back to article BT 'security upgrade' causes email headaches

BT broadband customers who don't use an address are being forced to jump through hoops to send email, as the national telco says it is tightening its anti-spam policies. A change in BT's rules means individuals and businesses who use a desktop SMTP program such as Outlook or Thunderbird with their own domain …


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  1. Jonathan

    BT's "Improvements"

    Just like BT is "improving" its customer monitoring program, and "improving" its targeted ads?

    I'm so glad that BT is not my ISP. And that my email is not tied to any ISP.

    What reason is there to ever use the address provided by your ISP?

  2. Jamie

    Worst thing is time wasted.

    How many people contacted them and was told that it was an issue with thier computer/software and that there was no issue on the BT side.

    If those people were anything like me I would be extremely fed-up with talking to people who read off a sheet of paper and tout the benefits of this company, while being bent over and reemed.

    Best case scenario is people leave and then maybe just maybe the powers that be in the company may actually make information available to floor staff and allow them to disseminate the information to people calling in, next time!!!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Been there, done that...

    This is exactly why I started using my own mail server about four years ago. More and more individuals and SMBs are doing the same and cutting out the inconveniences caused by ISPs. It is for this reason that the people who call for blocking the mail protocol ports as a solution to spam are, to say the least, misguided. I did a few tests with my ISP and it appeared that the only validation they did before forwarding mail was to make sure the return address was their own domain. No matter if I sent it from a different provider or with unkown users, so long as the return address was approved mail was forwarded, hardly a security measure, more an open invitation to spammers.

    Also in my case the "they need to "validate" their domain" would have simply meant paying a further monthly charge.

  4. John Duffey

    Two hours

    It took 37 minutes on hold before being able to speak to someone - who couldn't help. She pointed me in the direction of someone else on a different phone number - more waiting. Eventually, after over an hour of telephone tennis I got somewhere useful.

    The worst part of it is that the address my mother would have needed to use in order to send is that of my recently deceased father. Trying to explain that I didn't have a password (because it was my late father's account, not mine) and that I didn't want to reset the password (because that would mean me driving 600 miles to change it on my aged mother's machines) and that I certainly didn't want to be using the address of my late father caused them some bother.

    Eventually a nice Scottish woman called Elaine said she'd cracked it. We shall have to see.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    External email servers are affected too . . . . .

    My experience is that accessing pop3/smtp servers outside the BT-Yahoo domain is also an issue now. My other email server is with my mobile phone provider, and trying to send email via that account now seems to be blocked by this "upgrade". None of my email accounts that I access via BT have worked since last Friday!!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    not just BT

    Many ISPs block outbound SMTP (e.g. Sky) and force you to use their smtp server in the name of "blocking spam".

    This is just another way to get you to stay with one supplier, since you have a BT email, imagine losing all your emails and having to change your email address with all your contacts just because you want cheaper broadband or dont want to be fed to phorm.

    Quite honestly the practises of big business (although mainly BT) should be criminal. Any ISP that says its your machine when it is clearly them should be in lots of trouble my time is as valuble as theirs!!!

    This is getting silly, there should be a law against companies outright lying to you!

  7. Tim J


    Have you even read the article??? The whole problem here is with people who have their own (ISP-independent) domain names who are trying to get them to work with BT internet (aka BT Broadband, aka BT Yahoo Broadband etc etc).

    These people are explicitly trying to *avoid* using an @btinternet email address.

  8. Sean Donnellan
    IT Angle

    Case Issues

    It appears the validation page assumes the email address is all lower case.

    It transposes any upper cases to lowercase

    However if in Outlook you send mail as "" it will still issue a "553 error".

  9. Pierre

    I've seen this in Canada

    I'm a Rogers High-speed (also partnered with Yahoo!) subscriber in Toronto, and have been caught a couple of times by this. Each time, I've been told that it's a "configuration glitch" at Rogers' end... how long before this becomes a permanent change here, too?

