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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

- Feature Story -

 

Internet Service Provider MSN.COM Disembowels Itself
Beginning in the Fall of 2000, Netizens began losing Internet access to corporate and commericial server mail systems. The problems were overwhelming, because it kept reappearing, one customer at a time. During this period of hyper-sensitivity to potential hacking of client databases, the expense and time invested into research of this problem was incredible, and the problem continued without resolution or answers.

Eventually, it became evident that every customer reporting access problems was using MSN.com as their Internet Service Provider (ISP). But Microsoft Network's technicians had no answers, either.

MSN.com has now announced their "industry-standard spam filtering sytem" as the reason that SMTP port access to other servers is being denied to their customers and POP3 is discouraged, except to MSN's own servers. How forcing customers to send all outgoing mail through MSN's own servers provides spam protection to anyone's InBox is not explained. It's clear that MSN customers cannot secure mail information in their corporate server accounts, nor use corporate mail lists or corporate or commercial account names on mail they send, nor corporate security. Nor can commercial Internet servers be accessed outside of MSN itself. Does MSN seriously believe that it's OK to prevent people from contacting other professional people and organizations, using their professional mail systems and e-mail addresses? If MSN has installed a massive, big-brother, Carnivore-like filter system to collect information on the communications of all their customers, this goof-ball, moronic policy might be expected. (Microsoft's own employees can't reach their own server accounts through MSN.com, or can they?) One cannot help but wonder where, in the vast, corporate structure of Microsoft, the decision was made to implement a policy which vomited all over the entire Internet and hundreds of millions of user accounts that currently exist.

This is the age of employees who work through their corporate and commercial servers from home or on the road, and MSN's repressive restrictions, aside from the serious security implications and potential violations of privacy for their customers, represents an unwanted and unusable level of service from an ISP for Information Technology (IT) professionals, which leaves the Simpson's crowd for the most part, many of whom are happily connected to AOL.

America Online (AOL) is already a vast pablum marketplace for newbie Netizens who benefit from being spoonfed limited Internet and thoroughly-strained associated services. AOL has the market lock on the newbies; a market that MSN is unlikely to challenge. But the more mature Netizens outgrow AOL's limitations, and seek more direct Internet access or simply require more sophistication than AOL provides. For many years, MSN.com has been recommended by many Internet services as a full-service provider, but they have now withdrawn such service and become unsuitable and offensive among the Internet Community. The venom in this communication is deemed appropriate for the cost, frustration and lost clients that Microsoft's traitorous implementation has inflicted upon the rest of us.

The following information includes a message e-mailed to many customers during May, 2001 from various domains, corporations and hosting services. If you require Internet mail access to your own commerical or corporate accounts, you can no longer use Microsoft Network as your ISP.

May, 2001

Microsoft Network Betrays Customers

FROM:
http://www.virtualpath.com (Virtualpath.com)
http://www.firststartllc.com (FirstStartLLC.com)
Tag Bunny, Webmaster, Virtualpath.com

TO:
All Virtualpath.com Commercial Internet Server Accounts
All Virtualpath.com Subdomain Members
All FirstStartLLC.com Corporate Server Accounts
All Affected Internet Individuals, Domains & Components

RE:
May 4, 2001; MSN.com Internet Service Provider - POP3/SMTP Account Access

User accounts accessed through the Internet Service Provider (ISP) MSN.com have progressively experienced loss of SMTP access to accounts and services during the past six months. This has impacted server services for all Internet commercial domain and corporate servers, not just ours. MSN.com now claims this is due to an arbitrary anti-spam program, requiring MSN to drop support for SMTP access to other server systems on the Internet. This lame excuse appears to be their cover for a hideous control scheme to force customers to use only MSN's mail accounts. In any case, MSN.com's intentions have not been announced in any manner that reached our attention until now, and horrendous resources have been consumed by many bewildered information technicians to determine why individuals kept losing access to their accounts.

From MSN.com, here's the answer:
MSN is implementing an industry-standard spam filtering system on our e-mail servers. This action is part of a new set of anti-spam initiatives designed to protect MSN customers and the MSN e-mail system from unsolicited commercial e-mail. MSN does not provide support for accessing e-mail from other accounts through MSN. If you want to continue to do so while you are signed in to MSN, you must re-configure your Outgoing mail (SMTP) server information to ensure that all of your outbound e-mail is sent through the MSN SMTP mail servers.

Part of modern life is Information Technology via the Internet. Millions of professionals, including all Virtualpath.com and FirstStartLLC.com clients, require full port access to specific server services and data security from workplace and subscription providers, including mailing lists and extensible databases, nearly always involving sensitive or private information, and the security of such information which is our duty to maintain within our networks and servers for all users.

People who trust engineering secrets and other sensitive data to safekeeping in their ISP mailboxes are taking an extreme risk of serious disenchantment of such trust, including loss of their careers or control of their personal lives.

