Archive for July, 2014

I hate your internet provider!

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

But that’s okay, because I hate mine, too.

Recently, a client of mine was having trouble sending e-mail. Receiving was fine, however. Of note, the e-mail account in use was one from my client’s internet provider. Another account through Gmail was working fine. Also, e-mail using a local program (in this case, Thunderbird) wouldn’t go out, but using the provider’s web site worked fine.

So, I called the provider’s tech support line and essentially got nowhere. The basic line from them is, while they will assist with settings for a third-party program, they don’t guarantee access using one. I’d gone through the settings a number of times and tries various combinations of servers and account logins to no avail. I got to the point of asking the support representative if there was some kind of block on my client. The representative was unable to see anything and also unable to transfer me to a higher level of support to check on this contingency.

Some more details about this. I had removed some malware from this computer a week or so prior to this email issue. A different computer, using a different email address from the same internet provider, couldn’t send either. This other computer did not have any malware on it (its user tends not to do anything extravagant). It’s looking more like there’s a block of some kind, but at the IP address level and not the user level.

One of the features most consumer internet routers have is the ability to mimic the MAC address of one of the computers on the network. This has been around since the dark ages of broadband when some internet providers would lock you down to one device. The idea being to limit you to one computer on your end attaching to their network. This feature of the router allowed you to circumvent that limitation. The IP address assigned by your provider will generally remain the same so long as the MAC address of the device on your end doesn’t change.

So, I told the router to mimic the MAC address of one of the computers on the network so it would get a different IP address from the provider. Once this was done, mail began to work again.

What this did was get around the blocking the provider had done as well as proved to me one existed in the first place. The first level of tech support didn’t even seem to be aware such a block existed.  A downside is if the problem causing the block still exists (in other words, I didn’t successfully get rid of the malware), a new block will occur. I can only work this magic trick so many times before I run out of devices on the client’s network. Another downside is I’ve just now shifted the problem from my client to a random subscriber of this same provider who will now get the same lack of help from the provider.

The final takeaway from this is a recommendation I have of never using an e-mail address supplied by your internet provider. Which service you end up using doesn’t matter so much as using anyone other than your internet provider for your e-mail. The secondary advantage of this is never having to change your e-mail just because you’ve changed internet providers.