Spam From Amazon SES

Spam has always been a problem with Amazon’s email service (SES). They make an effort to filter the outgoing missives transmitted by their customers, but it’s not perfect. And Amazon is no respecter of laws outside the good ‘ol US of A, where the right to free speech is a license to spam any kind of junk you like; whether the recipient asked for it or not.

Here’s a case in point:

Received: from a8-55.smtp-out.amazonses.com (a8-55.smtp-out.amazonses.com [54.240.8.55])
	by xxx.xxx.xxx.uk (8.14.4/8.14.4) with ESMTP id t5NHpefn075543
	for <spambait@xxx.xxx.uk>; Tue, 23 Jun 2015 18:51:40 +0100 (BST)
	(envelope-from 0000014e218bf8a9-07659756-debc-452c-9a9f-1b0ecedf709d-000000@amazonses.com)
DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha256; q=dns/txt; c=relaxed/simple;
	s=ug7nbtf4gccmlpwj322ax3p6ow6yfsug; d=amazonses.com; t=1435081898;
	h=From:Date:To:MIME-Version:Message-ID:Reply-to:Subject:Content-Type:Feedback-ID;
	bh=jCdtb+gUf4FAvUudtcIKxlX0IOnQHEd/YxIGxHXLcQ4=;
	b=cNIs7cNe5LzyxYvGWw/LdIeA7epknAFAoeQYjiyf9b5mTKRYLAW9KLvUTSGtlsr7
	WWy52wd3Tz9o9vQryvK/Q5l5okAFxgZCZa5uSbXMor7sa/1dU02kwjCyACnb7viR1np
	BlEytfbGEBUlAfBBrrJueagmdzwa+IXNZsBo4w2Y=
DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha256; q=dns/txt; c=relaxed/simple;
	s=lfgclj2zbjygv5i5rirpal2v2zj3dquy; d=uebaps.com; t=1435081898;
	h=From:Date:To:MIME-Version:Message-ID:Reply-to:Subject:Content-Type;
	bh=jCdtb+gUf4FAvUudtcIKxlX0IOnQHEd/YxIGxHXLcQ4=;
	b=bZZSEICBkHU8HkdFtiYg9fp+qxzmxJlfNj6UclS3B4dtaKBMTf1oSCSQR5jm0XXE
	0JxmIdNWKsgumLUcf8XnZGZFVfwe2f7cVOCiA1EcHX7oHn0weHQjoce+nxwVClgCQYz
	m0OlXn/YvNBE1MwSvpQR3PfoSCyTVQQpBWjgD8dQ=
From: Ray-Ban Sale <enews@uebaps.com>
Date: Tue, 23 Jun 2015 17:51:38 +0000
To: "spambait@xxx.xx.uk" <spambait@xxx.xx.uk>
X-MessageID: OXx8fHwxMzY3MXx8fHxmcmFuazJAZmpsLmNvLnVrfHx8fDEwfHx8fDF8fHx8MA%3D%3D MIME-Version: 1.0
Message-ID: <0000014e218bf8a9-07659756-debc-452c-9a9f-1b0ecedf709d-000000@email.amazonses.com>
X-Priority: 3
Reply-to: Ray-Ban Sale <enews@uebaps.com>
Subject: Spambait: Keep Calm and Get 80% Off Ray-Ban!
Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="b1_b18fea4f74280e521923210f4d5c61eb"
X-SES-Outgoing: 2015.06.23-54.240.8.55
Feedback-ID: 1.us-east-1.E00ipiLUCdDBKP1kTeYjtCc2E2c3DbfGjCtoi1emL2E=:AmazonSES 
--b1_b18fea4f74280e521923210f4d5c61eb
Content-Type: text/plain; charset = "utf-8"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64
SGksRnJhbmsgTGVvbmhhcmR0OiAjUl9Ub3BfVGl0bGUjLg0KQm9ybiBmcm9tIGEgbWVzaCBiZXR3
ZWVuIHR3byBvZiBSYXktQmFuJ3MgbW9zdCBpY29uaWMgYW5kIHBvcHVsYXIgc3VuZ2xhc3NlcyAt
IHRoZSBDbHVibWFzdGVyIGFuZCBXYXlmYXJlciAtIFJheS1CYW5DbHVibWFzdGVyIE92ZXJzaXpl

As you can see (if you’re used to reading email headers), this looks very legitimate – send from a correctly configured server. However. these characters are as guilty has hell. The email body, once decoded, claims that the spambait email address belonged to a past customer of theirs, and was used for placing an order (in the USA). This is, of course, physically impossible.

If this had been sent in Europe they’d have been breaking the local law that implemented  the EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, 2002.  But they’re sending it from the USA. Other text in the email suggests it’s not from an English-speaking country (not even the USA), and it’s probably a scam. But Amazon doesn’t t seem to mind – they don’t even have an abuse reporting system for ISPs plagued by this stuff.

It’s tempting to simply block all Amazon SES IP addresses, but this will cause collateral damage. Spam filtering isn’t likely to detect it any other way, as the sending server is set up correctly, with SPF records and so on, so the Bayesian filter in a spam classifier will be over-ruled. However, this correctness can be used against it…

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Let’s be clear here – it’s easy enough to block the whole of SES. You can get its address range just by looking at it’s SPF records:

%nslookup
> set type=TXT
> amazonses.com
Server: 127.0.0.1
Address: 127.0.0.1#53
amazonses.com text = "v=spf1 ip4:199.255.192.0/22 ip4:199.127.232.0/22 ip4:54.240.0.0/18 -all"

I suspect this may cover more than SES, but SES is certainly covered by it. However, blocking it will, as I mentioned earlier, block some innocent stuff that you do want. This is a job for Spamassassin.

I’m experimenting by adding the following to SA’s local.cf file:

header AMAZON_SES Received =~ /amazonses.com/
score AMAZON_SES 3.5
describe AMAZON_SES Sent from Amazon SES - often used by spammers

The the appropriate score to weight it by is an interesting question. By default good SPF records are ignored anyway; if they were not then it would obviously be a good idea to negate a positive score here. So I’ve picked 3.5 as this matches a clear Bayesian score rather than for any good statistical reason. Check back later to see how well it works.

2 Replies to “Spam From Amazon SES”

  1. amazon certainly doesn’t appear to want to hear about spammers using their service which means they won’t do anything.

  2. Hi.
    Irecently just got an Email by a nromal gmail apparently but it says by amazonses.com and I just looked it up and see what exactly is it cause It certanily is something wrong wishing me merry christmas in 3 of january .. and not even mentioning my name altough my email has it…
    That’s when I got suspicious.. how does he know me if he doesn’t says my name…

    Why is this message in Spam? It contains content that’s typically used in spam messages. Learn more
    Hola
    Te escribía para desearte una feliz navidad
    Hace tiempo que no hablamos.
    A ver si nos conectamos más a las redes sociales y charlamos un poco más.
    Que tengas una buena entrada de año.
    Rafa

    from: Rafa via amazonses.com
    reply-to: Rafa
    mailed-by: us-west-2.amazonses.com
    signed-by: amazonses.com

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