back to article Boffin botheration as IET lifts axe on 20-year-old email alias service

A decision by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to axe an ageing email alias service has left some of its members a-quiver with indignation. Members of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE), which merged with the Institution of Incorporated Engineers (IIE) to form the IET back in March 2006, had …

Email forwarding services are passé

Due to technical measures such as SPF/DKIM, most email forwarding services have extremely poor forwarding rates.

The users of this service are probably missing most of their forwarded email anyway due to SPF filters (which Google encourages all domains to setup, by dumping more and more non-SPF setup domains right into the gmail recipients SPAM buckets).

Mailling lists also encountered this, but most adapted by rewriting the sender address, which probably would not go over well with just an email forwarder service, if the recipients couldn't reply back to the sender. Suddenly the email forwarder service has to be running a full on mail server, keeping track of all rewritten senders and expanding them back and forward.

A total mess technology wise.

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Re: Email forwarding services are passé

If Authenticated Received Chain (ARC)* is implemented correctly, then forwarding agents should work just fine.

...not all mail passes directly from sender to recipient. Some services like mailing lists or account forwarding—also known as intermediaries—receive a legitimate message and might make changes to it before sending it on, potentially resulting in SPF, DKIM, and/or DMARC alignment failure. Thus, the message, despite its legitimacy, may not get delivered.

What is ARC?

ARC helps preserve email authentication results and verifies the identity of email intermediaries that forward a message on to its final destination.

However, since it requires people to understand what they are doing, and care whether their spam filters have false positives, I don't hold out a great deal of hope.

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Re: Email forwarding services are passé

Nonsense.

Any email forwarding is easily coped with, and SPF can be simply added (it's IET's job to say what mailserver can claim to be from their domains, that's it - they could just leave an open record on it or offera basic SMTP sender with auth).

And envelope-rewriting and forwarding is supported by just about every domain-name host out there with email-forwarding. I forward ALL my public emails (which I use heavily for everything, personal and business, for 20+ years) to a GMail (ultimately, but that's unpublicised and can be changed in seconds) which I use as my actual method to collect and read and reply to those emails.

I also run my OWN forwarding server to do just that as secondary, to handle more critical domains, etc.. It's Postfix and maybe an hour of config for anyone familiar with Linux at all. That forwards to and isn't blocked by Google etc. unless it's quite obvious spam. My own grey-listing, SPF-checking, DKIM-checking, etc. spam filter blocks WAY MORE than GMail does, and it never touches even fresh incoming addresses at my domains (e.g. newsocialmediacompanyspamhole@mydomain.com) that haven't ever seen an email prior.

Their reasoning isn't based on that because it's hard. It's just an expense and liability that they don't need. Personally, I'd ask people for £100 per address per year and then bolt it into Google Apps for those customers who want to pay to retain it. Would take long at all, and no GDPR liability as you literally never touch their email. But I can perfectly understand why they wouldn't want to, it's just not their job.

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Re: Email forwarding services are passé

It's Postfix and maybe an hour of config for anyone familiar with Linux at all

You have to be more than slightly familiar with Linux to setup postfix. You need a solid grasp of how email is supposed to work for starters, and then you need to understand things like SPF and DKIM if you want anyone to actually receive your mail.

I'm glad for you that you find it easy, but running a mail server is hardly beginner level.

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Re: Email forwarding services are passé

Something that takes an hour to config isn't something I'd call easy.

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At Norman Nescio, re: ARC...

If the user doesn't do it correctly does that mean their ARC is worse than their write?

=-)p

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Re: Email forwarding services are passé

Just to add to my previous posting, there is an informational RFC: RFC 7960, which goes into the problems of using DMARC with indirect email flows, such as mailing lists and email forwarders.

ARC is not (yet) an adopted RFC, it is a draft, available here: Authenticated Received Chain (ARC) Protocol: draft-ietf-dmarc-arc-protocol-15

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Email forwarding services are passé

The problem with ARC it is still draft and until ARC is implemented by email receivers and ISPs the problem with messages being forwarded via intermediaries like the IET email alias service being blocked due to DKIM and SPF failures will continue.

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Re: Email forwarding services are passé

Oh yeah! Everyone should do that right now. That thing that you just said.

