Wasp New Zealand sent out an e-mail advising customers of the issue and that "using e-mail does not guarantee that the intended recipient will receive the mail".

Telecom spokeswoman Connie Sprague says the filter identifies spam in several ways, including assessing the e-mail content, sender's reputations and feedback from Xtra users, for example if they have marked e-mails as spam or "not spam".

YahooXtra offers advice on best practices for senders to help ensure the mail they send gets through.

Ms Sprague says businesses are ultimately responsible for advising customers to check their spam folder periodically. In the case of personal e-mails, recipients should add the sender's address to their contacts list to avoid their e-mails being treated as spam.

"As with any e-mail service, if an e-mail does not arrive it makes sense to check the spam or bulk e-mail folder."

Simon McBeth, spokesman for Domainz, one of the country's largest web hosters, said in November that about 2000 of Domainz' customers had been victim to the filter deleting e-mails redirected to Xtra accounts from business websites.

He says the issue appears to have improved but this could be because some of Domainz' clients are now using a system that disguises the fact that e-mails are coming from Domainz, or even New Zealand.

"It seemed the Xtra system recorded the Domainz system as a spam source and generically blocked us."

But Mr McBeth says the "aggressive" filter is still causing Domainz trouble. An e-mail containing website links sent out to Xtra customers signing up to one of Domainz' hosting packages is rejected by the filter, but if the e-mail is sent as an attachment it's accepted.

The filter has rejected about 100 e-mails so Domainz now sends the e-mail as an attachment to Xtra customers.

He says this is a security issue as attachments can contain viruses but links have to be activated before they can transfer viruses. Telecom outsourced its e-mail service to YahooXtra in August.

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