[Dshield] PDF Spam Wave

Chuck Rothauser chuckr at keywestkeys.com
Fri Aug 10 12:52:20 GMT 2007

Still worse,

Spammers find smtp mailrelays and use legitimate domains which then causes 
the legitimate domain to be black listed........no fun trying to get your 
domain "unlisted"......

---> Chuck

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Cefiar" <cef at optus.net>
To: <list at lists.dshield.org>
Sent: Friday, August 10, 2007 2:16 AM
Subject: Re: [Dshield] PDF Spam Wave

> On Tuesday 07 August 2007 19:55:35 jayjwa wrote:
>> *this* PDF spam:
>> 1. Spammer connects to large.email.provider (no http-to-smtp header),
>> submits email w/PDF attachment spoofed as
>> (random-made-up-user)@certain.domain
>> 2. Spammer sends email to non-existing user,
>> (random)@(random-but-real-domain). So now we have fake mail going to
>> non-existing user.
>> 3. All of the (random-but-real-domain)s now receive mail to the correct
>> domain, but to a user that _does not exist_ or cannot receive mail for 
>> some
>> other reason.
>> 4. They reject this. How is this *not* correct behavior?
>> 5. Now certain.domain gets this "bounce". Only it's not a real bounce
>> because certain.domain _never sent anything or handled any mail_.
>> 6. "Bounce" (remember, certain.domain did not send anything to begin 
>> with)
>> is labeled to (random)@certain.domain. Obviously, (random) does not 
>> exist.
>> What to do with mail to a user that does not exist? Do you see the cycle
>> here?
> ...And unfortunately I've seen this for well over 7 years, and in many 
> cases
> my own personal and work addresses have been the destinations. Then it
> migrated well over 5 years ago to a combination of random addresses,
> addresses pulled from address books and off mailing lists, and corrupted
> versions of the same. Ever seen mail aimed at a user called "rdomo"? 
> Welcome
> to a corrupted "majordomo" email address. I've even got email directed at 
> "r"
> and "o" on the same machine.
>> To make matters worse, multiply the above by the 10,000 or so messages 
>> the
>> spam run seemed to generate, and also the fact that some mailservers kept
>> trying to re-deliver even after the transaction was 550'ed. The
>> "certain.domain" happened to be one of my intranet hosts. The only 
>> sensible
>> thing I could come up with that ended mail to no one looping around in
>> circles was eating these fake bounces at the door, which it showed 
>> towards
>> the bottom of my original post.
> In many of the above cases (eg: "rdomo"), I simply created an alias and 
> fed
> the mail directly into things like spamassassin's learning mode, 
> especially
> when I was "sure" the address was bogus.
>> Moreover, this spam operated more like an email virus, in that I don't
>> think it would be wise to bounce them, but rather sink them. The only 
>> place
>> all these spam could end would be in the mailbox of a postmaster, which
>> seemed to me a pretty worthless spam run (as no end-users ever got any
>> messages). Why someone would initiate such a spam run was one of the 
>> things
>> I was hoping to find out. If it was Joe-Job, as someone suggested, then 
>> no,
>> I have not seen alot directed at me (especially to a low-activity, 
>> intranet
>> server) as I do not run a commercial, educational institute or ISP
>> mailserver.
> As mentioned above, I have seen this sort problem for the last 7 or so 
> years,
> on various addresses (from commercial, educational, ISP and 
> non-commercial)
> over that time. Spammers and virus writers are feeding off each others
> technical know-how, and abusing the system in any way they can get away 
> with.
>> ------------Reply to second post, tonni at hetnet.nl:
>> ->I have a perfect pdf spam solution, I refuse all mail that isn't for my
>> -> users, my 1550+ user site currently refuses far more mail than it is
>> -> offered,
>> In this case (#2), your perfect pdf spam solution would have contributed 
>> to
>> the storm of bounces already in session...
> It might, but the problem here is not that it's being rejected inline - 
> it's
> that large.email.provider is not adequately filtering mail, no matter what
> the source. They're the source of the problem (they accept the mail in the
> first place), and they're the ones that should be the source of your ire.
> Personally, I put everything through a spam filter. Whether the user is
> authenticated or not, whether they're from a trusted IP space or not, and
> even if it's from a local process on the machine running the mail server. 
> I
> also enforce things like not allowing banned files no matter how they're
> injected into the system for the same reason. When it comes to things like
> this, I trust no one. It also makes things a lot easier by reducing the
> complexity of a setup, and therefore the number of different paths that 
> need
> to be tested when things change to ensure correct operation.
> -- 
> Stuart Young - aka Cefiar - cef at optus.net
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