May 7, 2013

How to Deal with Abuse Complaints


Here at INAP, we work very hard to maintain the reputation of our network.  This includes of course, quickly and efficiently handling abuse complaints to ensure that our servers and services are not causing a problem for anyone else out on the Internet. Our abuse team makes sure that every valid complaint that is submitted to is forwarded onto the appropriate party.  That said, here is some helpful information you can use when an abuse complaint lands on your doorstep.

Seriously, this is the first, and most important step.  The worst thing you can do is nothing.  If we never hear back on the status of a complaint, and the malicious content is still there, we are often left with no choice but to shut off the device generating the nasty stuff until we hear back from the operator.  Make sure that your primary contact email on your account has whitelisted.  This is crucial as oftentimes the complaints we have to forward usually contain a snippet or information regarding the spam, phishing sites, etc, and it can get chewed up by your spam filter.  Even if you don’t have time or are temporarily unable to handle a complaint, let us know when you can check on it.

Got Management?
If you are unsure of how to handle an abuse complaint, and you have management for the affected server, you can always submit a support ticket regarding it.  This way, the complaint will be swiftly handled by myself or another one of our system administrators 24×7, rain or shine.  For us, it can be rather enjoyable sifting through mail logs, checking timestamps, tracking down how, when, and where spam was sent.

Resellers, Pay it Forward
If you happen to resell any of our services, it is important to ensure that your clients are dealing with abuse complaints in a timely manner as well.  After all, the buck has to stop somewhere.  Many of our larger partners operate abuse departments of their own, and work with our abuse team extensively to ensure that their own networks are kept clean and abuse-free as well.

Feedback Loops Are Our Friends!
INAP has  automated spam reporting using what are called feedback loops. How does it work?  We signed up with major mail providers (Google, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, etc.) so that they notify us whenever one of their users marks a message as spam that originated on our network.  Our system checks the complaint, and matches the IP Address to the server, and automatically notifies the affected operator.  Basically, if you see a lot of these during a particular timeframe, it is usually a dead giveaway that something on that IP was sending out spam.

Policy Review
If you do plan on using your server to send out large amounts of (legitimate) mail, please take the time to ensure that your methods are in line with INAP’s Terms of Service and Acceptable Usage Policy, easily reviewable at

Cleaning Up
Once you have dealt with any abuse issues, it doesn’t hurt to verify that your server’s reputation on the internet is left intact. IP address reputation is usually governed by Realtime Black-hole Lists (RBLs), which are listings of IP Addresses accessible by DNS.  If one of these RBLs find that your IPs have been sending too much spam, they will list you, and any mail server on the internet that uses that RBL will not accept mail from you.  Some good resources to check if and where you are listed are and  If you find yourself listed, the RBL will usually have information on how to get delisted, and we here at INAP are more than glad to assist you in this endeavor.

Updated: January 2019

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