Email Woes

The last few days have seen some challenges with campus email. The main symptom was delayed delivery of inbound email caused by a massive increase in the volume of email we were receiving, including “pharmaceutical” spam.

First, I want to thank the community for their patience as ITS staff worked to identify and mitigate the problems. Second, I want to thank all the ITS staff who have been pulling out all the stops to resolve the issues.

But I also wanted to take this opportunity to delve a bit deeper, especially for those who experienced an increase in the number of spam messages they received over the last day or two.

Email might seem like a basic, simple tool, but behind the scenes is an extremely complex infrastructure, only partially managed by the University. This infrastructure includes routing technology, load balancing, and spam detection, among other things.

Spam detection is especially interesting; if you set detection as being too sensitive, you risk false positives and miss real email. Set it to be less sensitive, and we all receive way more spam than we would ever want. Staff are constantly working with anti-spam vendors and tweaking settings to find the right balance.

Unfortunately, however, the whole thing is not simply agnostic. The world is filled with “bad apples” who are constantly trying to circumvent our safeguards (not just us, of course – the whole world). They are working just as hard to get their spam / scams / viruses / phishing messages through.

Email is a pretty steady service overall. But once in a blue moon, we hit a glitch. In the case of the past few days, the big increase of inbound messages was one such glitch. But hopefully we are on the way back to stability. And again, thank you for your collective patience.

PS – here’s the link to some best practices in dealing with some of the junk we get:
http://main.its.utoronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Phishing-Prevention.pdf

Posted in Communications, News, Technical Issues