Why am I suddenly receiving a large number of "Undeliverable Mail" messages?

Some SSCC members have had their inboxes flooded with large numbers of "Undeliverable Mail" and other bounce messages. This is a campus-wide problem and there's no good solution, but we've found that any given individual is only affected for a relatively short time.

These messages are the result of email spoofing. Spammers frequently hide their identities by putting other peoples' email addresses in the From: field of the messages they send, making it appear as though the message originated elsewhere. They also send to a large number of email addresses, some of which may no longer exist. If a spammer happens to put your email address in their messages' From: field, you will get "Undeliverable Mail" replies from all the bad addresses they send to. For whatever reason, one or more spammers have been putting addresses, including addresses, in their From: fields for the last two weeks.

In a typical incident, a user will find themselves receiving very large numbers of bounce messages, in some cases hundreds of them, for about two hours. Then they stop. Some unlucky users have been targeted twice, and we have seen a few cases where bounce messages continued coming in for a couple of days (though in smaller numbers). But it has always stopped eventually. Of course that's no comfort while it's going on--several SSCC staff email addresses have been affected and we know how frustrating it is.

People need to know if their legitimate messages are bouncing, and unfortunately email servers can't distinguish legitimate bounces from illegitimate bounces. Thus having our email server delete all such replies isn't a good option. Sorting your inbox by subject can make it easier to quickly delete these messages (unless you use SquirrelMail, in which case you should read our tip of the month below). If you'd rather not just wait out the problem, you can set up a filter in your email program such that everything with "Undeliverable Mail" in the subject line is sent to a special folder, and then review it at your convenience. Contact SSCC's help desk for assistance (, 262-9917).

Winstat Changes

Next week we will be adding three new Winstat servers to the Windows Terminal Server farm. This will bring our total server count to 12. Earlier in the week we upgraded SPSS to version 16 (including a fix for the autosave bug) and Dreamweaver to version CS3.

Tip: Use a Dedicated Email Program When You Can Rather than SquirrelMail

SquirrelMail, the SSCC's web-based email program, is a splendid tool for travelers or anyone using a computer other than their own. However, it is slower and has fewer features than a dedicated email program like Thunderbird or Outlook Express. For example, anyone who is a victim of the spammer spoofing described above will definitely want the ability to quickly select and delete large numbers of messages, and SquirrelMail can't do that. Most email programs also have superior abilities to sort and display messages, filter messages, and work with folders.

Our recommendation is that you install and configure the email program of your choice on your computer and, if possible, any other computer you'll be using for more than a short period of time. Reserve SquirrelMail for times when you can't install anything else, or won't be using a particular computer long enough to make it worthwhile. Our publication collection has a section on email, including step-by-step instructions for setting up Thunderbird and Outlook Express, plus a list of settings for our email server which you can use to configure other email programs.