Email Bombs

Written by Helen Glenn Court
Bookmark and Share

Officially the term is UBE, an acronym for unsolicited bulk email. Colloquially it's known as spam. The word spam is slang (with possibly obvious origins, depending on how old you are), not an acronym. Anyone and everyone with an email address knows what spam is. The phrase email bombs, however, tends to bring at least a pause or two to most of us.

On the one hand, the opposite of spam--unsolicited email--is legitimate correspondence. On the other, it's a bomb. What do I mean? Spam is defined as a single sender dispatching unrequested, unwanted email sent to multiple recipients. Email bombs are defined as multiple senders dispatching repeated unrequested, unwanted email to a single recipient.

Imagine, for example, that everyone with an Internet connection in Europe--let's put the population at 200 million and the connectivity at 100 million--sent an email at roughly the same time to a single corporate email address. As powerful as that server or servers might be, and as redundant the system might be, it's still configured to handle only 50,000 email accounts and a traffic flow of perhaps a million, perhaps two million, messages a day. The math should be clear. The result of what we'll call a detonated bomb includes multigigabyte syslog files that max out hard drive space and overloaded network connections and system processing resources.

Defusing Email Bombs

Prevention is nine-tenths of most cures, and email bombing is no exception. A network's SMTP settings and TCP/IP configuration are key. Measures include configuring the mail handling system to divert only to quota-based accounts and the firewall to filter all traffic only to central hubs. An alternative solution, of course, is to turn to a third-party vendor specializing in email security.

Bookmark and Share