Oxford University can't send email to Hotmail [Update]

Oxford University in the UK is one of the most well known and prestigious centers of higher learning in the entire world. But the students and faculty at Oxford are currently encountering an odd Internet issue that apparently involves the entire campus. DailyTech.com reports that the university currently doesn't have full access to Microsoft's Hotmail or indeed a number of Windows Live services.

According to a message on the official web site for Oxford University Computing Services, "There is a problem, caused by an error in a non-OUCS department, that means the University cannot currently send email to several services, including Hotmail, MSN, Live and others. If you send email to any affected service it will either bounce back with an error or be held on the Oxford email systems until it can be delivered. Receiving email from these services remains unaffected but replies to such messages will not get through."

It adds, "OUCS is working hard to fix this problem but some factors out of our control mean we can't yet give an estimated fix time. We are sorry for the obvious inconvenience this will cause." DailyTech contacted Microsoft who said simply that they are checking with others in the company to find out more information about this issue.

Ironically this situation with Oxford University concerning Hotmail comes just before Microsoft is supposed to announce some news about its web-based email service. It will reveal more info at a Hotmail press event that's scheduled to be held on Monday.

Update: Neowin's own Dave Legg reports that the Hotmail ban was due to an mailing list misconfiguration which resulted in replies being sent to all subscribers. This caused Microsoft to ban the University's outgoing email server.

Update: (Dave) â€‹Oxford's IT department have now confirmed that the issue has been successfully resolved with Hotmail, and email is again flowing correctly.

 

Dear User,

The short version of this message is that the Hotmail block on mail sent from Oxford University has been removed.  Mails from Oxford to Hotmail, Live and MSN sent and queued from last week may take a day or so to deliver.  Once that has happened you'll be able to send to  Hotmail, Live and MSN again.  If you want to know the details then please read on...

This is to inform you about an issue with Oxford University email sent to Hotmail/Live/MSN email addresses.  A University department misconfigured a mailing list of a large number people just before the weekend of 24/25 September in such a way that all its members could post to it.  Many list members (external to Oxford) did that and it resulted in more than a million email messages being generated with large numbers of those destined for Hotmail/Live/MSN email addresses.  Procedures Microsoft has in place to detect and stop spam email resulted in their servers blacklisting the servers in Oxford that sent outgoing email. This meant that mail sent to any domains for which the Hotmail servers handle mail was being rejected.  It also caused a worse side-effect (manifesting itself as a mail loop, in some cases rapidly filling the Nexus mailbox) for anyone who had set their Nexus account to forward their email to such addresses.

In order to mitigate the ongoing problems caused by non-delivery, and the mail loops, OUCS put a trap in place to stop any mail for hotmail.com, hotmail.co.uk, live.com, live.co.uk, msn.com from leaving the University's servers.  This has resulted in a large backlog of emails waiting to be delivered.

OUCS staff responded extremely quickly to the initial mailing list incident and had fixed it by lunchtime on Monday 26 September, however blacklisting went into place sometime on Tuesday 27 September.   OUCS staff immediately followed the advertised Microsoft procedures for dealing with such incidents and OUCS has been trying tirelessly to resolve the ongoing block throughout the last week and over the weekend.

As of today, Monday 3 October, we believe the Microsoft blacklisting has been removed but we have to be extremely careful not to re-trigger it with too much mail too quickly.  OUCS intends therefore to start releasing the queued mail in batches later today.  We would like to bring to your attention, therefore, that email you may have sent to Hotmail/Live/MSN email addresses since Tuesday 27 September may now only just be delivered.

We estimate it might take a day but once the backlog has been cleared OUCS will remove the trap so that emails to hotmail.com, hotmail.co.uk, live.com, live.co.uk, msn.com from Oxford University should be delivered normally.  We were not trapping Hotmail domains for other countries so emails sent to them should already be being delivered normally.

We would like to say how sorry we are that you and the wider University have experienced such a disruptive incident at such a critical time of that academic year. We will be requesting a full investigation in to how a department was able to cause such disruption and how to prevent this in the future.  We will also be looking into how to improve communications with Microsoft and a mechanism to deal with its blacklists rather more quickly should anything similar ever happen again.

