Greylist, RBLs, and Spam

Recently I noticed I had 13 spam emails all from the same ‘company.’ The content was incredibly similar, though subtly different. The from email was always different, but you could tell by looking at it that it was the same. And even more damming, it all had ‘junk’ content and 100+ recipients. But for some reason, SpamAssassin wasn’t catching it!

After 5 emails came in back to back, I decided to do something about it.

At first I was trying to find a way to tell Spamassassin or Exim how to auto-turf the emails with 100+ people listed in the ‘To’ field. This proved to be a little more difficult and complicated than I wanted, and I was sure that these spammers would catch on to that sooner or later.

What I really wanted was for Spamcop to pick up on this, but I’ve been sending them in to no avail for a while. That got me looking into how cPanel handles Spamcop in the first place.

Real-Time Blackhole Lists

cPanel uses RBLs, Real-time Blackhole Lists, to determine if an email sent to you is spam or not. By default, it comes with SpamCop and Spamhaus. That means it will reject mail at SMTP time if the sender host is in the or RBL. Well that was well and good, but could I add more to that list?

Of course. I pulled up cPanel’s documentation on RBLs and determined I could add as many as I wanted. On the top of the Basic EXIM Editor is a link to Manage Custom RBLs which is what I wanted. All I had to do was figure out what to add.

After reading through WikiPedia’s comparison of DNS blacklists, I picked a few and tested the latest emails that had come through, looking for ones that caught them. Then I tested known good emails and made sure they weren’t caught. I ended up adding Barracudacentral and IPRange.


The next thing I did was introduce Greylisting to my email. They way Greylisting works is that if it doesn’t recognize the email, it will temporarily reject it and tell it to resend. If the email is real, the server tries to send it again after a little while. There are some downsides to this, as it’s possible for a legit email to be trapped for a few hours (or days) if someone’s set up their server poorly. On the other hand, within half an hour, I blocked 11 emails.

I mean. I’m pretty sure is spam. You know what I mean?

This was super easy to do, too. I turned on Greylisting, I restarted Exim, I walked away.

Okay no, I didn’t. I sat and watched it to see if anyone legit got caught (one did, it passed itself through properly).


A little less spam. I don’t expect this to work for everything, but it had an immediate impact on many of the spam emails that were annoying me.




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