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A few of my constituents have told me that my emails are going to their Spam folder in Gmail. I did some digging with mail-tester.com and found that SpamAssassin is dinging my mailings -1.629 points for the code URI_WP_HACKED_2.

I did some more digging and found this is likely caused by the WP REST API that was integrated into Civi in 5.25. I'm currently running 5.27.0. See this link for more information: https://docs.civicrm.org/dev/en/latest/api/v3/wp-rest/

My question is: how do I resolve this SpamAssassin false positive? I don't understand how to set the CIVICRM_WP_REST_REPLACE_MAILING_TRACKING constant to true. I've tried both in wp-config.php and civicrm.settings.php. SpamAssassin is still marking the mailings as URI_WP_HACKED_2.

Any ideas as to why this is happening and how I can fix it?

Many thanks!

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2 Answers 2

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Can you detail out some more information. Without the filter added there is no change at all to mailings pre and post civicrm 5.25. The urls are the same until you add the filter. I am unsure how to evaluate without a list of the URLs they are dinging you for and I understand you would not want to post them here. As far as the REST API for mailing, you can try this https://develop.tadpole.cc/plugins/cv-rest-mailing it's a small plugin that implements the filter needed.

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  • SpamAssassin is scoring the email. I'm not sure why it is saying WP_HACKED but I've read that "This is a known issue with all scripts in CiviCRM's extern directory - pointing directly to a PHP script inside wp-content is considered highly likely to be malicious. " I added the cv-rest-mailing plugin to my Wordpress instance and SpamAssassin still thinks it is malicious. Thoughts? Jul 29, 2020 at 0:32
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    Also, the URLs that are being flagged are the tracked links that Civi generates for tracking. When I turn off link tracking SpamAssassin does not flag the email as malicious. See the image in my original question. Jul 29, 2020 at 1:41
  • In that case, try the filter to route emails via /wp-json as oppose to /extern. Jul 29, 2020 at 15:23
  • Hi Kevin. I installed the filter as a plugin and the issue remains. What additional info would you need to troubleshoot this further? Thanks for your assistance. Jul 30, 2020 at 2:38
  • I just ran a MalCare scan on my site and it came back clean. I have also disabled Tracking of Click-Throughs and Opens and the issue still remains. I have also disabled the WP Mail SMTP plugin. Any other ideas as so what could be causing this? Aug 3, 2020 at 17:07
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It's not that your site is hacked; it's that a large fraction of mail sent using the plugin is spam; see https://bz.apache.org/SpamAssassin/show_bug.cgi?id=7210. SA(SpamAssassin) has noticed the association; it's working as designed. The solution is to do something to make your email look more like ham. See https://cwiki.apache.org/confluence/display/SPAMASSASSIN/StopBlockingMyMail particularly "Please read this FAQ all the way through first. It will be much more useful to you than that email or bug report." and the second and third bullets -- ...For a much longer article on things you can do to prevent email you send from being flagged as spam see AvoidingFpsForSenders. If that article is over your head, find anyone with Unix or Linux sysadmin experience who understands basic email administration and working with open source software like SpamAssassin. ...

My past experience is that folks who follow a few tips from https://cwiki.apache.org/confluence/display/SPAMASSASSIN/AvoidingFpsForSenders that they're not currently following, improve their SA scores.

I know SE likes self-contained answers. So here is the content of that page, as of today. (I suggest seeing that page, as it will remain up-to-date.). It's SE-license-compatible.

AvoidingFpsForSenders

Created by ASF Infrabot, last modified by Bill Cole on Dec 13, 2021

Some Tips for Legitimate Senders to Avoid False Positives

Sections found below:

General Guidelines – These guidelines can be useful if you haven't yet sent out your email(s), and want to keep the scores low (or negative) to avoid false-positive problems.

Fixing FPs – Your email was flagged as a spam – how to avoid this next time Newsletter Aids – Your newsletter is confirmed opt-in / double opt-in, never spams, and you want to gain some negative (i.e. NOT spam) scoring traits. Other Resources – Where else can you look for guidance?

General Guidelines

These guidelines can be useful if you haven't yet sent out your email(s), and want to keep the scores low (or negative) to avoid false-positive problems.

