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Attack of the Killer Email!

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June 20, 2014

Recently, a select group of members was emailed an invitation to take a survey. A followup message was sent out to the same group on June 19.

Unfortunately, the email list was misconfigured, which allowed the recipients to mail back to the list. This resulted in people inadvertently sending messages back to all of the other people on the list. Some of the messages requested to be deleted from the list, which prompted others to do the same thing. This snowballed completely out of proportion.

After discovery of this problem, we shut down the ability to post back to the list. The nature of email is such that a mail server (post office, if you will) receives the email, then queues it temporarily to await delivery. Once the mail server gets down the list to the specific email, it sends it.

This process works very quickly on a computer, since the size of the connecting pipe is relatively large, so the delay is short, on the order of a few seconds. It breaks a bit when the email is sent to a phone, since the phone network processes more messages than just email. Even though the system was stopped about 9:00 pm, the queued messages continued to get delivered for a while afterwards.

Be assured that there was no virus sent out. Each email is checked as it is sent. Our anti-virus profiles are updated several times a day.

The integrity of your email is important to the AARC. We will continue to improve our processes to avoid future incidents.