Genuine Tsunami Warning Email Blocked as Spam
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From our “Ultimate-Irony-Spam-Who-Cried-Wolf” department, Computerworld Australia is reporting that the first live test of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System, following a 6.7 earthquake off Northern Sumatra, failed miserably when the email alerts were blocked as spam.

Aunty’s readers will recall that immediately following the horribly devestating tsunami last December, Tsunami Spammer Christopher Pierson took full advantage of the tragedy, followed closely by copycat wannabee Matthew Schmeider, who had to have been the most inept spammer on the face of the planet (thank goodness).


Perhaps because of these scams, when the real thing came – tsunami warnings following the Northern Sumatra quake – spam blockers, and most particularly SpamAssassin, blocked the warnings, mistakenly identifying them as spam, and keeping those who were relying on the tsunami warning system from actually getting the warnings.

Of course, the problem of false positives (when good email is mistakenly tagged as spam) is a known industry issue, but while it has in the past caused some awkward moments, such as for the lawyer who missed court because his spam filter ate his court notice, rarely has it risen to the level of deadly potential.

So remember, folks, be sure that your spam filters are optimized both for stopping spam, and for letting wanted mail through. And for goodness sake, be sure to whitelist any email which is critical to your survival!

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The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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5 thoughts on “Genuine Tsunami Warning Email Blocked as Spam
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  1. I think this may be just cause for offering a bounty on the heads of spammers. Do you think fifty cents American would be over doing it?

  2. (sorry, I forgot — it’s Aunty, not [elided]! ;)

    Yeah, we’re actually still waiting for somebody to provide us with a copy of the original mail so we can have a look, and see what bits might be whitelistable. No luck so far!

  3. Wow! We’d love to get more of the real story here, if you guys would like to share it. All of the original stories seem to include the line “The problem arises if the open-source filter is installed straight out of the box;”

    In fact, if one of you guys would like to tell Aunty’s readers how they can check to make sure that all is as it should be (or, even, how to white list such email), that would be wonderful!

    Kissy kissy,

    Aunty Spam

  4. Hi [Ed. note: Aunty] —

    yep, just echoing Michael here. We’re a bit peeved that this story has grown legs, since what it actually says (once you strip out the comment and opinion) is that a notification mail was NOT marked as spam, and instead scored a 3.7!

    If somebody was to change their threshold so that this was marked as spam, they’d be seeing a *lot* more false positives than just that one mail… certainly not recommended.

  5. It should be noted, that the article states that a stock SpamAssassin install did not block the latest warning. It was only those installs that had either tweaked their required scores or added some third-party rulesets.

    The SpamAssassin development team is interested in getting their hands on a copy of the warning email (including full headers). If you have a copy of the mail please contact the development team via http://spamassassin.apache.org/ . There may be something we can do to help avoid legitimate warning messages from getting caughts.

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