Sending Email Securely: How to Avoid Blacklisting
Email was, is and will be one of primary communication means on the Net, for years to come.
Guestbooks and forums, instant messaging and social networks, many communication forms appeared since the invention of email (read: the protocols and standards it uses), but email holds its positions.
Anyone, with access to Internet, will inevitably create an electronic mailbox. Modern communications can’t avoid using it: almost everyone uses email as a channel to pass passwords, important news and so on.
Internet has developed and became a replica of the real world. Junk mail (spam), phishing, malware in attachments or links – these are just some of cyber-threats that plague email. Of course, when using email, you are expecting that your email will reach its recipient, and won’t be placed, for subsequent deletion, to spam folder and/or rejected on entrance.
How to achieve that? Here are some pieces of advice.
Your Own Domain
There are dozens of free email services: Yahoo, Google Mail, Yandex, GMX, Fastmail, to name just a few. There’s always a strong temptation to use it. For private correspondence, that’s fine. For business or any other purpose, it’s not. Free email service always attracts spammers and other types of cyber-crime, and does not look trustworthy.
Now that there are many top-level domains (TLD; the last part of any domain name); it’s much simpler to find domain name matching your name, occupation, trademark or business you own. With variety of domain registrars (Namesilo, Gandi, Bigrock, Namecheap, to name a few), you will not only get a fine and usually inexpensive domain name, but also an email service for it, included.
Your domain is (in most cases) your name on the Net, your property. When you’re using free email services, your’e one of the many. When you choose your own domain, you become unique. Apart from well-looking addresses, you no longer depend on your free mail services provider. If they choose to terminate their services, you won’t lose your address (imagine how much ado you will have switching all your correspondents to a new address).
One of the flaws of SMTP, a widely used protocol to send email, is the absence of a reliable user authentication. Anyone can, literally, send email message on behalf of any sender. To handle that, email authentication approaches have been invented, such as SPF (Sender Policy Framework), which defines, which hosts are allowed to send email on behalf of given domain; DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), which adds a digital signature to email, to ensure it has been sent by the party specified in From/Reply-To headers.
The two most popular authentication means do not provide 100% guarantee that email is authentic and safe, but they allow to ward off much spam and other junk mail.
If your outgoing mail server doesn’t support SPF and/or DKIM, you’re in trouble. Your messages will be most probably marked as junk. Good news is that the majority of mail services you could use with your domain (namely, all services using hosting controlled by major control panels) do support both SPF and DKIM. If you enter Mail section of, say, cPanel, you will see required links to enable authentication.
If you use either mail server run by popular control panel (such as cPanel), or use service allowing using user domains to receive mail for/send mail from addresses in them, such as FastMail or Google Apps, you will already have built-in capability to support mail authentication.
Mailing Lists: Be Extremely Careful
Mailing lists are still a powerful tool for feedback, marketing and many other uses. Naturally, mailing list owners do not wish to have their lists blacklisted. This is why specialized services are the best solution for such a need.
Services like Mandrill, MailChimp, PostMarkApp and many other provide you with all capabilities and features required to send legitimate, reliable mailing lists with minimal risk to get blacklisted.
If you are not afraid to do some configuring, you can also try Sendy; it uses Amazon SES, the least expensive mail sending service to date.
Although Web-based mail is very popular, if you use email professionally, you’re most probably using mail client software, such as Outlook, Thunderbird, Evolution and so on.
Please pay close attention to their security status and keep the clients updated. Recent events demonstrated that using out-of-date email client software may lead to jeopardizing your access to your mailbox, as well as the security of your computer.
See Whether You Are Listed
We all know that even the most unpleasant events still happen. So, in case you suddenly have started to have problems using your email box, make sure you (your IP address, IP address of your mail server) are not blacklisted.
Free tools like MXToolBox can help you to stay updated about the status of your mail server. Just run a test regularly, and/or subscribe to notifications, if you wish, to get updated promptly.
If you are (unfortunately) blacklisted, follow the description of the corresponding blacklist, to know how to get delisted.
There’s no magic tool to keep you always whitelisted, free of spam and other unpleasant modern email nuisances. However, if you are following the news and follow the mentioned directions, you most probably will not have major problems sending and receiving email.
May your mail be delivered promptly and without problems!