Your ISP's job is to provide access for all Internet services to you. Clean, reliable Internet access is what you are paying for from your Internet Service Provider. It is not your ISP's prerogative to determine that you no longer need specific access services at their whim. For MSN.com, one of the larger ISPs, to have breached their client's trust in this manner is unconscionable. Virtualpath.com accounts allow massive transfers of POP3 / SMTP data, unaltered and far more secure than ISP mail, which no ISP account including MSN.com can match. This new MSN.com limitation prohibits access to any mail account other than through MSN.com servers. Like AOL, MSN.com apparently intends to sniff all of your mail and determine whether you need to be ratted-off to big brother. That is, in fact, the probable reason for such an AOLish policy.

MSN.com has been trusted by the Internet Community as a quality ISP in the past, and recommended as such by Virtualpath.com and others for many years. MSN.com's new policy is a breach of trust and a breach of their duty to their customers. Their implementation of the new policy has been underhanded and secretive, apparently without informing their own technical service personnel as to why customers were progressively being cut off from their Internet server SMTP services. If you use MSN.com, you will need to fire them and obtain an honest, full-service ISP to retain normal access to Virtualpath.com and any other commercial and corporate server accounts.

In cases where you have a time-requirement contract with MSN.com as part of an equipment purchase agreement, you may have grounds to claim breach of contract on MSN.com's part to break the contract, since their service has changed to deny services you require from an ISP. You CAN NO LONGER USE MSN.COM to access any other e-mail server except MSN's own mail servers.

Virtualpath.com and associated services will supply server-side technical details in any class-action litigation against MSN.com regarding this issue, upon request. This situation sheds new light on other issues involving Microsoft, and we've withdrawn previous support for Microsoft in their Freedom To Innovate campaign as we're now unsure about their motives. Virtualpath.com will also publish news of any customer-MSN.com disputes that can be verified. We will attempt to present all three sides of the dispute, since the client (you), ISP (MSN.com) and Internet Server Services (us) are all involved. Additional comments from Microsoft will be published here as well.

In various regions, we will be exploring reputable full-ISP providers to replace MSN.com for our clients. We will attempt to find such providers in portions of the United States, South America and parts of Europe for any of our users, whether former MSN.com customers or not. Please feel free to contact your sysops about any specific information for your area.

MSN.com has been a valued Internet partner for years. Hundreds of various associations with Microsoft, Site Builder's Network and Microsoft products and testing programs have been extremely rewarding and contributed greatly to the overall technological growth of the Internet. And unlike oppressive ISPs that were unsuitable for I.T. use and for our clients, MSN.com has provided excellent service in the past. Perhaps they will have a premium service that provides suitable access in the future, but such an option was not mentioned anytime during problem remediation, including (finally) the communication from MSN.com that is included above. We are shocked by this unfortunate betrayal, and surprised at such a move while antitrust suits are still in progress from similarly preceived, allegedly heavy-handed tactics. MSN.com has forced this communication as millions of users are cut off from their established mail accounts, so they must be anticipating a reaction from us. We will forward any further information from MSN.com to you.

Tag Bunny, Webmaster

webmaster@virtualpath.com


 

CONTACT MSN - Tell them what you think about their new policy.
MSN SUPPORT - Why Can I No Longer Access My Commercial Mail Server? 

Rebuttal & Comments

The majority of spamming and hacker attacks come from the major ISPs; AOL, MSN and Yahoo. These ISPs are trying not only to protect their own customers, but reduce complaints from the other ISPs who constantly complain of spam and hacking.

By forcing customers to use only their ISP mail accounts, the connection which sent unwanted or malicious mail is readily apparent, providing for correction by any action necessary to prevent future occurrences from that customer.

Yahoo and AOL already limit mail access to their own servers. MSN's choice to do the same is reasonable.

-Bertrand
MSN is neither AOL nor Yahoo. AOL customers are either blissfully ignorant of WWW access to server accounts or they don't have need of such access. AOL's stated opinion is that they know what their customers need, which seems to work for a lot of people. On the other hand, many who cannot use AOL's handouts have been able to find MSN.com in most areas of the U.S.

The problem is that MSN's customers often require full access, which is why they chose MSN in the first place, and the method of MSN's withdrawn services has been costly and frustrating. Customers didn't have time to prepare by obtaining a new ISP with the services they require - MSN just changed the service and they were suddenly, surprisingly, cut off.

-Alan

When MSN says, "... industry standard anti-spam," does that mean it's a standard because MSN is forcing it onto their customers?

-Anonymous

Spam isn't so much of a problem. There are options to limit spam, such as choosing the DoubleClick Opt Out Cookie and using Outlook's features to block spammers. Deleting unwanted messages that are singular and probably won't be repeated takes just a second. Blocking more persistent spammers, or removing your name from an unwanted subscription, takes a moment longer. None of this justfiies withdrawal of server access by MSN, particularly from the company that sells monstrously expensive software to provide such services on LAN servers, worldwide.

-JB

MSN's port 25 lockout shouldn't affect 80% of their customers. The others, with only 100 million (?) mail accounts which are unaccessable shouldn't cause too much of a stink. And this won't bother MSN's hotmail accounts, which happen to be http instead of smtp/pop3. So what's the problem?

-Anonymous
 

 

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