Auto-Reply : Implement proper behavior to avoid loops (precedence header)

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Unassigned

Status

MailNews Core
Backend
13 years ago
4 years ago

People

(Reporter: Jean-Marc Desperrier, Unassigned)

Tracking

(Depends on: 1 bug)

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(Not tracked)

Details

(Reporter)

Description

13 years ago
When we auto-reply, we should take proper measures to avoid loops.
The most commonly used method in the wild is through the use of the Precedence
header.

We should never auto-reply to a message that has a Precedence header with a
value of 'list', 'bulk', or 'junk'.

The "Precedence: list" header is not a standardised header, and RFC2076/"the
draft to update it" have some warning against it. (that draft here :
http://www.dsv.su.se/~jpalme/ietf/mail-headers/mail-headers.html)

Still most any mailing list includes it (including the IETF mailing-lists), and
make it the most robust method for mailing-list loop control.

It think it could be better to insert the Precedence header in email that we
send automatically in order to avoid non mailing-list related loops, but that
might be a more debatable point.

rfc 3834 "Recommendations for Automatic Responses to Electronic Mail" has useful
indications, even if we can't implement everything it suggests :

      [...] For instance,
      if the subject message contained a Precedence header field
      [I4.RFC2076] with a value of "list" the responder might guess that
      the traffic had arrived from a mailing list, and would not respond
      if the response were only intended for personal messages.  For
      similar reasons, a responder MAY ignore any subject message with a
      List-* field [I5.RFC2369]. [...] 

3.1.8.  Precedence field

   A response MAY include a Precedence field [I4.RFC2076] in order to
   discourage responses from some kinds of responders which predate this
   specification. [...]

Note that RFC 3834 does not discourage it at all, and explicitely allows if not
recommend it, which seems a lot more coherent with the actual usage than RFC 2076.

Comment 1

13 years ago
Also, when we should set the Auto-Submitted header, like "Auto-Submitted:
auto-replied" according to RFC 3834. And of course avoid auto
replying/forwarding of such mails.

Comment 2

13 years ago
I see this behavior as something that should be coded manually by the filter
writer.  (We can already filter on "Precedence" or any other header in incoming
mail messages by using the Customize option in the Create New Filter dialog, and
presumably the fix for bug 11034 will include the ability to set any header in
the outgoing auto-reply message.)

Hard-coding it in Mozilla would give spam-senders the ability to defeat the
auto-reply mechanism by putting in a header that will make Mozilla refuse to
send an auto-reply.  In my view that is the greater danger.  The right way to
prevent loops is to put in help text encouraging use of the Precedence header as
in the Description of this bug, and possibly to bury the auto-reply capability
where casual users won't find it.  Therefore I oppose this bug.
(Reporter)

Comment 3

13 years ago
(In reply to comment #2)
> I see this behavior as something that should be coded manually by the filter
> writer.

We don't want to depend on the user making a manual operation that most people
don't know anything about. I'd agree on a hidden option to disable it.

> Hard-coding it in Mozilla would give spam-senders the ability to defeat the
> auto-reply mechanism by putting in a header that will make Mozilla refuse to
> send an auto-reply.

You really believe in fighting spam by sending a bounce ? Some abuse service see
trying to do that as an abuse itself, because if you fake your ISP bounce, they
are the one who will get bounces back for the false spammer adresses. 
Anyway that would be bug 109930, not 11034. If bug 109930 is solved, it could be
through a method that doesn't take into account the Precedence and
Auto-Submitted headers. You'd either select the action Reply that respects
Precedence/Auto-Submitted, or the action Bounce that doesn't. 
Assignee: nobody → bienvenu
See among others at http://www.spamcop.net/fom-serve/cache/329.html a detailed explanation of the contribution of various kinds of "auto-replies" to the spam problem, and how to avoid that contribution by replacing auto-replying by better procedures.

Remember that nothing is easier than using a counterfeit "From" address (I could explain you in one minute how to do it with plain-vanilla Thunderbird), and that no one uses that possibility more extensively than spammers.

Updated

10 years ago
Assignee: bienvenu → nobody
QA Contact: backend
(Assignee)

Updated

10 years ago
Product: Core → MailNews Core

Comment 5

4 years ago
Magnus, is this solved by bug 904458 ?

Comment 6

4 years ago
No, but bug 904461 would improve it (maybe for most cases even), and perhaps later we could build on it to fix this fully. The problem is that the needed headers would not be easily accessible atm.
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