A Weblog About Topics and Issues Discussed in the Book Spam Kings by Brian McWilliams

« No more refills for pill spammers? | Main | Hotmail goes anonymous? »

April 26, 2005

AOL lands on spam blacklist

maps_sub_logo.gifIf you're an AOL user and your emails aren't reaching their recipients today, chances are you've been blacklisted.

In response to a handful of recent spam runs, Mail Abuse Prevention Systems (MAPS) has placed a large swath of AOL mail servers on the venerable MAPS Real-time Blackhole List (RBL).

The AOL listing at the MAPS site shows that eight IP ranges have been blacklisted -- affecting many of the systems that deliver AOL members' outbound mail.

According to Kalkea, the company that acquired MAPS last year, the RBL blacklist is used by some of the biggest ISPs in the world, including RoadRunner, USA.net, BT, Telstra -- and AOL itself.

The action by MAPS appears to have been prompted in part by several spam runs somehow relayed through AOL's mailservers on behalf of a pill site named simple-meds.com.

Samples of the spams show they are the work of "Vron," the alias of a prolific spammer who is an affiliate for BlackmarketMoney.com -- the spam affiliate network I wrote about last year for Salon. You can spot Vron's affiliate ID in the URL of the millions of spams he has sent out in the past months.

MAPS' action is bound to generate some complaints, especially since it apparently began blocking AOL's servers less than 24 hours after initially filing a warning to the big ISP.

The rise of MAPS is covered in chapter six of Spam Kings.

[UPDATE: Looks like MAPS changed its mind. As of Tuesday afternoon ET (GMT -4:00), AOL's listing at the MAPS site is gone, and a lookup shows AOL's mail servers no longer seem to be on the MAPS RBL list. No word yet on whether AOL resolved the spam problems, or if MAPS just decided to give AOL more time.]

Posted by brian at April 26, 2005 9:59 AM


Interesting, I just got one of those spams in my Junk Folder. Let's all get together and shut down AOL - it's not like they're going to last long anyways. Plus, the world will be a better place without all the net-newbies who buy from spam in the first place.

Posted by: Neal McLaren at April 26, 2005 2:04 PM

That might explain why my mail server is getting nailed with attempts to spam my domains like it usually is!

Posted by: Andrew at April 26, 2005 2:21 PM

*** Interesting, I just got one of those spams in my Junk Folder. Let's all get together and shut down AOL - it's not like they're going to last long anyways. Plus, the world will be a better place without all the net-newbies who buy from spam in the first place. ***

Comments like this one are a shining example of the sludge of evolution slowly dripping off of the face of the earth.

Posted by: Testing at April 26, 2005 2:38 PM

No. AOL is the shining example of the sludge of evolution slowly dripping off the face of the Earth.
His comment, while arguably misguided, only expresses a desire to speed up the process as AOL is definitely dripping off WAY too slowly.

Posted by: Griffin at April 26, 2005 3:01 PM

Pretty bone headed of MAPS to list AOL. AOL are one of the big corporations helping to fund the anti-spam lawsuits against the big full-time spammers.

Just shows how idiotic the little black hole list people have become.

Posted by: Idiots at April 26, 2005 3:47 PM

I think they are on relays.ordb.org also.

Posted by: No one at April 26, 2005 4:03 PM

Even if AOL were to drop/drip off the edge of the earth, most of it's customers are just going to go elsewhere. (probably MSN).

AOL's servers probably have the power and bandwidth to pump out a lot of SPAM. If someone figured out a way to zombify them, that could be very bad for the free world. Given that, it's not a shock that MAPS would lock them out after only 24 hours -- I also expect that they were also very eager to get AOL off of the list, tooq

Posted by: Stephen Samuel at April 26, 2005 4:12 PM

Ok, I have to say this. It's NOT stupid to blacklist AOL. It should have been done years ago. The only reasy they haven't been subject to this is because they were the world's largest ISP which is no reason to give them special treatments.

They have consistantly been the source of spam, spam issues, and let me tell you. They won't think twice about blacklisting someone just simply because one of their users said an email is spam. Disregard the fact that it was a mailing list that they DID sign up for but didn't feel the need to remove themselves from the list.

AOL needs to learn, and fast, that they can't keep pushing smaller ISPs and businesses around just because they WERE the largest ISP in the world. Even when one is the largest that doesn't make it right.

AOL is probably the WORST maintained network out there next to MCI/SBC and it behooves all of us to show ANY ISP that while the internet is largely uncontrolled that doesn't mean that there shouldn't be some self-policing going on. I've kicked 5 users off my network for either hacking or spamming. That's the way it goes. If these damn ISPs would actually give a flying crap about how much this kind of thing is costing them and the REST of the internet community, they might actually do something about it. Don't give these people a place to be safe and the problem goes away....imagine that.

