Frequently Asked Questions
Is MXRate a blacklist?
MXRate is not really a blacklist in the
traditional sense. Our system analyzes data submitted using automated
procedures. It calculates a probability score based on the overall message
sending pattern of any particular server and that is used as a basis of an
opinion as to whether or not the address is a source of spam. What we do is publish a recommendation
based on that opinion. Certainly, we can publish a recommendation that the message be
blocked or highly penalized, however we can also recommend that it simply
be treated with suspicion, or even treated as a known source of legitimate
It is important to note that the MXRate
service itself does not block email, nor is it capable of blocking email.
It is simply a data collection mechanism that calculates what we believe
to be a completely truthful and impartial opinion and recommendation based
on the data received. How this recommendation is used is solely at the
discretion of the ISPs or mail system administrators that decide to use our
recommendations in their anti-spam configurations.
Why is MXRate different than
other blacklists or DNS databases?
Rather than compiling a list of any server
ever suspected of sending spam, MXRate focuses on active spammers. Say,
for example, someone signs up for an email account with a small ISP. They
immediately start sending spam and before the ISP discovers it, the
spammer has sent out a couple of hundred thousand spam messages. Of
course, once the ISP's mail administrator is alerted, the account is
terminated and the spamming stops, but usually not before the damage is
done. The ISP may now be listed on several spam databases and have
difficulty getting mail delivered. Plus, anyone who has ever had this
happen knows that it is extremely difficult to get your servers address
MXRate does this differently. First, we do
not accept subjective spam reports. Secondly, not only do we track spam,
we also track legitimate email. This allows us to evaluate the current
sending patterns of a mail server. In the example above, the ISP would
undoubtedly have some statistics being maintained by us on the ratio of
legitimate messages to spam messages, and their recent frequency. So while
the spammer might have caused a temporary "block" recommendation, this
would probably only last a few hours after the spamming stops.
So, in other words, our intention is not to
provide a database of addresses of anyone who has ever sent spam, it is to
provide a database of addresses currently sending spam.
Who decides what is recommended
to be blocked or
Actually, no one. There is not a single human
being involved except for the programmers who maintain the systems and
databases used in evaluating the data. We receive data from remote servers
throughout the day that contains the server address and the score
for each message the server receives. The score is a numeric
representation indicating how "spammy" or "un-spammy" the message was. It
is not subjective and the same basic rule sets are applied to every
message regardless of where the server is located. This allows us to
maintain accurate data on each server (address) reported, and apply
calculations evenly and consistently and publish a recommendation based on
actual statistical analysis.
Are blocks or ranges of addresses
No. Each address listed must have been
reported to us individually and each recommendation is calculated on
actual email traffic reported as originating from that specific address.
How can I report spam?
We do not accept spam reports. In fact, we
would have no way to do anything with them even if we did. The MXRate
database only contains data that has been computer generated, compiled,
and analyzed. This ensures that each message is quantified equally,
without involving any human subjective judgment whatsoever.
My address is listed. How can I
get off the list?
Stop sending spam. Actually, this sounds
blunt, but it is basically the case. The MXRate database is designed to
be dynamically self correcting. Say for instance, you have users on your
system that are infected with a virus or worm that is sending spam. Or
possibly you have a real spammer you do not know about. This could cause
your servers address to trigger a block recommendation. We understand that
this may seem unfair from the server operators point of view, however from
a technical standpoint, the block recommendation would be justifiable.
After all, spam is coming from the server, and in order to get a bad
recommendation, it would have to be significant. In these cases, the
servers recommendation will "improve" after the spamming stops. Typically,
after spamming ceases from any particular address, it will fall from a
block recommendation to suspicious within 3-4 hours, and to
neutral several hours after that.
How often is MXRate updated?
The MXRate database is updated every 30
minutes, 24/7. Reports from remote Alligate servers come in in 60 minute
batches constantly throughout the day. This means that maximum age of any
single item in a report batch would be 90 minutes before it is posted to
the user downloadable database. Each time the update runs, the recommendations for each
address are recalculated, new MXRate database files are generated and updated for
Alligate and MXRate users.
How long are addresses listed?
Addresses are listed as long as they are
actively being reported. Any address with no activity (good or bad) for 30
days is purged. However, the recommendation may change hourly. The
key point here is that no address is ever permanently recommended to be blocked or
treated as a good sender. The recommendation we provide is based solely on historical and
What do the different
Block - This means the message is
coming from a source that, in our opinion, has been determined to send a considerable amount of spam
recently, usually within the past few hours. These messages should be
penalized as you feel appropriate. This recommendation means that the
probability has been calculated to be 80% or higher.
This means the message is coming from a source that, in our opinion, has
been determined to send a considerable amount of spam, but either the
level of spam activity, the frequency, or the amount of time since the
last report does not allow us to confidently recommend a block. These
messages may be penalized to a lesser degree than block messages if
desired, or you may use this recommendation to trigger additional testing.
This recommendation means that the probability has been calculated to
between 50% and 80%.
Good - This means the message is
coming from a source that, in our opinion, has been determined to send a considerable amount of mail that
has passed spam checking. We also calculate the number of false positives
reported for a particular address as well as the number of users that
have whitelisted the address. These calculations are used to determine
the overall reputation of the sender. Although we refer to this category as "Good",
this does not necessarily mean that unwanted email cannot come from the
source, and this should not be considered a whitelist. This
recommendation is based on a statistical analysis of the history we have
compiled on the particular sender. Generally this means that we have found
that the sender sends a high percentage of legitimate email that users
want to receive. If your
anti-spam system can support it, we would recommend that a counterweight
(negative penalty) be assessed to messages coming from these addresses.
I run a mailing list or
commercial mailing service. How can I report I am legit?
We have absolutely no interest in maintaining
inaccurate data. If you are a mailing list or legitimate commercial
mailer, then you are well aware that mail delivery is a problem. Since all
of our data comes from users of our commercial anti-spam gateway product,
Alligate, we also have an interest in ensuring that your mail is
deliverable. We provide the pattern filters that make the determination as
to how spam is detected for Alligate, and we have provided mechanisms for
counterweighing mailing lists and commercial delivery agents. Please
contact us here to report your service.
What is Alligate?
Alligate is our high performance anti-spam
gateway product for Windows servers. For more information, please
Alligate and MXRate are trademarks of Solid Oak Software, Inc.
Copyrightę Solid Oak Software, Inc. 2004