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Microsoft has blacklisted Oxford University for unknown reasons, prevent students from accessing Hotmail and other services.  (Source: Oxford University)
Microsoft's motives for action is unknown, Oxford's semester is about to start

We received word from Oxford University in the UK today that Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) has blacklisted the campus for unknown reasons.  

Peter Bushnell, Oxford U. ICT officer writes:

If anyone is interested Oxford University has been blacklisted and cannot currently mail Hotmail/Live and some others. This has been going on for a week now.
 
We have only been given a small snippet from the Microsoft postmaster "we are unable to take action ... we are not at liberty to discuss the nature of the block". That's a nice brickwall Microsoft has.
 
From the OU Computing Services news page.
 
Ongoing problems with email to Hotmail, Live, MSN etc.
There is a problem, caused by an error in a non-OUCS department, that means the University cannot currently send email to several services, including Hotmail, MSN, Live and others. If you send email to any affected service it will either bounce back with an error or be held on the Oxford email systems until it can be delivered. Receiving email from these services remains unaffected but replies to such messages will not get through. Note that auto-forwarding your Oxford email to any of the affected services will not work at the moment so you may like to adjust your settings. OUCS is working hard to fix this problem but some factors out of our control mean we can't yet give an estimated fix time. We are sorry for the obvious inconvenience this will cause.
 
Help us Daily Tech. We are unable to contact a large number of people just as term is about to start next Monday.

We fact checked this -- Oxford U.'s ICT homepage is indeed complaining about a service outage, which is preventing people from reaching Hotmail.  

We have contacted a Microsoft spokesperson with whom we've worked in the past, seeking clarification as to why the university has been banned from Microsoft's services.

Update: Microsoft's spokesperson let us know that they are contacting their colleagues seeking more information on this.  We'll keep you updated when we find out more.

Update 2 (10/3/2011 11:00 a.m.):
While we're still waiting for complete info back from our Microsoft contact, the folks over at Neowin have posted a solid followup.

In that piece, they dug up the cause of the blockade.  They write:

Neowin's own Dave Legg reports that the Hotmail ban was due to an mailing list misconfiguration which resulted in replies being sent to all subscribers. This caused Microsoft to ban the University's outgoing email server.

And apparently Oxford, following DailyTech and Neowin's pieces managed to get the issues resolved.  A post on their site states:

Oxford Hotmail block lifted and nearing full resolutionThe Hotmail block on mail sent from Oxford University has been removed. Mails from Oxford to Hotmail, Live and MSN sent and queued from last week may take a day or so to deliver. Once that has happened you'll be able to send to Hotmail, Live and MSN again. For a fuller version of this please click the title of this item.

Microsoft is scheduled to hold a special Hotmail-related event today, so the timing of the blockage, was somewhat ironic.

Source: Oxford University



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

IT
By hankw on 9/30/2011 5:59:19 PM , Rating: 2
Let's hope it's not just Oxford's IT department messing up. :)




RE: IT
By mmatis on 9/30/2011 6:15:06 PM , Rating: 5
Well of course! Far better that it be Microsoft's "IT department" messing up instead...


RE: IT
By Lifted on 9/30/2011 7:06:04 PM , Rating: 5
Of course they have messed up. If it has taken them longer than 24 hours after figuring out what was going on to resolve this, the manager there should be fired.

Sounds like spam was coming from their outbound SMTP server, or somewhere else on the network, and Microsoft and others blacklisted their server or entire network.

Shouldn't take more than a few hours to setup a temporary SMTP relay in a datacenter, VPN to the relay, and route outbound email to the services blocking them through it.


RE: IT
By borismkv on 9/30/2011 9:46:57 PM , Rating: 2
Well, Oxford isn't known for their IT courses...


RE: IT
By rudy on 10/1/2011 12:09:26 AM , Rating: 3
Doesn't matter I have been to several universities which teach great stuff about networking, programming, anything computer related, yet they seem completely incapable of practicing what they preach. Universities do not make professors run their IT departments they hire average IT staff to do that.