  10. Chris

    Is this actually news to anyone?

    BT - pi55 up - brewery - unable to organise.

    Is ANYONE who's dealt with them surprised?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You would think....

    It wouldn't be rocket science to send out an e-mail giving advance warning.

    I'm another one who's now looking to move ISPs after this silliness.

  12. Jared Earle

    Paging Dr. Google

    Set up Googlemail, set it to US-English, turn on IMAP, point your old email address to it, verify your old address in googlemail, set your SMTP server to be google's authenticating SMTP server, say goodbye to your ISP's incompetence.

    How hard can it be?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    It'd be nice if the BT email system (where it seemed to be directing me) was working, when I was trying to sort this issue out last week and over the Easter weekend the BT! Yahoo! Email! System! was fuxored!

  14. Joe
    Thumb Up

    Simple to sidestep

    Gah! Bloody BT.

    Some email providers provide an alternative port as well as the usual SMTP port 25, which easily sidesteps BT's block (which I think has been there for ages for Business broadband customers!)

  15. Slaine

    Lower your shields and surrender your ships.

    We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.

  16. Pete

    I had this problem some 5 years ago

    With BT business broadband

    We had our own domain hosted by another ISP and we had to confirm with BT we were allowed to send email from that domain.

    Then all emails sent were routed through BT's servers first, which meant more points of failures

  17. Dave Harris

    Run your own mail server

    Not that difficult. Wherever I am in the world, my mail comes through my server to my client, and I don't use SMTP between the two (NRPC, 1352, my two favourite sets of alphanumerics, children's and wife's names excepted)..

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ jeremy

    Point of order: Sky does not block port 25.

    I know because I use it myself. I should really get around to configuring the "alternate SMTP port" on my mail accounts, but haven't been bothered to just yet.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Email header rewrites

    ...A friend of mine who subscribes to '3' for internet on his boat via the 3g network recently discovered that his ISP are rewriting the email headers of his outbound mail.

    Messages originally marked as being from: are quietly rewritten to instead be

    How crap is that? As a result, our mail server is correctly rejecting his borked outbound messages!

    He's got around it though, using ssh tunnels straight past the isps proxies to the mailserver box :-))

  20. Anonymous Coward


    for the last god knows how many years, i have had my own email server. the reason, i dont want to be tied to a isp for email....i dont want to advertise a isp on every email i send..when i switch isp, i dont want to have to email everyone...

    my isp (adsl24) allows me to do whatever i like on my connection, so long as its legal. run servers, etc.... they also will host your domain name for you on the free webspace for free, and manage your email on your own domain name too...

    BT are the worst bunch of assholes to deal with. they are the cause of most peoples internet woes.

  21. Di9it8

    BT outage

    My understanding that if you use the following server

    using port no 587

    that should cure the current issues, instead of the server

  22. Alasdair S

    common courtesy

    BT recently managed to send me an email advertising their new credit card but didn't have the common decency to send one advising that they were making these changes. Shows where their priorities lie.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Likewise caught

    No email to tell me this was happening, the page referred to was useless, 1/2 hour of mine and support staff to sort it out.

    I wouldn't have minded - indeed, I approve of sender verification to cut down on spam - but FFS tell me you're going to do it *before* you do it you pricks!

    wankers one and all (okay, excepting indian support staff. Found them great)

    I'm moving ISP. Had enough.

  24. Chris
    Thumb Down

    Gone to Google

    Having gone through the help process 3 times to be able to send company mail through Outlook - we've had to configure gmail to send instead. First we're spied upon now this.........- had enough we're changing our ISP!

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT must be UK's equailent of Telia!

    The Swedish ISP Telia wanted to protect their customers from getting virus via

    attachments in mails so they closed the ports 23 and 25.

    This happened in 2007 but they are not likely to learn from that experience.

    It's just a matter of time until they pull the next stunt on their customers.

