How Spam Turn a Wine Geek into a Security Maven.

Posted by Keith Wallace

When the Wine School‘s website was, we got a lot of spam. It was a great URL, but having lust in the name meant we got lots of rather interesting offers in our inboxes. So we built in some serious server-level spam filters and programs based on the opensource & amazing Spamassassin. This was long before Gmail existed (the Wine School is OLD)

The Attack

That was years ago, and have enjoyed a rather spam-free environment for years. Then in September 2012, it started up all again. We were are getting hundreds of spam emails daily (and those are just the ones that are getting through, so the real number is probably closer to two or three thousand daily).

They were pernicious little bastards–they are not really selling anything, each one came from a different server, and most of the headers are fake (as you would expect from spam), spoofed email addresses are real, but the names attached to them are computer-generated.

Our Introduction to the Modern Web

Either we were dealing with an overly enthusiastic spammer, or we are being hit with a unique hack. Not sure which just yet. In any case, I have had to begin blocking blacklisting entire countries from hitting our email servers. I also had to blacklist the name Debora. For whatever reason, this name pops up in every spam. Weird.

This was our introduction to how the modern web was organized. It was also the point that we became vigilant about security protocols, and how to keep our students safe. I went from being a winemaker to an internet security officer in the preceding years.

If you ever happen to take a wine tasting class with us, and I am your teacher… be prepared for a few jokes directed at my fellow computer geeks.

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