RE: IT
By dijuremo on 10/1/2011 10:19:55 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
Universities do not make professors run their IT departments they hire average IT staff to do that.


And what makes you think that a faculty member can actually do system administration? Those two are very different fields. Working at an educational institution, I have seen brilliant faculty members who are incapable of something as simple as installing and securing a Windows machine. Furthermore, the ones who actually try to administer servers themselves have a main objective, to get them working, not to secure them, protect the data, etc.

So do not simply blame it on the IT staff.


RE: IT
By rudy on 10/3/2011 2:04:46 PM , Rating: 2
I am not giving more credit to professors than they deserve I am merely pointing out that the poster above is completely off in thinking that the reputation of a university has anything to do with their networking. I of course am fully aware that higher percent of professors use macs and could not do much of anything on a computer to save their lives. But we are talking about CS professors which should be slightly better than that.


RE: IT
By Hieyeck on 10/3/2011 8:25:09 AM , Rating: 2
Welcome to the real world, where no one cares about IT til it all blows up in your face.

People seem to forget that IT is a service. Kinda like plumbing. When was the last time you cared to replace the water heater in your home? As long as the water's working, you could care less.

Lab work has you hooking up 10 computers with $10000 of equipment. Real work needs you to hook up 10000 computers with $10 of equipment.


RE: IT
By zmatt on 9/30/2011 11:03:12 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds likely to me. Someone's email account has probably been compromised or perhaps a pc on campus was infected through a virus either from a student's flash drive or web browsing habits and it spammed Microsoft servers. The system automatically blacklisted the network.


RE: IT
By semo on 10/1/11, Rating: -1
RE: IT
By MrWho on 9/30/2011 7:50:54 PM , Rating: 4
"Let's hope it's not just Oxford's IT department messing up. :)"

Not 'messing up' - they're acting on the student's best interests by keeping them from using hotmail and making them use better mail services!


RE: IT
By Shig on 9/30/2011 8:29:42 PM , Rating: 2
I smell a botnet!


RE: IT
By MartyLK on 9/30/11, Rating: -1
RE: IT
By damianrobertjones on 10/1/2011 1:46:07 PM , Rating: 2
Dumb reply.

ALL companies have morons and deabeats once the staff number passes... 4


RE: IT
By MartyLK on 10/1/11, Rating: -1
RE: IT
By Helbore on 10/3/2011 9:23:14 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
How many companies launch a new product that is 3 years behind the competition?


quote:
The biggest excuse I hear from people defending the lack of WM7 features is that the iPhone and Android didn't have those feature when they were launched.


Sounds like you answered your own question, there!


RE: IT
By MartyLK on 10/3/2011 1:32:10 PM , Rating: 2
LOL...you are suggesting that excuse is legitimate, I hope?

Seriously, how would a company fare if it had to continually reinvent some aspect of it for a new launch?

Should car companies reinvent A/C or the wheel when they launch a new car?


RE: IT
By Helbore on 10/4/2011 5:24:53 AM , Rating: 2
No, but you asked how many companies did that, as if Microsoft were alone in the smartphone industry in that respect. They're not, the other major players are just as bad.


RE: IT
By MastermindX on 10/3/2011 12:43:37 PM , Rating: 2
Damn... I was the 5th hired at my company!

Makes me wonder...


RE: IT
By cjohnson2136 on 10/3/2011 4:07:08 PM , Rating: 2
They hired you because the 4th was a moron so they had to make that statement true.


Another Case of Nerd Warz
By The Insolent One on 9/30/2011 10:23:10 PM , Rating: 5
This is just one nerd hiding behind his monitor, firing his lazor at another nerdz network.

I know this might be a novel idea to some, but has anyone at Hotmail ever heard of picking up a phone and saying "Hey man...you have a botnet on your IP block"? Please make it go away."

Our world is de-evolving.




