Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(April 1996)

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Subject: Re: About the magazine spam
From: Sheryl Coppenger <sheryl @ seas . gwu . edu>
Date: Fri, 12 Apr 1996 12:00:16 -0400 (EDT)
To: list-managers @ greatcircle . com

> It is not sendmail which is relying on the kindness of strangers, it is
> the system manager who has failed to configure it carefully enough.
> Sendmail is infinitely configurable, either by modifying its
> configuration rules, or by makeing the target addresses be aliases which
> filter the mail through programmable filters.
> In either case, if you obtain "procmail" you will be able to implement
> either pre-delivery filtering or in-delivery filtering, as desired.
> Having obtained procmail, you can then use SmartList (which is a mailing
> list implementation based on procmail recipe files, and a couple of
> binaries).  SmartList gives you control over who can see the lists, who
> can subscribe, and who can submit.  If you peruse the procmail archives,
> you'll see many solutions for problems similar to yours.

The technical part about how this solution doesn't really work and is
appropriate for list management rather than an email gateway was handled
in another followup so I'll leave that be.

Even if this did the job technically I'd be concerned because I'd be
examining subject lines and rejecting for content.  The legal aspects
are rather untested and still to be determined, but the laws that have
been passed seem to leave systems administrators in a "damned if you
do, damned if you don't" situation.  If I don't examine content I *may*
be in trouble for passing on things people don't want to get.  If I
do examine and reject for content I'm almost certainly more liable
because it somehow implies a promise.  If the next spam changes a
couple of letters and slips through the filter I may be liable.  There 
are a couple of articles in this month's ";login:" magazine about that.  
It's probably not a concern for list managers, but it's probably in my 
interests to try and posture as a common carrier although it's by
no means obvious whether ISPs can claim that.

If I could simply reject mail that tried to use me as a relay, although
it might be a breech of SMTP standard I doubt that it would get me
sued.  I could be wrong.

BTW, does anybody but me see a little irony in saying that sendmail
is infinitely configurable, then saying in the same breath that I need
to get two more packages to configure it?  I'm reminded of a conversation
I had with a UNIX guru back in the 80s when I first started using
UNIX.  He asked how it was going and I said it was OK but UNIX didn't
seem to be very intuitive compared to some other operating systems I'd
worked on.  He said, "I thought that too when I first started using it,
but after 6 or 7 years it seems pretty intuitive".  The worst part is,
he wasn't kidding. :-)

I'm not putting the poster down, I do appreciate suggestions and I know
that the reality of doing computer work is you do have to cobble a lot
of things together sometimes to get a solution.  Using procmail and
smartmail does seem to work well for a lot of people in a lot of situations.
I just don't think this is one of them.


Sheryl Coppenger    SEAS Computing Facility Staff
                    The George Washington University     (202) 994-6853

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