What Is Direct Delivery?

Direct Delivery is when spammers send their junk mail to your mailbox by ignoring your MX records. The MX records for a domain tell email servers where to send your mail, real servers follow the rules.

We are seeing an increase in the number of spam groups that are ignoring MX records in an attempt to bypass spam protection systems.

How Do They Do it?

Spammers can attempt to bypass your MX records by attempting direct delivery to your server. They try things like delivering to mail.example.com or by sending mail to the same IP address that your website is running on.

Preventing Direct Delivery

In order to prevent direct delivery attacks, you must control who can connect to your server to deliver mail. When using MX Guarddog you ideally only want MX Guarddog servers connecting to your server to deliver mail.

Your available options for stopping direct delivery attacks are determined by your email setup, with so many different email systems there are lots of possible options.

Do you have a firewall?

  • If you have a firewall you can allow only MX Guarddog IP addresses to connect to your server by limiting the IP addresses that can connect. Limiting connections to your server by firewall is the most reliable and should be used if your server or network has a firewall.

Are you a cPanel user?

Is your email server running Microsoft Exchange?

  • Exchange users can implement rules in their connector, limiting delivery in the connector by IP address. Allow only MX Guarddog's IP addresses to deliver mail to the connector.

Is your email server running SmarterMail?

  • With SmarterMail you can setup filtering rules at your domain that you can use to prevent the mail sent to your server directly.

Is your email server running Postifx?

Hosted by Zoho Mail?

  • Zoho Mail is one of very few shared email hosting services that we know of that allow you to setup an email firewall.

Hosted by Rackspace?

  • Rackspace has recently added the ability for shared hosting customers to create an email firewall to protect yourself from direct delivery attacks. Instructions to set up a firewall and secure your email are available here.

Can you control your server port?

  • You can change the port your email server listens on to a non standard port, then update the delivery port in your domain dashboard and MX Guarddog will deliver your mail on your new port. Spammers will not know what port your server is running on and will not be able to send mail to your domain unless it passes through MX Guarddog.

Can you change your name?

  • As a last resort you can change your name. If your email server uses mail.example.com you can change the DNS records and essentially rename your server. Check our blog post Protecting Your Email Server - Without a Firewall for more on changing your name. This change will require updating your email clients and we would suggest this option to advanced users only.

With any of the above options in place, spammers will not be able to bypass spam protection for your domain - resulting in a cleaner inbox.

Email Client Rules

If none of the above are options in your environment, you can also implement filtering rules directly in your email client. Email client filtering is less efficient as you must add the rules on every email client. We have some guides available for Thunderbird, Outlook 2013 and MacMail.

Are You Suffering From Direct Delivery?

In order to check if you are suffering from spam reaching you via direct delivery, you need to check the headers of the mail you have received.

Here are the headers of a message that passed through the MX Guarddog network, you can tell this because there are several references from servers in the IK2.COM network. So this message did pass through MX Guarddog.

Envelope-to: user@example.com
Delivery-date: Mon, 15 Jun 2015 09:39:21 -0400
Received: from s480f.ik2.com ([]:26047)
    by s047.boxmanager.com with esmtps (TLSv1:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:256)
    (Exim 4.85)
    (envelope-from <bounce+7576f4.010a37@work.com>)
    for user@example.com; Mon, 15 Jun 2015 09:39:20 -0400
Received: from s480k.ik2.com ([] helo=s480g.ik2.com)
    by s480f.ik2.com with esmtps (TLSv1:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:256)
    id 1Z4Ubf-0003qs-57
    for user@example.com; Mon, 15 Jun 2015 13:39:19 +0000
Received: from by s480g.ik2.com (IK2 SMTP Server); Mon, 15 Jun 2015 13:39:17 +0000
Date: Mon, 15 Jun 2015 13:38:17 +0000
Received: by luna.mailgun.net with HTTP; Mon, 15 Jun 2015 13:38:15 +0000
Content-Type: multipart/alternative;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: binary
MIME-Version: 1.0
From: Work Notification <room@work.com>
Subject: Rahul, Robert
To: <user@example.com>
X-SF-RX-Return-Path: <bounce+7576f4.010a37@work.com>
X-SF-HELO-Domain: do158-66.mailgun.net

Now here are headers of a message that was delivered direct to a server via a direct delivery attack, you can see the message never passed through any server in the IK2.COM network, so MX Guarddog had no chance to stop the message.

( with Microsoft SMTP Server (TLS) id; Tue, 16 Jun
 2015 15:58:33 -0400
Received: from AP-EXCHANGE.action.local ([fe80::b8e8:b862:1c98:c374]) by
 AP-Exchange.action.local ([fe80::b8e8:b862:1c98:c374%13]) with mapi id
 14.03.0224.002; Tue, 16 Jun 2015 15:58:32 -0400
From: Carrie <Carrie@actionplumbing24.com>
To: "brandon@rcstoremaintenance.com" <brandon@rcstoremaintenance.com>
Subject: Confirmation of payment
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 2015 19:58:31 +0000
Message-ID: <1942B1A9CA8B5843BC8D02DE047242DE9A068F67@AP-Exchange.action.local>
Content-Type: multipart/mixed;
Return-Path: Carrie@actionplumbing24.com
MIME-Version: 1.0

If you are receiving messages with headers like the above sample, with no reference to servers from IK2.COM you would need to implement some type of hardening at your server to ensure all mail that reaches your server can only reach your inbox if it has passed through MX Guarddog.