RE: Another Case of Nerd Warz
By rudy on 10/1/2011 12:11:54 AM , Rating: 1
Ya like a giant service like hotmail has time to do that, we are talking about a university here and possibly not even the only one blocked. This is not half of China. This news is just sensionalism at its best. Probably nothing to see here but an automatic block that will get sorted out.


RE: Another Case of Nerd Warz
By 0ldman on 10/1/2011 12:01:11 PM , Rating: 3
Ever worked for an ISP, email service or school system?

Yea, we IT folks just have time to search out every IP attacking and call them to report it, only to have some smart ass tell us off over the phone and ignore our logs from the attack.

Sometimes its worth a phone call, 50/50 shot of anyone actually answering, 25% chance they'll do anything about it and absolutely no chance that they will talk to you after the fact.


By The Insolent One on 10/1/2011 2:43:10 PM , Rating: 2
To answer your question, "Yes".

Not only have I worked in the IT department at a university (USC), but now I own a rather large ISP.

But that is irrelevant.

However, when you add a significant block of IPs (like the size of a major university) to your personal blacklist and your name is Microsoft, you know exactly who it belongs to.


RE: Another Case of Nerd Warz
By dark matter on 10/1/2011 7:54:05 PM , Rating: 2
You do realise some universities have some rather large IP blocks... Being the first "users" on the Internet.

In fact, do you even know how IP blocks even work...

Or how the Internet came about.

Sheesh.


botnet?
By menting on 9/30/2011 6:20:09 PM , Rating: 5
maybe someone using Oxford's network set up a botnet to spam emails, and Hotmail's system blackmailed the whole domain.




RE: botnet?
By fic2 on 9/30/2011 7:47:44 PM , Rating: 2
Highly possible. There is a report that MS and Kaspersky took down a large botnet this week.


RE: botnet?
By The Insolent One on 10/1/2011 2:57:58 PM , Rating: 3
I love the Freudian slip on "Blackmailed".

Well played.


LOL! I love it...
By Boze on 9/30/2011 8:25:41 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
General Mick, years ago you helped us in the Technology Wars in our struggle against bloated OS software. I regret that I am unable to present our headmaster's request in e-mail, but our servers are under attack, and I'm afraid our e-mail has failed. I have placed information vital to the survival of the start of our students' semester in this e-mail. You must see this message safely delivered to them. This is our most desperate hour. Help us Daily Tech, you're my only hope.


Yeah yeah, I know its not exact, but its the first thing that popped into my mind.




Better be fixed soon
By B3an on 10/1/2011 1:53:03 PM , Rating: 2
My brother goes to Oxford and he's going back tomorrow, he even does IT related stuff there, he likely wouldn't have known about this so soon if i didn't read this site. I'm sure MS wouldn't blacklist Oxford, one of the best uni's in the world, unless they had a very good reason. But who knows, maybe MS are doing it because Oxford sadly use a lot of Macs... ;) you'd think uni's would have the sense to use real and fully capable computers and not limit there students and make life harder for them with Apple toys.




RE: Better be fixed soon
By Argon18 on 10/2/11, Rating: -1
hostages
By Argon18 on 10/2/11, Rating: -1
RE: hostages
By Lifted on 10/2/2011 12:37:27 PM , Rating: 3
You sound a bit off your rocker, but do you actually have any idea what you are talking about? Other than your nerd-rage hate of Windows, what does that have anything to do with this?

quote:
relay8.mail.ox.ac.uk ESMTP Exim 4.75 Sun, 02 Oct 2011 17:34:04 +0100


Windows not found.


Blocking email should be illegal!
By EricMartello on 9/30/11, Rating: -1
RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By fic2 on 9/30/2011 7:49:13 PM , Rating: 3
Yes. It is better that people's bot'd machines continue sending spam than to actually severe them from the world. </sarcasm>


RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By EricMartello on 10/1/11, Rating: -1
RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By Helbore on 10/3/2011 9:30:19 AM , Rating: 1
Have you any idea what these botnets do to mail servers? THEY disrupt the flow of mail traffic because they swamp servers with useless crap.

