Blackberry’s spam target discovery feature

Most email clients, including Blackberry devices, offer you the ability to turn off delivery confirmations and read receipts.  This is supposed to be a good thing – spammers often send emails to arbitrary addresses with receipt requests, hoping to find valid, active addresses they can pummel with Viagra offers.

Unfortunately, Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) also contains an extra special feature which automatically sends delivery receipts, regardless of whether you have all receipt types turned off!  If someone sends you an email with any type of receipt request, Blackberry’s servers send this:

Your message was delivered to the recipient.

I spent the better part of two hours this morning on the phone with technical support at Blackberry. I noted I had already run through all the available settings, switched the device on/off, removed the battery, and done a hard reset. The technician was actually able to duplicate the problem by sending me emails with read and/or delivery receipt, and he actually received the message above even before I had received his test emails on my device (confirming this is a server issue, not a device issue). Their last test required I turn the device off and then wait to see if one of these confirms occurred – I had to laugh, as they couldn’t comprehend that once my device went off and I started taking email via the desktop POP client, BIS wasn’t going to be receiving any email at all.

Nonetheless, the final item on the technical support checklist before escalation could occur was reloading the device firmware – this would solve zip, considering the results of the test (and I’m incapable of doing it anyway since Blackberry’s support for the Mac is sub-par). Further, numerous customers are having the same problem – just search for “Blackberry delivery receipt” and you’ll find plenty of forums and blogs loaded with the same complaint across multiple cell carriers…and all seem unresolved.

I’m now getting plenty of new spam, and I have this mysterious Blackberry Internet Service “feature” to thank for it.

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