Top 5 DNS Blacklists

Here is my list and why I use them:

zen.spamhaus.org – Comprehensive RBL, catches a ton of spam sources, updated regularly. They have a long history and decent reputation in the spam filtering community. I have heard some negative things about them from time to time, but those are generally without real merit. Downside is that if your volume of traffic is high enough they will block access to the free list and you’ll need to setup a paid account. Personal or small business mail servers usually do not have this problem.

b.barracudacentral.org – Another very good list from another major industry player. I’ve heard a lot of negative things about the Barracuda devices themselves, but their RBL is top-notch. Downside is that you have to register with them in order to use it. We’ve never had a false positive reported that was caused by this list, and it blocks a lot of traffic for us. See http://www.barracudacentral.org/rbl for details.

We’ve found that using these two lists alone, we see a significant reduction in spam intake on the server. The other lists that we’ve tried did not even come close to being as productive as either of these lists and essentially just wasted network resources and time while processing the incoming messages.

Here are some that I do not use and why:

bl.spamcop.net – Too many false positives for our taste. They rely almost entirely on user submissions to power the list, and the people submitting are usually trigger happy and submit even legitimate messages as spam to their service, causing popular providers to get blocked when they probably shouldn’t be. I have heard that this has been improved recently but we got burned too many times to go back and try again just yet.

dnsbl.sorbs.net – They run a comprehensive list, but there are too many options for my taste. They have a lot of coverage, and block a lot of traffic, but finding the right mix of lists that they supply requires a lot of trial and error. The removal process for their spam list requires a verifiable minimum donation to one of their approved charities. If one of my clients ends up on their list (whatever the cause) and we block their traffic, I don’t want to have to tell them that they have to donate to a charity to appease a blacklist that we use. They are, of course, free to run their list however they like, but that is not the kind of news I want to deliver to my clients if they end up on the SORBS list and are unable to send me e-mail.

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