Good for you running your own mail server and doing your own spam filtering. Try running one that supports thousands of users and millions of emails, then come back and tell us that filtering dodgy email at the moment of connection is a bad thing.


RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By EricMartello on 10/3/2011 12:22:45 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Have you any idea what these botnets do to mail servers? THEY disrupt the flow of mail traffic because they swamp servers with useless crap.


Rate limiters plus the fact that most consumer internet connections block port 25 have largely diffused the botnet problem. Again, you idiots keep coming here with claims that were valid in 1999 but hold no water in 2011. Times have changed, bro. Spam isn't the big evil monster you seem to think it is (and never really was; it's just email).

Modern email services can prioritize delivery based on the sender. It is not possible for them to disrupt traffic, certainly never as disruptive as blocking an entire subnet of IPs.

quote:
Good for you running your own mail server and doing your own spam filtering. Try running one that supports thousands of users and millions of emails, then come back and tell us that filtering dodgy email at the moment of connection is a bad thing.


My mail server does not filter spam, it limits incoming connections and the rate at which email can be delivered. My email client does the filtering. As is typical you missed the point entirely. You are advocating ISP nannyism because you yourself are too incompetent to filter email yourself.


RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By Helbore on 10/3/2011 3:36:35 PM , Rating: 2
You think I missed the point? You're the one comparing your diddy home server to Hotmail!

I have my own server at home and I don't have any antispam functionality on it at all. I don't need it for my own little server. I am, however, not stupid enough to compare my own little server to a large-scale email service. But then that's probably because I also administer email servers of varying sizes for many different companies.

I guess you've never seen a mail server brough to its knees by being bombarded with spam. I have and it wasn't in 1999, either. Rate limiters and prioritisation are no help when legitimate email is sitting behind thousands of spam emails and the server is struggling to deliver them all.


By EricMartello on 10/4/2011 3:48:08 PM , Rating: 2
No, I am not comparing my personal server to Hotmail. What I am saying is that EMAIL FILTRATION SHOULD ONLY HAPPEN ON THE RECIPIENTS' MACHINES AND NOT BY THE SERVICE PROVIDER.

Let's get try to understand that. I even caps'd it for you.

quote:
I guess you've never seen a mail server brough to its knees by being bombarded with spam. I have and it wasn't in 1999, either. Rate limiters and prioritisation are no help when legitimate email is sitting behind thousands of spam emails and the server is struggling to deliver them all.


If these are servers you set up then whoever hired you should fire you and possibly sue you for misrepresentation and gross incompetence.

I have spec'd out and configured email servers for various companies, where a single 1U box is able to process 10 million messages daily without ever becoming unresponsive due to load or network timeouts. If you needed to handle more volume, add a box until you have the capacity you need. Even an untuned install of Exim or Postfix on a modest server could handle thousands of messages per second without becoming overwhelmed.

Your network will not be bombarded with spam if you take steps to secure it properly. Even following guidelines provided by RFC such as denying connections from fake HELO or HELO that is the same as your server would eliminate a lot of spam connections. There are also configuration options for the MTA software (i.e. the server) that allow you to control how it reacts based on system load.

Rate limiters can and do help because you would also be maintaining a whitelist of IPs/domains that are not subject to the limiters, so while spammer connections are being refused due to rate limit violations, your whitelisted domains get through unscathed...but hey, I'm sure a genius admin like you already knew these basic things.


By PitViper007 on 10/3/2011 5:11:20 PM , Rating: 2
Good case in point: Our email server back "in the day" was showing 90-95% CPU utilization constantly. We contacted out a spam filter company and that load dropped to around 30%. Now granted, this was an old Compaq Proliant 800 server (and was old then) but that just goes to show how much spam or junk mail or whatever you want to call it can disrupt an email service.


RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By ElementZero on 9/30/2011 7:49:44 PM , Rating: 3
umm - this is Microsoft's email servers blocking mail, probably because spam mail was sent to hotmail users from Oxfords network one too many times.

