L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

08 March 2007 Blog Home : March 2007 : Permalink

Hosting Matters Hates Me

I like to read and recommend a number of blogs (Big Lizards, [Patterico], VodkaPundit ...) that are hosted by Hosting Matters. I think most of them are in my blogroll. Unfortunately for the last month or two I have been forced to read the RSS feed of some of these blogs as harvested by bloglines because for some reason almost every time I try to go to the blogsite itself I get a page like this:


You don't have permission to access / on this server.

Additionally, a 403 Forbidden error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

Apache/1.3.37 Server at www.patterico.com Port 80
This is irritating because I'd quite like to leave comments and do other things like that but I can't because I don't have access to the site. Now I did see that on a Patterico post that I may not be alone in this, although I suspect that my situation is worse. What is described there is the fact that an instalanche brought his entire site down for a while. What I am seeing is that most of the time I am unable to get to any HM hosted blog (or at least a number of HM hosted blogs). In technical terms it looks like blogs hosted on some of the hmdnsgroup.com servers have a spam/anti-hack filter that dislikes my IP address. I have raised a ticket with HM on this subject and I consider the response to be less than helpful (if you really want to view it login with my gmail address and a password of "aebe7a23"). Here is what I wrote:

Hi there,

I am a reader of a number of blogs that turn out to be hosted on your
HMDNSGROUP servers (e.g. big lizards, patterico, vodkapundit ...). For
the last couple of months or so it seems like most of the time when I
attempt to access the servers I get a 403 message like this: [see above]

This is irritating for me and assuming that it applies to other would
be readers irritating for the bloggers too. I doubt this is a general
thing since otherwise I'm sure I'd have seen comment in the
blogosphere but I suppose it is possible.

I can imagine that one reason why I might be being picked on specially
is that I'm from Europe and the regular readers of these blogs are US
based. So are you in fact deliberately limited access to these sites
from non-US addresses or os there some other thing you are doing that
is breaking things?

Best regards


and here is the response:

We're not "breaking" anything. A 403 means what it says: you can't access the site. If you set off someone's spam filters or you're in a region where your IP is going to be blocked, then you're going to be blocked. We don't have the time or the inclination to go around randomly to blogs and block access arbitrarily. And since we have a large contingent of clients from Europe, in addition to the rest of the world, it would hardly be in our best interests to block non-US IP space from the network.

I asked the only blogger of the three on the list with whom I've emailed before (patterico) and he confirmed that he personally is not blocking me (or anyone else for that matter). I also dicovered last night that I had
  1. Access to a number of hosting matters blogs (e.g. Instapundit, Captains Quarters)
  2. Access to the three above when my ISP changed my IP address once (it does this at least once a day)
  3. No more access to the three after my IP address changed to a thrid one similar to the first one I had yesterday
So therefore when Stacy writes that "you set off someone's spam filters or you're in a region where your IP is going to be blocked, then you're going to be blocked." the someone she is talking about appears to be Hosting Matters itself. And here is the problem. I'm not in a country reknowned for its spamming of the entire world or hacking things, I'm in France. And while Hosting Matters blocks my access for some blogs I don't have a problem with any other internet site I visit.

Given the less than helpful response from Stacy I decided to investigate further and learned that, as I reported to HM, the only blocklists my various IP addresses seem to be on are ones that are specifically related to SMTP (email) spamming and have no relevance what so ever to blog comment spamming and the like.

I have done some research on blocklists and have discovered that my IP addresses that are blocked share one thing in common compared to the one that didn't - namely they are on the sorbs DUL list ( dul.dnsbl.sorbs.net), which is a list of ip addresses of "dial up" clients or one of the equivalents from other DNSbl maintainers such as dynablock.njabl.org . I hope it is obvious that the DUL list is intended _purely_ for SMTP spam and has no validity what so ever for other sorts of spam such as comment spamming, hence banning access based on that list is an error.

I should also note that the standard SORBS DNSBL includes the DUL so if you are relying on the standard SORBS list then you need to do an additional query to remove DUL accounts from it. In addition a number of other DNSBL lists such as blackholes.five-ten-sg.com appear to import the SORBS DUL list. I would be happy to investigate further if you can tell me what DNSBLs are being used by hosting matters and/or your implementations of movable type. The information at http://www.sixapart.com/movabletype/docs/3.2/k_preinstalled_plugins/spamlookup/ip_address_lookups.html indicates that bsb.spamlookup.net is the prime DNSBL used, unfortunately there seems to be little or no information about what that site uses to decide is spam

Further evidence that the bug appears to be a purely hosting matters one is that Patterico has moved his blog to a wordpress one and I no longer have any problem with access. I'm blogging about this primarily because HM are completely ignoring the problem and it seems likely that other people could well be suffering the same problem. So if you get a 403 error when trying to read a hosting matters hosted blog please tell me and maybe we can get HM to tell us a bit more about how they are blocking hosts.

PS For those who are interested here are the technical tools I have used.
  1. To help you identify whether a particular blog is a hosting matters one, SamSpade will give the "whois" information. If the result contains mention of hmdnsgroup.com or hmdns.net then it is hosted by hosting matters.
  2. If you are being blocked then dnsbl.info will tell you what lists you are on. Typically I find the advanced page more interesting although it gives you more information that you probably need.

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