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Email broken? - here's one explanation...

sinewave
Grafter
Posts: 297
Registered: 17-08-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

My Sister uses Plusnet which I help her with. Her son has his own mail box set-up so he effectively has his own email and can check/download his emails separately from his family. He called me today explaining he had not received email since November 27th. He's "big" on myspace so there was clearly something wrong(!).

We checked via webmail and there were hundreds of emails sitting there since November 27th, uncollected. I set-up my own computer to check his email and like his set-up there appeared to be no email to collect!!

I called PN support and and nice fellow said that a couple of weeks ago he solved a similar problem. It turned out there was a bad (corrupted) email that was interfering with things on PN's email server.

Looking via webmail at the top of the list were two emails 0kB in size. We deleted them and then checked email in the usual way via our normal email software. It worked! Both "bad" emails were from his myspace friends. Unfortunately we didn't try to read them before we deleted them.

great problem solved! But...

It worries me that someone can send an email that will sit on PN's mail servers that results in you not being able to collect email.

What gives thereHuh

If I could re-produce those "bad" emails surely I could just send them to lots of folk with the result of disabling their email! They are not viruses but I could cause a lot of harm or inconvenience.

I can't help feeling this is a security issue.

Comments?

for the record both my nephew and I use Mac's (OS 10.4.Cool and Apple's own Mail software.
14 REPLIES
James
Grafter
Posts: 21,036
Registered: 04-04-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

It's an old, old problem that I've seen with numerous ISP's. An email with no body content can't be downloaded, causing all over emails to be non retrievable.

Definitely not a security concern.
Liam
Grafter
Posts: 2,083
Registered: 04-04-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

I have asked Networks for some clarification on why this happens but I certainly don't see it as a security issue.

Will report back on my findings :-)
James
Grafter
Posts: 21,036
Registered: 04-04-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

It's an email client issue, not a Networks issue.
Community Veteran
Posts: 26,357
Thanks: 607
Fixes: 8
Registered: 10-04-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

... and nothing to do with the corrupted blank emails that were be created by mxcore04, 06 and 12?
jelv (a.k.a Spoon Whittler)
   Why I have left Plusnet (warning: long post!)   
Broadband: Andrews & Arnold Home::1 (FTTC 80/20)
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James
Grafter
Posts: 21,036
Registered: 04-04-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

Sorry John,

I'm not arguing against that. I'm just saying that my understanding is that whilst the corrupted emails will have something to do with this, Outlook and Outlook Express (from memory) appear to be unable to handle this kind of issue.
Liam
Grafter
Posts: 2,083
Registered: 04-04-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

Well my Outlook was downloading E-mail with no body perfectly fine the other day when the mxcore's were removing it.
Community Veteran
Posts: 26,357
Thanks: 607
Fixes: 8
Registered: 10-04-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

So how about an advisory service status posting saying that if you can't get your email check in webmail and delete any blank emails?

Incidentally, the blank emails I've posted about elsewhere were all successfully retrieved by Outlook 2003.
jelv (a.k.a Spoon Whittler)
   Why I have left Plusnet (warning: long post!)   
Broadband: Andrews & Arnold Home::1 (FTTC 80/20)
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Liam
Grafter
Posts: 2,083
Registered: 04-04-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

If this was a widespread problem then we would be getting a higher level of calls and tickets than normal on this.

And if that is the case, then a Service Status would be necessary.

We're not entirely certain what the problem is. So lets find that out first.
sinewave
Grafter
Posts: 297
Registered: 17-08-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

The reason I said it was a security issue is that email was effectively disabled by someone or something other than the user. If its possible to send someone an appropriately 'wrong" email that results in effective breakdown of that someone's email, I would have thought that that could be exploited by the unscrupulous.

As I mentioned, this occurred using a Mac with apple's Mail software so you can add that to the list of email clients that are affected. That list seems to cover a vast number of email users!


Considering the devastation of this issue (ie disabling of email!) I would have thought someone other than the customer/user should be thinking about how to cure the issue. I cannot see how anyone can justify it being a user's/customers responsibility.

Support said another user had this within the last two weeks and of course this could be coincidence - but I would suggest that even if there is just one user (out of PN's 200,000) getting this problem every week then its an issue that ~someone~ should address.

James, I am surprised how quickly you have dismissed this issue as unimportant. One of your customers has been without email since November 27th. The fact it is an "old, old problem" that is well known to ISP's is no comfort at all.

It would at least be comforting to know if its extremely rare and impossible to exploit in any way.
Community Veteran
Posts: 26,357
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Email broken? - here's one explanation...

Quote
Considering the devastation of this issue (ie disabling of email!) I would have thought someone other than the customer/user should be thinking about how to cure the issue. I cannot see how anyone can justify it being a user's/customers responsibility.


Absolutely right! What did Apple say when you raised it with them?
jelv (a.k.a Spoon Whittler)
   Why I have left Plusnet (warning: long post!)   
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Community Veteran
Posts: 1,160
Thanks: 1
Registered: 01-08-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

Quote
As I mentioned, this occurred using a Mac with apple's Mail software so you can add that to the list of email clients that are affected.

I use my Mac's Mail program (version 2.1) and still got a few of those emails through which had no subject line or body.
Plusnet user since November 2003
Currently on Unlimited Fibre Extra and Unlimited UK & Mobile Calls
sinewave
Grafter
Posts: 297
Registered: 17-08-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

elvin,
I have not raised this with apple yet - lets face it they are not the sort of company to provide a useful personal response. I will notify them if I can confirm it is a fault with Mail of course. This is why it will be useful to have a conclusive response from PN regarding the issue.


sybilandbarry,

I don't think its the same as having a blank subject line or body. I suspect its when there is ~no~ body. Like the email is just a header. Some sort of corrupted email anyway. The size of the mail was 0kB fwiw.

To be clear I have not experienced or heard of this problem ever before - and I started with 28.8k modems. One reason I was surprised by james's comment of it being an "old old problem".
carrot63
Grafter
Posts: 599
Registered: 12-07-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

I'm not sure if this is the same issue but I usually get a few spam mails a day that show up with a red cross in the far left column on Eudora (Mac OSX). Instead of a size in KB there is a '§' in the size column, and usually no subject line, although normally there is text shwing in the body and often a .gif. Opening it shows a eudora message: "2 encoding errors were found. Turn on the fetch button in the icon bar and check mail again to retrieve a raw version"

I have no real idea what this means, but the only real problem they cause me is that they will not auto delete from the server when junked, I have to do it manually.
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,160
Thanks: 1
Registered: 01-08-2007

Email broken? - here's one explanation...

Quote
sybilandbarry,
I don't think its the same as having a blank subject line or body. I suspect its when there is ~no~ body. Like the email is just a header. Some sort of corrupted email anyway. The size of the mail was 0kB fwiw.

I've just looked in my Mail 'Trash' folder and see these ones were 1kb in size. They're the sort of blank e-mail that several people were reporting a few days back (and mentioned elsewhere in this thread). Sorry, I thought you were referring to those too.
Plusnet user since November 2003
Currently on Unlimited Fibre Extra and Unlimited UK & Mobile Calls