Tip: Don't worry too much about specific rules within SpamAssassin. The rules catch spam. If your email isn't spam, you shouldn't be matching the rules. Even if you do hit an occasional rule, unless your email actually is spam, it shouldn't score high enough to be a problem.

Tip: Be honest in your headers. Be accurate in who you are (From), and which systems the email goes through, preferably from your own servers, using your own domain name. Make sure the the To header indicates the recipient. If the recipient is a list or a class of people, state so. Don't insert strange Received headers, or any other unwarranted header.

Spammers need to try to fake out filters by hiding their source and destination; if you try to hide your source and destination you'll look like spam too. Likewise, spammers often try to track their spam and guage its effectiveness through tracking headers they add to emails. If you add unnecessary headers to your emails, this can make them look like spam.

Tip: Use a domain name which is identified by a verifiable IP address. Make sure that if someone checks on the domain of your From address and Reply-To address that these addresses are valid, and the machine that would receive any Reply email can be identified.

Tip: Using SPF identification for your domain helps. It won't flag you as a good guy directly, but it will prevent bad guys from successfully masquerading as you.

Tip: Use an intelligent message id which ties correctly to your system. Use an intelligent mailing agent, one which identifies itself in the headers and which isn't heavily used by spammers. Make sure your date header is correctly formatted and in the correct time zone.

Tip: Use email composition and mailing tools that work correctly. Well constructed emails (technically correct) can be readily identified as not-spam. Emails with missing mime sections, invalid or missing message-ids, invalid or missing date headers, subject or other headers with unescaped unicode, etc., are frequently signs of spam.

Tip: Avoid useless or needless encodings. Don't use base-64 encoded text unless you need to.

Tip: Don't include a disclaimer that your email isn't spam. Don't claim compliance with some legal criteria, especially one which is not actually law in your country. Only spam needs to claim compliance – non-spam is supposed to already be in compliance.

If your email is covered by anti-spam laws, do make sure you are in actual compliance. Skirting the edge of compliance is a frequent spam trick, and is accordingly flagged by SpamAssassin.

Tip: Use normal conversational language, be sure not to use excessive spacing and or capitalization on your subject.

Tip: Be open and honest and plain in your emails. If you try to hide things, or try to use tricks to bypass spam filters, you'll look like a spammer and you'll be treated like a spammer. The statistics for use of these various techniques show that it occurs far more frequently in spam mail than non-spam, and the rules reflect that.

Do not use "cute" spellings, Don't S.P.A.C.E out your words, don't put str@nge |etters 0r characters into your emails.

Tip: If you're using HTML emails, use high quality HTML emails. Don't use tools which generate horrendous HTML (example: MS Word). They often leave signs behind (like empty tags, eg: ) which are generally found in spam. Make sure your HTML is valid (run it through a decent validator). Unbalanced tags and invalid tags will also flag an email as spam. If you use a title, make sure the title is meaningful – the default titles generated by HTML tools are often used as spamsign.

Tip: If you're using HTML emails, do not use invisible text within those emails. Make sure your text colors and sizes are distinct enough and large enough to read. Invisible text is often identified as a sign of spam.

Tip: If you're using HTML emails, do not use invisible web-bugs to track your emails. If you must track your emails and whether they're read, use visible graphics as part of your email, not invisible graphics.

Tip: If you're using HTML emails, include a text part in the email as well, for recipients (and anti-spam checkers), and keep that text as close to the HTML copy as possible. The closer they're related, the less likely your email will be seen as spam.

Very important: Don't insult your recipients by telling them to get a different email client so they can view your email. People use the email client they want, and if they're not using Outlook Express or some other basic, dumb, free, and automatically installed client, chances are they're doing so intentionally. If you want them to view your HTML, give them a web link they can follow in their web browser. (Give them this in addition to the non-HTML text.)

Tip: OK – one suggestion which actually does relate to SpamAssassin rules; don't include gratuitous references to spam subjects. Don't talk about rolex watches, sexually oriented activities or drugs, or debt treatment, unless those topics directly relate to your email. And if they do, limit your email to one topic at a time. An email which mentions rolex watches, Viagra, porn, and debt all in one email will very possibly hit several rules that flag it as spam, even if everything else is clear.

