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Category: Technical

The OSI Seven Layer Model

In the 1970s, while the early drafts of the Internet were being developed, a competing model for networking was being put together by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization). The OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) Model broke the work needed to implement a distributed network service into seven separate layers of abstraction, from the physical infrastructure […]

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Authentication

Some notes on some of the different protocols used for authentication and authentication-adjacent things in email. Some of this is oral history, and some of it may be contradicted by later or more public historical revision. SPF Associates an email with a domain that takes responsibility for it. Originally Sender Permitted From, now Sender Policy […]

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Link tracking redirectors 2

It’s not too difficult to build your own link redirector, perhaps a few hours work for a basic implementation me, yesterday Yesterday I suggested that link tracking wasn’t too complex, but didn’t really have anything to back the claim up. And nobody trusts developer time estimates. So I cranked DEF CON Radio and wrote a […]

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Link tracking redirectors

Almost every bulk mail sent includes some sort of instrumentation to track which users click on which links and when. That’s usually done by the ESP rewriting links in the content so they point at the ESP’s tracking server, and include information about the customer, campaign and recipient. The recipient clicks on the link in […]

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Gradual DMARC Rollout

Over on twitter Alwin de Bruin corrected me on an aspect of DMARC soft rollout I’d entirely forgotten about. It’s useful, so I thought I’d write a quick post about it. If you have a large mail stream and you want to avoid the Scary Red Flag Day when you turn on DMARC p=reject enforcement […]

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Why do my URLs have two dots?

You take a turn, I take a turn At the SMTP level email is very much a simple line-by-line text based protocol. The client sends a command on a single line, the server responds with one or more lines (the last one marked by having a space in the fourth column), and then the client […]

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Captchas

Captchas – those twisty distorted words you have to decipher and type in to access a website – have been around since the 1990s. Their original purpose was to tell the difference between a human user and an automated system, by requiring the user to answer a challenge – one that was supposedly hard for […]

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SPF and TXT records and Go

A few days ago Laura noticed a bug in one of our in-house tools – it was sometimes marking an email as SPF Neutral when it should have been a valid SPF pass. I got around to debugging it today and traced it back to a bug in the Go standard library. A DNS TXT […]

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DNS Flag Day

There are quite a lot of broken DNS servers out there. I’m sure that’s no surprise to you, but some of them might be yours. And you might not notice that until your domains stop working early next year. DNS is quite an old protocol, and when it was originally specified there wasn’t really a […]

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Check your abuse addresses

Even if you have excellent policies and an effective, empowered enforcement team you can still have technical problems that can cause you to drop abuse mail, and so lose the opportunity to get a bad actor off your network before they damage your reputation further. It’s not quite as simple as “We’re seeing email in […]

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