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Boffin

Re: Email forwarding services are passé

I'd love to know your trick for getting GMail to accept your forwarded mail. My Postfix system does it, but only by a method best described as a nasty hack (MAIL FROM different to "From:").

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Re: Email forwarding services are passé

but running a mail server is hardly beginner level

Well - it was the first[1] thing I did on my first linux config (back in the mid-90's) so it can't be *that* difficult. Admittedly, I had lots of FAQs to read on how to do it and I had Demon configured as a smarthost..

[1] Well - actually the second. First was to get the PPP configured to actually connect and then set up to do dial-on-demand. Ah, the heady sound of a 14.4K modem actually connecting..

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Anonymous Coward

Join IEEE?

Those if us with the extra E still have email forwarding. I'm not sure what spam filtering they apply to the address, but the spam has been minimal over the 20 years or so I've had the account. Of course, that might also have something to do with the fact that I haven't ever really used the alias (searching through my history, the only activity is a test email about once every three years to check where I'm forwarding the emails).

They throw in Google apps now as well (your call as to if that's a plus or a minus).

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Re: Join IEEE?

IET is a British professional organisation for chartered engineers, in the UK at least IEEE doesn't have the same status. I'm an IEEE member, but couldn't just choose to join IET.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Join IEEE?

"I'm an IEEE member, but couldn't just choose to join IET."

Course you could just join the IET. It even says so on their very own website at

https://www.theiet.org/membership/information/faqs/joining.cfm

"Who can join the IET?

Anyone can join the IET. You may be working in a related field, studying towards an engineering qualification or simply have a passion for engineering and technology. There is a category of membership for everyone. For more information, please visit the Join the IET page."

What you couldn't do is claim to be a Chartered Engineer, or EurIng, as the professional standards required to obtain those titles aren't set by the IET.

So either you're ill-informed or you're misrepresenting the picture.

Real engineers know that details matter, but that hype and misinformation sells.

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Re: Join IEEE?

Strictly true, I could become an associate member, but likely not a full one: https://www.theiet.org/membership/types/designatory-letters/index.cfm details details...

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Headmaster

Could have been much worse

Reprinting the stationary cards isn't nearly as expensive as reprinting the moving ones.

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Another "use someone else's server" service bites the dust

Yep, the gentlemen's agreement of "we give you a prestigious email address for nothing and forward anything that comes in to whatever you want" is now coming to an end.

Just like the good old days of nobles riding into the Church on their horses is long gone.

Sorry guys, you had it good for a such a long time that you thought the rules were set in stone, but the truth is you used someone else's service, based your life around it and now that service is being yanked.

Great idea too, creating your website logins on a forwarded email. Like the website cared what your email was in the first place.

Despite all the IoT bullshit about managing your house from your phone (using someone else's server), the future looks squarely set to "you manage your own shit and if not, you takes your chances".

In this case, the chips are now down and the house is closing shop. I think the global message is clear : don't trust someone else's server.

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Re: Another "use someone else's server" service bites the dust

"we give you a prestigious email address for nothing ..."

They were members of the organization. To me that implies membership dues. For a membership perk from my dues, I think I'd much rather have a prestige email address than a one-time t-shirt with some idiot logo variant printed on it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Another "use someone else's server" service bites the dust

It isn't a free service at all. As a benefit of membership it costs hundreds annually- for 2018 it's between £88 (reduced fee) and £198 as far as I can remember. Actually the costs are listed here https://www.theiet.org/membership/types/fees/reduced/index.cfm. So other categories of membership are lower e.g. £20 annually for students.

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Re: Another "use someone else's server" service bites the dust

I agree. It seems to me that for these engineers (etc) as members of this organisation there are a set of benefits. One of which was to have an email address with that degree of prestige. Forget the technicalities - it is an address. And it's a benefit of membership that the members seem to have valued. No different in that sense from the benefits that any other club or society confers, like being able to buy expensive coffee in a "members lounge" ( or for Friends of the RA, in the Keepers House).

How that email address was hosted is a different matter, but it surely wouldn't be too expensive per head to continue this somehow.

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Cachet

You're not wrong. I met someone with such an address in person recently and complimented them on it!

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Joke

Pfft

Just string out the discussion for another 20 years and they'll have all retired or died. Problem solved.

