*This post was updated in Mach 2018.
What is an email abuse contact?
An abuse contact address—usually in the form email@example.com—is a recognized channel for reporting spam and other abusive email that may originate from your organization.
Who needs an email abuse contact?
Web hosting companies, and other organizations that manage email, run the risk of sending spam. Email accounts get hacked and malicious users are always looking for new resources to spam with. No matter how strict the controls, it’s practically inevitable that outbound spam will be sent using an email provider’s network. If it’s not dealt with quickly, the likely consequence is that mailbox providers and others will stop delivering emails from the organization’s IPs. If a business depends on its ability to get email delivered, that’s a serious problem.
Ideally, spam email would be caught before it gets anywhere near the recipient’s inbox—that’s what MailChannels helps email hosts with. However, responsible organizations also provide a standard and conspicuous contact address so that mailbox providers, ISPs, network owners, and spam recipients can report spam.
Making it easy to report spam increases the likelihood that an email provider can do something about spam accounts before they have a negative impact on the provider’s reputation.
An email abuse contact is not a perfect solution to the problem of spam reporting for two reasons:
- It will become a target of spammers, as will any easily guessable address.
- Most email recipients have no idea about abuse contact addresses and will simply report the spam to their mailbox provider.
Nevertheless, a standard contact address gives the people who do understand how the system works — and who also have control over whether email is delivered — a straightforward way to report spam to you.
Help People Find Your Email Abuse Address
Typically, an abuse address will have the format firstname.lastname@example.org, but registering the address with the Network Abuse Clearinghouse can help people and automated spam reporting software find it.
Spam is an annoyance to internet users and it can be catastrophic for organizations that depend on the reliable delivery of email from their domains and IPs. Creating and monitoring an abuse contact address is just one part of a comprehensive spam fighting strategy, but it’s one that any organization sending large volumes of email should implement.
Monitoring Email Abuse Addresses
Having an abuse contact email is a standard practice, but many organizations simply ignore email sent to it. I’ve encountered companies that advertise an abuse contact email, but neglect to make anyone responsible for monitoring the account or acting on reports. In some ways, that’s understandable: there’s typically a low signal-to-noise ratio in abuse reports. At the very least organizations should put filters and alerts in place to notify a responsible individual of apparently genuine reports.
Outbound Spam Filtering
While having an email abuse contact is imperative for any email provider, the ability to prevent spam from leaving your organization’s network in the first place is also a powerful tool.
An outbound spam filter, such as MailChannels Cloud, helps organizations to ensure spam doesn’t leave their network. MailChannels Cloud uses sophisticated algorithms and machine-learning approaches to spot spam-like trends in the stream of outgoing email coming from your servers and applications.