If You Use Challenge/Response It May Be Your Email Delivery Which is Challenged
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If you are one of the thousands of users who uses a challenge/response system to stem the flow of email into your inbox, you may be missing out on more than just spam.

One of the inherent flaws in challenge/response systems is that they don’t work if the sender never receives the challenge.


And that’s just what has been happening in the case of email sent by users at both Earthlink and AOL, where the challenges have been ending up in the spam folder instead of going to the sender for a response.

Email which cannot be delivered until the response to the challenge is received is stored in a “quarantine folder”, to which the intended recipient has access, but of course that requires the user to manually review the email in the quarantine folder, at which point it’s not really that different than checking a spam folder. In which case what’s the point of having the challenge/response system in the first place?

The challenge/response system to be most recently plagued by this problem is Mailblocks, whose challenges were going into the spam folder at both AOL and Earthlink as recently as last week. What makes this even more frustrating is that Mailbocks is owned by AOL, having been acquired by them last August.

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So, if you are using a challenge/response system, be sure to check your quarantine folder to see if you have some mail hanging out in there waiting for a challenge response which will never come. And if you are an AOL or Earthlink sender, and you know that some of your correspondents use a challenge/response system, you may want to double-check that they have received your email if you don’t receive an anticipated reply from them.

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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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4 thoughts on “If You Use Challenge/Response It May Be Your Email Delivery Which is Challenged
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  1. Voxpop wrote:

    “how can i sign up for your email?”

    You can either press the button in the upper right hand corner of this page which says”Subscribe to Aunty’s Free Newsletter!”,
    or you can visit the sign-up site directly at .

    Kissy kissy,

    Aunty

  2. “I can’t read your email until you respond to this challengeâ€?

    “Oh yeah, well I can’t respond to your challenge until *you* respond to *this* challengeâ€?

    “Uh, well I’ll respond to your challenge when you respond to my challenge to your challenge to my challengeâ€?

    “Oh yeah? Well EAT MY CHALLENGE!

    Hey..wait..I didn’t mean it…”

  3. Neat. Symmetric challenge-response systems eating each others challenges.

    “I can’t read your email until you respond to this challenge”

    “Oh yeah, well I can’t respond to your challenge until *you* respond to *this* challenge”

    “Uh, well I’ll respond to your challenge when you respond to my challenge to your challenge to my challenge”

    etc.

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