Blacklists are absolutely necessary as you would get tons of spam otherwise. Also you don't normally get on a blacklist unless your email server is spamming someone.

Seems like you have no clue what a blacklist is in the first place so please do some research before posting.


RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By EricMartello on 10/1/11, Rating: -1
By The Insolent One on 10/1/2011 9:25:17 PM , Rating: 2
I love EricMartello.

His posts are so much prettier and "more colorful" than everyone else.

Every time he posts there is a red bar at the top.

We only get grey.

I'm jealous.


RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By WeaselITB on 10/3/2011 10:15:21 AM , Rating: 2
Nobody is blocking Oxford from sending messages. Hotmail/Live/etc. are blocking on the receiving end, which they are well within their right to do.

You're allowed to park and drive your car anywhere you want, but I don't want you parking or driving on my property. Same concept.

-Weasel


RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By EricMartello on 10/3/2011 12:39:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Nobody is blocking Oxford from sending messages. Hotmail/Live/etc. are blocking on the receiving end, which they are well within their right to do.


If you run a private email service, fine...but a large SERVICE PROVIDER like Hotmail - regardless of whether they are free or not - should not legally be able to block communications for any reason. Yes, unfortunately due to idiotic laws, they are legally able to do this and get away with it.

quote:
You're allowed to park and drive your car anywhere you want, but I don't want you parking or driving on my property. Same concept.


No, it's not the same concept because hotmail is a communications service provider, not an individual running their own server like I do. A more accurate analogy would be a big company saying that cars cannot use the state highway that runs past their building because they need to keep it clear for their employees.


RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By Lifted on 10/3/2011 12:51:42 PM , Rating: 2
You don't have a clue, Eric.

Just upgraded my companies email systems - $250k.

Amount of inbound email filtered by our spam filtering systems - 95%. 90% of the SMTP connections are outright blocked (ohhh the humanity!) and 50% of what is allowed in ends up being filtered as spam/virus/etc.

Besides the fact that we, and every other business out there, are required to pay for a spam filtering solution (acquisition, deployment, and support | or outsourced), imagine what the costs of our 1/4 million dollar email system would have cost had we followed your advice and not blocked 95% of inbound email from reaching our mail servers.

Seriously, get a clue before you carry on like some sort of spam activist. "Oh, won't somebody think of the poor spam".


By EricMartello on 10/4/2011 3:59:02 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You don't have a clue, Eric.

Just upgraded my companies email systems - $250k.


It's funny when someone tells me to get a clue, then immediately follows up with a self-damning statement. You let your company spend $250K for "email systems". Really? What kind of email volume is your company pushing that requires $250K for "email systems" alone?

quote:
Amount of inbound email filtered by our spam filtering systems - 95%. 90% of the SMTP connections are outright blocked (ohhh the humanity!) and 50% of what is allowed in ends up being filtered as spam/virus/etc.


Wow, your company must be employing a lot of incompetent idiots if nearly 100% of the email you receive is spam/virus/malware. The only way that would happen is if most of your employees spend a good portion of their time signing up for scam offers and stupid websites that are unrelated to work.

quote:
Besides the fact that we, and every other business out there, are required to pay for a spam filtering solution (acquisition, deployment, and support | or outsourced), imagine what the costs of our 1/4 million dollar email system would have cost had we followed your advice and not blocked 95% of inbound email from reaching our mail servers.


Required by whom? Talking out of your ass to feel self-important is one thing, but now you're just spreading outright lies.

quote:
Seriously, get a clue before you carry on like some sort of spam activist. "Oh, won't somebody think of the poor spam".


No, I am not a "spam activist" but I am not interested in giving the government or corporations more power to control communications. Ask 10 people to define "spam" and you'll get 10 different answers - which is exactly why it should be illegal for tools like you to make decisions about what is acceptable email and which is not.

BTW, unless you are a spammer, I don't see the need for a $250K email system...either you're in the spamming business or your company has no concept of controlling costs.


RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By Schrag4 on 10/3/2011 1:15:26 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Once again, who is deciding what is spam and what is not?