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and the rules say?

" ... and the group points out that to maintain email servers for the personal use of its members was outside of its charitable remit."

It's not a charity, it's a chartered institution and its members pay about £200 a year in membership fees. Anyway, email and servers etc did not exist when its charter was drawn up so what was the justification for setting up the forwarding service in the first place?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: and the rules say?

It is a charity. The Institution of Engineering and Technology is registered as a Charity in England & Wales (no 211014) and Scotland (no SC038698)

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Losing email is nothing . . .

. . . compared to the mess caused when they closed the technical discussion forums (without notice) and re-branded them "communities" a few years ago. Not recovered yet. (Yes I am a member).

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iee-member.org iee-fellow.org etc.

IEE should register domains such as this, then phase one would be to forward all non-core (i.e., member emails as opposed to official IEE business) to an equivalent mailbox on the new domain. The main problem really is who will maintain this "alumni" service.

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Holmes

Once-upon-a-time I was a member of the IEE. I let my membership lapse because basically I wondered what the membership actually got me. No employer seemed to care if I was a member.

Sure, the IEE did do an academically decent magazine or two - but Computer Shopper had way more practical advice.

They never bothered to find out why I let my membership lapse. They did, however, send me a snooty letter telling me that under paragragh such-and-such I was henceforth terminated as a member.

None of that has made the slightest difference to my life.

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Chartered status is required if you're going to be signing off on things (e.g. it can matter for insurance). This is why you'll find many more chartered engineers than scientists, though things like chartered physicist status exist.

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Urgh. It is annoying, I do use this, and have done for the past decade. I'm also aware it isn't 100% reliable, but would prefer it's continued unreliable use rather than being cut off because of it. My hotmail account does carry a lot of my email, and the actual address (something like princess.von.chicken.pants44@hmail.com) is not something I'd choose nowadays. Indeed I set it up when I was 12, can you tell?

Alias is much better, as I can make it firstname.lastname@theiet.org and actually put that on things like a CV.

Trying to work out which organisations I gave it out to over the past decade is just an exercise in futility - I've given it to plenty of recruiters and do occasionally get decent headhunting offers through them, virtually always from companies and organisations where I've never seen their domain before, so it's not like I can actually inform people it's changed, because I don't actually know the majority of people who have the address to be able to contact them.

As for it being a free service, my chartered membership fees are in excess of 240 quid a year - so I don't think some semblance of a paid service is unreasonable. Still, at least we get a fair amount of notice to deal with it.

Maybe it is time to get around to setting up my own email server on an RPi...

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Anonymous Coward

A joke of an institution. I'm outta here.

It's become a joke. What's the IET for, in the 21st century, other than winning awards for the design of its high-gloss monthly magazine which seems to be an expensive imitation of T3 most of the time these days. I'm not sure whether that's a huge improvement on a few years ago when IEE News frequently seemed to look like it'd been written by National Instrument's PR people.

Yes some of the individual members at the sharp end of the IEE and BCS still do good work inside and outside their employers, but many of them don't, and some of them at senior e.g. FIET level are downright disreputable with no visible means of the IET addressing those people's relevant issues (competence, honesty, bullying, etc), which reflects rather unsatisfactorily on the IET as a professional organisation.

I'd been hoping that the increasing number (and cost) of systems failures in the UK which have had significant publicity might lead the IET (and specifically the former-IEE and former-BCS pieces) to revalue its engineering roots. No such luck so far.

There's clearly been something bubbling under in recent years in some parts of the membership outside HQ, judging by the occasional content-free mentions of Special General Meetings and such.

Michael Faraday would be spinning in his grave.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A joke of an institution. I'm outta here.

Michael Faraday would be spinning in his grave.

Wouldn't he be spinning in his cage?

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Re: A joke of an institution. I'm outta here.

Sounds like they are in a state of flux.

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Anonymous Coward

Depends on your point of view....

It's a charity and I consider my £160 a year to be a donation to the charity.

If I receive any 'member benefits' as a result then that's great but honestly I'm more than happy for them to use my subs to promote engineering to youngsters and the general public.

I don't use or need to use their alias service. Apart from making it look as if you work for the IET I don't see any benefit.

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