Yours faithfully,

Oxford University Computing Services

 

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duddit2 said,
This sounds more like an oxford uni server config issue than a livemail issue, rbl?

It essentially is, it's due to a mailing list misconfiguration here, nothing on Microsoft's end at all. Bit of a pain for us emailing academics at other institutions where Live@EDU has been implemented though.

Recursion said,
Why is this news? Stuff like this breaks all the time.

Exactly, why do we want to know about an elitist university that will only accept old school

tie, those from the upper classes and those wealthy.

If they cannot do basic ICT, that is their problem not ours.

leesmithg said,

Exactly, why do we want to know about an elitist university that will only accept old school tie, those from the upper classes and those wealthy.

That's such a misguided and incorrect view. Oxford is elitist only in that it accepts mostly students with AAA grades, as with a lot of the top universities, doing otherwise, would simply drive down standards. 'old school tie' is simply nonsense, anyone who is good enough has an equal chance of being accepted. As for "wealthy", how much money your parents have has nothing to do with it. In fact, Oxford is (once the tuition fee raise comes into effect in 2012) the cheapest university in the country for students from a low-income background. It is a myth to suggest it costs more than any other university in the country, and a myth to suggest that you have to be rich to be admitted.

DaveLegg said,

That's such a misguided and incorrect view. Oxford is elitist only in that it accepts mostly students with AAA grades, as with a lot of the top universities, doing otherwise, would simply drive down standards. 'old school tie' is simply nonsense, anyone who is good enough has an equal chance of being accepted. As for "wealthy", how much money your parents have has nothing to do with it. In fact, Oxford is (once the tuition fee raise comes into effect in 2012) the cheapest university in the country for students from a low-income background. It is a myth to suggest it costs more than any other university in the country, and a myth to suggest that you have to be rich to be admitted.

Dream on Dave.

Oxford & Cambridge will not take students unless they come from the system they want.

I mentioned it already.

I was a student at Oxford, and I was, and still am, highly involved in their access and outreach work. Trust me when I say the myths you mention are far from the truth.

leesmithg said,

Dream on Dave.

Oxford & Cambridge will not take students unless they come from the system they want.

I mentioned it already.

Lee,

This is complete tosh! I have many friends (many from low income backgrounds) who got into Oxford University because of their outstanding grades, not their access to money, you have such a stereotypical view on University's such as Oxford.

No.... I also had two companies try to contact me and one person I tried to book for a party for someone try to email me to my hotmail account so I get phone noti. and I never got the emails and all 3 parties tried to email me and couldn't. Not just an oxford thing...

Thanks for letting us know! I was worried that this may happen one day. I'll set my office to Red Alert! I'll get someone to change the bulb from Blue to Red!

Largoh said,
Thanks for letting us know! I was worried that this may happen one day. I'll set my office to Red Alert! I'll get someone to change the bulb from Blue to Red!

Ahh, I see we've got a fellow smeghead right here.

No, it's down to an incident that happened last weekend, in relation to a misconfigured mailing list. I know the full story, as I'm at the university. The IT guys know exactly what caused it, and how to deal with it, but it happened on a Saturday, and went on over the weekend, while the staff were away (it's not the kind of issue that any sort of monitoring software would ever pick up)

DaveLegg said,
No, it's down to an incident that happened last weekend, in relation to a misconfigured mailing list. I know the full story, as I'm at the university. The IT guys know exactly what caused it, and how to deal with it, but it happened on a Saturday, and went on over the weekend, while the staff were away (it's not the kind of issue that any sort of monitoring software would ever pick up)

Then it looks like the IT Department have a more serious issue as the dates on some of the Active Spam listings date back to July 2011 !!

Nagios can be used to perform RBL checks - so it is something that can and probably should have been picked up on.

Martyn said,
Nagios can be used to perform RBL checks - so it is something that can and probably should have been picked up on.

It was picked up on as soon as it happened. The incident that caused the block to be put in place wasn't resolved until Monday, and the block was only put in place on Tuesday

The speed with which these issues are identified and dealt with is to be commended. Can you say Playstation down for a MONTH?

jimmyfal said,
The speed with which these issues are identified and dealt with is to be commended. Can you say Playstation down for a MONTH?

Unrelated post is unrelated (and uninformed).

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