I think it's pretty clear. Spam is email you didn't sign up to recieve.

quote:
Facebook and twitter send billions of emails per day, a lot of it can be considered "spammy" since it's related to automated status updates...but for some reason you don't see either of them getting blocked for "spamming".


You signed up for that.


By EricMartello on 10/4/2011 4:08:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I think it's pretty clear. Spam is email you didn't sign up to recieve.


Oh thanks for coming in here and single-handedly dispelling all controversy about the true definition of spam. Please explain to me why people who sign up for something, such as coupons or discount promo codes, then receive promotional email which they did agree to by signing up - turn around and complain that they are being spammed.

Do you remember when Microsoft blocked BlueMountain's greeting card email notifications claiming "spam", but the reality was that Microsoft wanted to promote their own ecard service. How dubious, and how convenient that the definition of spam is so pliable.

quote:
quote:
Facebook and twitter send billions of emails per day, a lot of it can be considered "spammy" since it's related to automated status updates...but for some reason you don't see either of them getting blocked for "spamming".


You signed up for that.


Pretty sure I signed up to be a user of facebook - not signing up to receive an email notification every time someone on my "friends list" finds a golden chicken egg in farmville. By my definition, it is spam.


RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By rudy on 10/1/2011 12:12:51 AM , Rating: 2
This is not an ISP.


RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By drycrust3 on 10/1/2011 1:12:04 AM , Rating: 1
Obviously you don't understand how serious spam is. Last year there were 107 trillion emails sent, 89% of which were spam. This costs billions of dollars, and that cost is born by us because the costs of it are passed on to us consumers.


RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By EricMartello on 10/1/11, Rating: -1
RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By Camikazi on 10/2/2011 7:06:06 PM , Rating: 2
Umm bandwidth does cost money... so yea spam does cost a lot of money and since companies like to pass any cost to the consumers yea it affects us.


By EricMartello on 10/3/2011 12:33:40 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Umm bandwidth does cost money... so yea spam does cost a lot of money and since companies like to pass any cost to the consumers yea it affects us.


Wait, let me get this straight...in this day and age where people spend the bulk of their time trolling streaming video sites, you are going to make the claim that the bandwidth used by email is so crippling that it increases the cost of bandwidth for consumers? REALLY? Ignoring the fact that Tx, OC-x and other "enterprise class" bandwidth has dropped in price drastically since 1999...

Average size of an email: 2KB

Average bitrate of standard quality online video: 250 Kbps

Even with billions of 2KB email being blasted around, a busy video site like Youtube is going to use a hell of a lot more bandwidth.

You're full of sh1t and misinformation just as the other sheep who are on the "it's ok to block email" bandwagon. You are so dumb that you bought into corporate propaganda about how detrimental this "spam problem" is, and in doing so you gave corporations the power to censor a fundamental form of internet communications however they please with ZERO liability for doing so.


RE: Blocking email should be illegal!
By nocturne_81 on 10/1/2011 1:40:45 AM , Rating: 1
I agree in a sense, but only in the case of ISP's and backbone suppliers.. any in charge of delivering content from A to B should not have any effect on said content's transmission.

But, as for a privately owned and funded network/website, they are well within their rights. If I wanted to block any specific IP address range/subset from accessing my webservers, that is completely within my rights as they are my personal property -- and I can control any access however I choose.


By nocturne_81 on 10/1/2011 1:46:43 AM , Rating: 2
I should state, however, I'm always at odds with Yahoo any time I set up a new server/domain.. My setups are transparent, I maintain GLU DNS records, and in no way at all send massive amounts of email traffic -- yet I always end up blacklisted.

Despite my all of my attempts to contact their staff to work these situations out, and follow all of their advisories while setting up all of my mail servers, I never get anywhere. And I absolutely refuse to spend a hundred bucks a year per domain to have Verisign 'verify' each of my sites. My contact info is on all my whois's -- just give me a call, letter, or email if there is a problem!


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