Stories by Russell Brown

‘It’s definitely not your Dad’s IBM any more’

Conceived in 1977 and opened in 1986, IBM’s Almaden Research Centre is a commanding modernist bunker at the crest of a hill near San Jose. It faces away from the city and into the beautiful distance, which is as a good a metaphor as any for the work that goes on there.

ISPs win anti-ORBS injunction

Xtra and Actrix last week won a High Court injunction to get themselves off the ORBS anti-spam blacklist operated by Alan Brown, but it may not do them much good.
ORBS (Open Relay Behaviour-modification System) is a blacklist of IP addresses relating to open smtp relays, which can be abused by spammers to send unsolicited commercial e-mail. Hundreds of organisations subscribe to the list, including and at least one other large free mail provider. They reject e-mail from from any IP address listed in ORBS.
But ORBS listings can also be added manually for reasons other than the operation of open relays. Xtra and Actrix told the Palmsterston North High Court that Alan Brown, the Manawatu Internet Services director in charge of the service, had been listing other companies on the basis of personal disputes he had with the companies involved, or their customers. KPMG also gave evidence, saying it had been similarly affected.
Brown, who is awaiting judgement on a separate defamation case brought by former Domainz head Patrick O'Brien, says he has no choice but to comply with the Hugh Court injunction. But he has posted a notice listing multiple IP addresses and netblocks associated with Xtra and Actrix to newsgroups and to his largest customers, who he expects to manually block them.
Fewer than half the IP addresses listed in Brown's posting appear to be currently listed on ORBS, meaning that if his customers do block all of them, customers of both Xtra and Actrix will be in a worse position than they were before the injunction.
Of the addresses that do currently appear in the ORBS database, one Actrix server is listed as a "delivery point for - attacks on ORBS and ORBS hosters."
Xtra marketing manager Chris Thompson says that shows Brown is penalising Actrix as part of his well-publicised feud with Domainz. Brown says the listing relates to denial of service attacks against ORBS in March, which used the Domainz server and came through Actrix.
The reason for listing given against is "Spam support services. Cartooney threats." Others bear the entry :"direct spam source. hitting ORBS traps, attacks on ORBS, cartooney threats from (3 November 2000)".
Brown says Telecom is "in there for a number of reasons revolving around open relays and hostility toward dealing with the problem."
He is unrepentant about adding addresses for reasons other than the operation of open mail relays. "ORBS policy is that if you threaten ORBS you'll be manually listed," he says. "Telecom has been threatening me with legal action for two years."
Thompson claims Brown's use of ORBS relates to a financial dispute Brown has with Telecom.