Posted by: Ozymandias at April 26, 2005 4:20 PM

The shutting down AOL comment was made in jest, sorry for the confusion.

Posted by: Neal McLaren at April 26, 2005 6:47 PM

This is a reply to Ozymandias -

Again, AOL, Earthlink, Microsoft, etc, are *bankrolling* severval VERY EXPENSIVE lawsuits against spammers. Listing them in MAPS or any other RBL list is just plain stupid. Everyone should be teaming up to fight the spammers, not taking little potshots (which is what listing AOL in an RBL really is) here and there.

Posted by: OhBrother at April 26, 2005 7:00 PM

I work at the abuse desk of an ISP, and I will tell you that AOL constantly spams our abuse address with complaints(half of which aren't for our network) to the tune of about 300 emails a day on average. Nevermind that they don't reply to any responses and a great deal of them are from AOL users that forward mail to themsevles and then report themselves as spammers.

Additionally I terminate spammers all the time that try to use the excuse that they pay millions of dollars to AOL to get their emails whitelisted.

I've also heard rumors that AOL sells email lists, but can't confirm. I wouldn't be surprised either way on this. I do know that they try to act like they are big into anti-spam when in reality they don't seem to be all that interested in actually running a decent abuse department.

Posted by: abuse guy at April 26, 2005 9:10 PM

MAPS takes AOL mail servers off of their blacklist in less than 24 hours?

I am chalking this one up to a technical Knock-out. Obviously, AOL is much more powerful and stronger than MAPS. What did they think was going to happen? Hey MAPS, “you got knocked out”. I love it!

Posted by: Flogin at April 26, 2005 10:02 PM

Just because AOL is making some money by filing lawsuits against a few spammers does not mean they are should be given special privilage. They would shut themselves down if they followed their own no-spam policy they try to force on others.

Posted by: hello at April 26, 2005 10:11 PM

"Posted by: abuse guy at April 26, 2005 09:10 PM"

Abuse guy, email me! Time to dish about everything you said! EXACTLY my thoughts, and my everyday struggle! Customers forwarding their domain's email to AOL, thus blacklisting themselves when they hit the spam button! We could do nothing but stop allowing AOL forwaders. We would get thousands (yes) of useless feedback loop reports a day.

So AOL is leading a fight against spam, but what about doing it CORRECTLY?

Posted by: Kayla at April 27, 2005 12:10 AM

I can't help but laugh -- this is almost as funny as the days when Kelly Thompson and her brownshirt cohorts would believe bogus nominations and "crack dwn" on innocent parties. It's also funny that nobody on this blog seems to be aware that Thompson and Paul Vixie remain the target of a federal racketeering investigation -- and for what some in the big ISP biz world say is for very good reason. Wopuldn't mind seeing those two anal-retentive thugs frog marched, that's for sure...

Posted by: Kelly Thompson at April 27, 2005 12:35 AM

Great stuff, one of our friends sent us the link and iwas great, so we blogged about it. Great stuff, keep up the great work.

Posted by: Frank at April 27, 2005 9:07 AM

OMGz Im HeRe 4 My FreE AoL A/S/L?????

obviously the blacklist on AOL wouldn't stick, i doubt they so much changed their minds as got yelled at.

Posted by: Pavan at April 27, 2005 12:56 PM

I spoke to Kalkea directly over the phone regarding this issue. They confirmed that AOL took prompt steps to have themselves removed. There is no reason to think there was special treatment given.

This was not David with a slingshot, this was an informed, albeit belated, decision by MAPS to apply good sense across-the-board . . . even towards massive conglomerates.

I'm very confused by the commenters who appear to be celebrating the possibility that AOL was able to bully themselves off the list instead of taking concerted action to redeem themselves off the list. Do you not have an Inbox? AOL has horrible internal spam prevention practices (to say nothing of their misguided efforts to stop spam from others) and they have been gently spanked for it. This was good business all the way around.

Posted by: Robert Matney at April 27, 2005 6:38 PM

The Spams coming to my computer from AOL are very annoying. I don't want to see anymore AOL Spams when I am on the computer.

Posted by: f. Grandos at June 11, 2005 8:35 PM


Weblog authors are solely responsible for the content and accuracy of their weblogs, including opinions they express,
and O’Reilly Media, Inc., disclaims any and all liability for that content, its accuracy, and opinions it may contain.

All trademarks and registered trademarks appearing on spamkings.oreilly.com are the property of their respective owners.

O'Reilly Home | Privacy Policy

© 2004 O'Reilly Media, Inc.
For assistance with this site, email: