Saturday 24 March 2007

Confused About MAPI/RPC, the "Outlook-Exchange Transport Protocol"?

As David and I wrote earlier, Microsoft is now licensing the Outlook-Exchange Transport Protocol. I'm seeing a few people out there confuse this with MAPI. It's not, it's actually something related but different.

You see, MAPI isn't a protocol, it's an API. A protocol is "bits on the wire". An API is a programmatic interface (e.g. the calls implemented by a DLL or shared library).

The protocol is often known as MAPI/RPC (i.e. a remote-procedure-call encapsulation of MAPI -- although it's not as simple as that). Microsoft now has an official name for MAPI/RPC and now are licensing it.

Vendors using MAPI/RPC include:

  • PostPath reverse-engineered it to create a Linux-based Exchange replacement
  • Cemaphore licensed it to create a disaster recovery product

In OpenMail and Samsung Contact, we developed a MAPI service provider -- what some people call an "Outlook plugin". This basically translates the API calls made by Outlook into some other API (e.g. OpenMail's UAL or some standard like IMAP). OK, that's an over-simplification, but let's ignore that for now. Scalix continues with this OpenMail-inherited architecture, albeit much-enhanced.

Other vendors created an ugly hack that synchronized its server mail store with an Outlook personal store (PST) file. They'd run a task that would try to keep track of changes in one store and reflect them in the other. (Emphasis on the try, 'cos it didn't always work terrifically well ;-)

Friday 23 March 2007

Email Marketer helps Spamhaus

This is Derek Harding. Derek is the CEO of an email marketing service provider. No, wait, don't hate him. His company, Innovyx, has signed an amicus brief to support Spamhaus's defence against e360Insight's lawsuit.

(If you've been living under a rock recently, you might not be aware that e360 objected to Spamhaus's assertion that it sent spam, despite numerous documented examples.)

Derek obviously comes at this from a different angle from us spam-haters, but it's nonetheless interesting and a useful addition to the debate. His opinion piece makes interesting reading as a level-header clarion call to legitimate email marketers to do the right thing. Here are some edited highlights:

Everyone knows spam is a problem ... the e-mail infrastructure is under serious attack and is struggling to cope. Meanwhile, many marketers view anything that restricts their ability to send whatever they desire as something to be fought. At best, blocklists and spam filtering systems are viewed as inconveniences to be evaded and worked around. At worst, they're seen as an illegal restraint on trade to be attacked in the courts. Best practices can be ignored when it's inconvenient, and the law is the minimum that you can get away with.
Spamhaus fills an important, even vital, role. They deserve our support ... What's in it for us is the survival of e-mail. Poor list hygiene, acceptance of bad practices, refusal to outlaw spam, and failure to support organizations like Spamhaus threaten to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. We must stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution. We must look past getting this specific e-mail delivered to the bigger picture of ensuring e-mail remains a viable medium.

Richi sez: good stuff. Spamhaus is not the enemy of legitimate email marketers who send to people after having obtained informed consent and who honour the withdrawal of said consent.

Tuesday 20 March 2007

Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report

Symantec has just released its twice-yearly Internet Security Threat Report. This contains plenty of interesting data from the perspective of Symantec's Security Response team. Well, "interesting" if you're interested in that sort of thing...

Here are some highlights (percentage changes are over a six month period):

  • About half of identity thefts are caused by loss or theft of laptops and other hardware containing personal data
  • Denial of Service attacks are down about 20%
  • Botnet activity is up by about 10% (in terms of number of active zombies)
    • China hosted about one quarter of these zombies -- more than any other single country
    • The U.S. hosted about 40% of the botnet command-and-control nodes
  • New vulnerabilities (e.g. in Windows or Web applications) were up about 10%
    • Operating system vendors are taking "longer" to patch vulnerabilities (no quantitative data disclosed)
  • The Stration family of worms was the most widely-reported
  • Email is still the most-used vector for propagating viruses and other malware -- at about 75%
  • Phishing is up 5% in terms of numbers of campaigns, and about 20% in terms of volume
    • Phishing attacks are more likely to be sent on a weekday than at the weekend
  • Stock kiting and other financial services spam represented about a third of all spam