Tip: Don't use 'bulk-mailing' tools used by spammers (i.e., advertised in spam). These are overwhelmingly used to send spam, so SpamAssassin blocks mail sent by those tools as soon as possible. In particular, if the product's feature list includes 'stealth sending' or similar, that's a danger sign.

Tip: Be careful where you advertise, and be careful which advertisements you carry. If you advertise with companies that send out spam, your domains will be flagged as being related to spam. If you carry advertisements for those who spam, your domains will be flagged as being related to spam.

Tip: Be careful which domains/companies you allow to advertise in your emails (if any). Allowing spammers to advertise will get your emails flagged by the URI blacklists. On the other hand, don't advertise your domains with spammers – having your domain name listed in their spams can also get you flagged by some URI blacklists.

Tip: Be visible and public in your domain and hosting registrations. If people who check for you to see whether you might be a spammer, or to complain/ask about your emails, finds bogus entries in your registrations, or "private" or "hidden" annotations, that strongly suggests you are a spammer, hiding from an outraged public. If you are open about who you are in your registration emails, you'll get some complains and some queries. Answer those honestly and fully, and you should stay out of blacklists.

Make sure you have active and monitored abuse and postmaster addresses. Register them with abuse.net.

Tip: Make sure your privacy policy, including enforcement, and including query contact information, is easily found and clearly stated on your web site. It's good to include this information (where to find this policy, contact information), in your emails. Again, people who need to find out whether you're spammer will often look for that information.

Tip: Test your email with SpamAssassin. Send your draft to/through a system with SpamAssassin running, and see how it scores. If your email hits a number of high-scoring SA rules, then you can determine why and reduce your email's score.

Fixing False Positives Your email was flagged as a spam. These tips may help you figure out how to avoid this next time.

Tip: examine exactly which rules were triggered if a message was marked as spam or nearly marked as spam. Take careful note of the points listed beside each rule name – low-scoring rules do not make much of a difference, it's the ones with high scores that need to be avoided.

Tip: if there are hits in the body of your mail-out, try rephrasing those sentences. We find that spam often uses exactly the same phrases, over and over again, so we detect specific lines of text, and in most cases, synonyms are ignored.

Tip: if a subscriber reports that SpamAssassin is blocking mails they want, and they did not ask their ISP to set it up – get them to ask the ISP to take them off the filtering list! (Spam filters should not be installed on an account unless the person wants it there, in our opinion, since even nowadays some people don't get as much spam as others. As a result, we ask ISPs to let the users enable or disable the filter.)

Newsletter Aids

Your newsletter is confirmed opt-in / double opt-in, never spams, and you want to gain some negative scoring traits.

Tip: there are several whitelisting services which lower scores for sites using SpamAssassin network tests:

Return Path ( http://www.returnpath.net/ )

Return Path’s Sender Score Certified is an email accreditation program (or "whitelist") with strict standards for both infrastructure and practices. Return Path also operates the Sender Score Safelist, with somewhat different criteria. Given that, as a result, we can count on mails from these programs being non-spam, we're happy to give it "bonus points" and allow it through filters.

dnswl.org

DNSWL.org provides a Whitelist of known legitimate email servers to reduce the chances of false positives while spam filtering. Please report any spam that is given bonus points for either of these services to the respective service.

Other methods for receiving "bonus points":

HashCash ( http://hashcash.org/ )

See http://hashcash.org/faq and http://hashcash.org/draft-hashcash.txt. This is a technological solution, while Bonded Sender is an economic solution and Habeas is a legal solution. Hashcash may not be appropriate for large mailing lists, as it requires substantial computational power to send each email.

Other Resources

Where else can you look for guidance?

Some useful links:

Frugal Marketing: That's not Spam, That's My Newsletter! http://www.frugalmarketing.com/dtb/notspamnews.shtml

SpamCon Foundation: Best practices for marketers: http://www.spamcon.org/directories/best-practices.shtml

Bulk e-mail HOWTO: http://spam.abuse.net/marketerhelp/bulk-howto.shtml

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