In March I’ll be presenting a session at MacIT about troubleshooting email and I’ve been collecting interesting email issues for my talk. This one will be worth discussing.
A customer emailed me from a personal Yahoo! account because her company email had stopped working. She forwarded me this bounce message:
On Wednesday, February 19, 2014 1:19 PM, “MAILER-DAEMON@yahoo.com” <MAILER-DAEMON@yahoo.com> wrote:
Sorry, we were unable to deliver your message to the following address.
No MX or A records for company.biz
No MX or A records? Hmm… I recalled discussing some earlier DNS issues with my co-workers and looking into moving this company to a different hosting service for DNS. And my boss confirmed we did move them to a new DNS provider last week. But he had just logged in and all the correct records were there not to mention everything had been working just fine the past week.
Then we noticed something strange. The start of authority (SOA) reported after running a dig command was not our DNS service provider. It was another server hostmaster.neustar.biz. We logged in to the customers’ registrar website and it correctly listed our DNS service provider’s servers. What the heck!? I called the registrar to ask for help, explained the situation and the representative explained what was happening.
ICANN, the body overseeing administration of all Internet domain names, established a new policy in January 2014 requiring registrars to verify domain information with its customers. The registrar had sent an email to the listed owner of the domain. The message contained a link for the owner to click to complete verification. Simple.
The owner of the domain (also the owner of the company) never responded. Per the new policy, 15 days later the registrar put the domain on hold. This effectively disabled the domain presence of company.biz. Neustar.biz turned out to be the domain management company for the top-level .biz domain, which is why we saw the strange SOA information.
The registrar worked with me and we quickly resolved ownership of the domain. Within minutes of responding to the verification email the entire domain was live again, the company web site was working and email was flowing.
Late in the afternoon I called the customer and explained what had happened. We’ll have some advice going forward for how to avoid this in the future. Not knowing why the owner of the company never responded to the registrar’s message, I suggested she either didn’t see it or maybe lost it in the company’s recent transition to Office 365 for email. “Nah,” said my contact. “She never checks that account.”