How Autoresponders and Email Forwarding make you an Accidental Spammer.

Spam is bad. It ruins the internet experience and is a major reason people hate email as much as most people do. Google has become very good at filtering spam, but it’s not perfect. But did you know, that by enabling certain features in your email, you can become a spammer without ever realizing it? Let’s look at a couple of common ways this can happen.

Before we get started though, a disclaimer: most of the problems outlined can be resolved with a proper configuration of the mail servers involved. We’re taking a look at some worst case scenarios that we have seen happen. YMMV.


“This is Bob’s email. He’s not here because he’s off in Hawaii soaking up the sun. He’ll be back in a week.”

Ah yes, the Answering Machine of email. Autoresponders are used for everything from vacation notices to verification of mail reciption, i.e. “Thanks for your mail, someone will get back to you in 24 hours”. How does the use of such features turn one into a spammer? Well, it’s quite simple.

Many autoresponders have the habit of including the sent email in the response. So, if a spammer hits “” with a piece of spam, and the from: address is forged (they’re always forged) with something like “”. Then, responds with his typical “This is Bob’s email…” message, and right there below it, is the spam message for pharmaceuticals or hot russian babes or whatever. Where does this response get sent? It gets sent to

The result is that a spammer sent email to, which forwarded the spam to Even if you don’t include the content of the original mail in the autoresponse, STILL gets Bob’s automated response. Now Bob is sending unsolicted mail, whether it contain a spammy message or not. Bob, you spamming jerk.

But wait, there’s more. What if get’s an email from, and they both have an autoresponder set up. Yep, you guessed it- email wars! Both of their mailboxes fill up until they break, and now they don’t get email from anybody. Granted, many mail servers have protections for things like this, but many simply don’t.

The solution? Simple. Talk to your mail admin about it and make sure that the above problems can’t happen. If you’re not sure, then don’t use autoresponders. They’re a great idea that can turn out badly.

Email Forwarding

What about forwarding your email? It seems like a great solution: You have your own domain name, but you use Gmail or or some other mail provider, and don’t want to complicate your life by having to check yet another email address. And right there in cPanel is the Email Forwarder. Oh, it’s so simple- just send all email from to bobsuruncle@somemail.provider

And now, Bob, you’re a spammer. Why? Simple. When gets a piece of spam, what’s the first thing he does with it? He forwards it. He SENDS the spam to bobsuruncle@… and now has a reputation for sending junk mail, and it gets blocked. Now the mail forwarding stops working because everyone knows that Bob’s a spammer and so they block him.

The solution: Don’t Forward Emails. Ever. Instead, most online mail services have a POP or IMAP retrieval option. So, you create as a POP account, and have gmail or whatever check that email periodically. If that isn’t fast enough for you, then you’re stuck checking two email boxes. Live with it. Because forwarding mail, especially for business critical mail accounts, is just begging for trouble.

“But I’ve been forwarding email for years!” Well, I hate to break it to you, but you’ve been lucky. Your luck will run out.


A great way to be a spammer is to let a spammer use your email account to send spam. All you have to do is use a password that they already know. They have giant lists of known passwords, and they know how to use them. They’ll try to login to your email address enough times and get in, and then start sending spam. If “Fluffy123” is your email password, and you’ve been using it for years, by all means, change it. Get yourself a good password (and no, Fluffy1234 does not count). If you’re using cPanel, make sure your cPanel main account password is good too, because it can be used to authenticate any email address on the account.

There’s other ways you can become a spammer. Having a website that contains vulnerabilities (old versions of WordPress for example) is a great way to get your website hacked, and be used for spam. But that’s another article.

Questions? Comments? Leave them below :)

Goodbye FileZilla (Or, how to solve ENETUNREACH – Network unreachable)

FileZilla is an excellent bit of software that I’ve been using (and recommending) for many years. Today, that changed.

The Problem: ENETUNREACH – Network unreachable

A few months ago at the web host I work for, we started seeing problems with folks who were using FileZilla. Being on a slow network connection at the time, I’d neglected to upgrade my FileZilla installation from 3.10.x to the current 3.12.x. I could never duplicate the problem, and I figured it was likely a bug in the newer version of FileZilla.

Today I needed to do a task that required FTP on an older server, and when I fired up FileZilla, it nagged me to upgrade. Being on a fast connection now, I upgraded. I immediately regretted this. Instead of being greeted with an FTP session, I tried to log in and got:

Error:	The data connection could not be established: ENETUNREACH - Network unreachable
Error:	Connection timed out after 20 seconds of inactivity
Error:	Failed to retrieve directory listing

Wait- what? So I tested it from the command line. It worked. Could it be that the update is broken this badly? A quick Google search for “Error: The data connection could not be established: ENETUNREACH” (with quotes) brought me to This Thread on FileZilla’s forum.

As I read through it, I recognized that the folks posting there were having the same problem I did. Rolling back to an earlier version of the program worked, but the latest installation version did not, and it produced “Error: The data connection could not be established: ENETUNREACH – Network unreachable”.

It Gets Worse

I’m not normally a judgmental person regarding software anTake a hike, eh!d developers, but “botg” (the creator of FileZilla and curator of the forum) was nothing but rude and downright combative about the problem. It seems he’s more interested in blaming firewall software than in making his software work properly. Perhaps he’s right- I’m not an FTP expert, and he apparently is. He does have some good points about Kaspersky’s Firewall (which I have disabled). But that does not make his approach to the problem a correct one. It’s clear he doesn’t intend to fix it.

The Easy Fix

I’ve switched to WinSCP, and it worked immediately and even imported my FileZilla connection data which was quite handy. Perhaps you’ll want to do the same. Hopefully the FileZilla Devs will get their head on straight and manage to work around the problem like everyone else has. It’s a shame to see a good project go sideways like this.

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