13 Jul 15 Sympa List Management Software Upgrade

We are experiencing blocking of outbound email from Sympa because of inadvertent passage of actual spam. The upgrade to Sympa includes enhancements for managing email which should reduce the possibility of Spam.  After implementation, we must request review by our Spam detection provider to remove the outbound block.

We have 72,533 unique users that are members of active lists (with the majority being members of more than one list) and 88 gigabytes of archives. Sympa processes approximately 100 emails per minute.

We are using this upgrade to bring our list processing practices in line with current best practices. Passwords for the web interface must be reset – after the upgrade users must perform password recovery.  We will validate list subscribers.  The method has yet to be determined.  We are developing a communication about these changes.

We estimate it will take today and tomorrow to perform the upgrade and hope to have everything back online by EOB on Wednesday or Thursday at the latest.

08 Jul 15 ALA Sympa List Management Problem

We have identified a problem with our Sympa email list management system caused by inadvertent passage of actual spam.  At this time, only some of our lists are affected.  Our vendor for spam protection is bouncing all outbound email messages from these affected lists.  Bounced messages do not unsubscribe users. Messages are not being queued for later delivery, but they are going to the list’s archive.  The archived messages can be found by visiting (the “List of lists:), finding the list, and clicking on archives.

We have determined we must upgrade our Sympa email list management software to the latest release to fix this problem and gain better control for spam detection.  We are developing a plan to upgrade Sympa and hope to perform the upgrade sometime next week.  Unfortunately this means that messages sent to the affected mailing lists will not be sent out to subscribers until the upgrade is completed.


19 Dec 14 Sympa slow down and delays

Sympa is once again having severe delays. It appears that the current delay is 2 hours, but I expect it to get worse as the day goes on and lists become more active. We are actively working to put a permanent solution in place.

31 Oct 14 Sympa Mailing List Email Address Change Coming

Our Postini spam detection software is being replaced on December 10th, 2014.  To make a new solution for spam detection possible, a change in our email routing is required for ALA’s mailing lists.

Effective Thursday, November 13th, 2014, all mailing lists will have a slightly different address:  For example, will become, will become, etc.

This means that starting on November 13th, all messages to an ALA mailing list will need to be sent to the list’s new address.

We know this is a major communication change, so please help us spread the word.

10 Jul 14 Sympa Mailing Lists and DMARC

Yahoo and AOL have introduced a new technology called DMARC. Without going into the technical details, it completely breaks all internet mailing lists as we know it. We have instituted a work around in Sympa. All lists now have a subscriber called Do not, under any circumstances, delete this user. Without this user, mails sent to and from AOL and Yahoo members will be bounced. Any email sent from Yahoo or AOL is now being modified to so that it comes from Name@yahoo via <>. The real sender is not the original sender. This is by design in order to work around the problem. Going forward it is important to reply to the list, not to an individual sender. If you reply to an individual sender, the email will be sent to and will be discarded. If you have already deleted this user, please add it back as a list member. The options should be set to reception:nomail and visibility:hidden.


If you are interested in the technological aspects of DMARC and want a more in depth analysis, PC world wrote a great article at


We plan on upgrading Sympa later this summer. The newest version has features to help work around the DMARC problem. However, it should be noted that this new technology fundamentally breaks mailing lists, and the work arounds are not a fix. They simply work around the issue. The problem is not exclusive to Sympa and extends to all known mailing list technologies available.

11 Aug 11 Sympa List Service Outage

Our Sympa list server is down.

07 Oct 10 Sympa Outage

This morning, we had a Sympa outage. This resulted in all mailing lists freezing and not sending out new email messages. I have located the problem and have taken care of it. There is a large backlog of email on the server that is slowly being processed. All email should be delivered with the hour. I apologize for the inconvenience.

19 Nov 08 Brief Sympa List Service Interruption

This morning, we experienced a brief period (an hour or two) during which messages destined for ALA mailing lists on our Sympa server were being bounced.  The problem had to do with the email aliases file on the mail server where Sympa resides.  That file has been restored to a previous version.  The root cause of the problem is being investigated, but full service has been restored.  The quick return to functionality was in no small measure due to fast error reporting on the part of ALA staff, for which we are grateful.

22 Jul 08 Today's Sympa Problem

ALA Members and Staff,

I’d like to explain what happened to our mailing list server that caused the large temporary backlog of messages. We fell victim not to a focused spam attack, but to the collateral damage of a spammer, so to speak. A spammer pretended to be sending possibly millions of spam messages from one of our lists – by forging the mail they sent to make it look like it was coming from the list’s address. The result was thousands upon thousands of “bounce” messages that were sent from around the world to our Sympa server.

Spammers generally have many thousands of bad email addresses in their sneakily gathered lists, and any email to a bad address generates a bounce. That bounce is sent to the sender’s (or in this case, the faked sender’s) address. The huge number of incoming bounce messages had to be processed by the Sympa server as they arrived, and the volume of additional bounces bogged the server down terribly, causing a backlog to build up. We identified the list that had been impersonated, shut it off (so the server would no longer concern itself with bounces to that list), and began culling the bad messages from the queue.

We are investigating whether there is anything we can do in order to prevent this in the future. It is a problem plaguing many high volume list servers. The difficult part is that the bounces themselves are not spam to be filtered, and filtering all bounce messages would break an important function of email servers.

The Sympa list server is now operating as normal again, and will be caught up with its message backlog within a few hours.

Matthew Ivaliotes
Information Technology & Telecommunication Services
American Library Association
(312) 280-4266

22 Jul 08 Sympa List Processor Problem

Our Sympa list processor is being inundated by Spam. We’re working to relieve the load and have plans to implement additional Spam filtering. We currently drop over 120,000 Spam messages per day. We will update you as the situation progresses.