    If you're in Sweden, Telia is the last ISP you want.

    BT seems to be their brother in arms

  26. Absolute Cynic

    Wot, no warning?

    Surely somebody at BT could have foreseen the havoc this would cause? I can see the point of making this change but just implementing it without giving users time to prepare was lunatic.

    And why direct you to a Yahoo help page? I have no relationship with Yahoo. And I failed to find any page with a button marked Options at the upper right corner. I attempted to find it by logging on to BT but failed because the user name and password I was successfully using to send emails through my account were not accepted.

    And then there is Phorm ...

    Beware of BT

  27. Paul Taylor

    Use another ISP

    I have a BT line but ADSL from Freedom2Surf, which handles my outgoing mail, whilst Daily forwards incoming mail from PaulTaylor.EU. F2S doesn't mind the different From: address. However, it did get into a big jam last week, probably through over-enthusiastic spam filtering, so I just changed the forwarding at Daily.

    BTW, is there an organised campaign against BT's penalty charges for those of us who are not willing to give them unrestricted access to our bank accounts ("direct debit")? I asked them to explain how receiving payment by standing order cost them anything, but their reply was just more "good news" about "direct debit".

  28. Nick Smith

    Can someone clarify?

    Is this a case of BT blocking users with '3rd party domains' from sending via the BT SMTP servers OR is BT filtering all SMTP traffic of users connected to their broadband packages?

    If BT is preventing you from using 3d party domains on their SMTP servers then surely this is fair enough? Obviously they are having some issues with nefarious people using 3rd party domains for spam purposes in conjunction with BT SMTP servers? Most Domain Name packages now-a-days come with some form of e-mail service, so why not use the SMTP server provided by your domain hosting provider. If BT want to restrict their SMTP servers to @btinternet.* or other white listed domains then they are well within their rights. Sure it may cause you some hassle, but i dont recall BT ever making assurances you would be able to use 3rd party domains with their SMTP servers.

    NOW...if they are filtering ALL SMTP traffic regardless if it is going through their SMTP servers or not, then this is obviously a dirty tactic to force people to use their products as well as raising some possible privacy concerns and I for one would not stand for it.

    Could someone clarify which one we're talking about here? I left BT long ago, but I still have concerns for my friends and family who use them still...need i mention the whole Phorm saga?!

  29. system

    Not just BT

    AOL used to (and quite likely still do) hijack all port 25 traffic, sending it all through their own servers after filtering, provided their servers are working that day.

    Orange simply makes it impossible to contact a server on port 25 (time outs).

    There's probably others pulling similar crap with email traffic.

    If you have a machine you can setup an SSH tunnel to, you can setup a local port 25 routing through the tunnel to the remote server and tell your email client to use as the email server. Alternatively, setup your email server on a different port (works on both orange and AOL). If you have no control over the server, dyndns offer an SMTP service with a choice of ports.

  30. Andrew Macrobie

    BT Relays

    I'm not quite getting the gist of this story.

    a) Are we saying that people who have their domains hosted by BT (and thus have BT as designated mail exchangers for those domains) are having their outgoing mail blocked because they've not jumped through a set of hoops ?

    b) Or are we saying that people who have their domains (and websites, email etc) hosted by third parties but have, in the past, relayed through BT are complaining because BT are now blocking "unauthorised" domains from relaying through them (hardly a technically bad situation, but boo hiss at BT for not forewarning people).

    c) Or, finally, are BT redirecting all outbound SMTP traffic (a-la AOL) through their own servers and causing "b" to occur ?

    Anyone ??

  31. Anonymous Coward


    I had to help a customer out today. In the end he had to send a fax to BT on company headed paper with a copy of the "who is" records (to show that the domain was registered to the same address of the BT account) before they allowed his domain, his business domain to be sent out from his PC's via BT's smtp server.

    The whole episode took 5 hours today to sort out. Costly, and seeing that BT won't compensate that's alot of IT time and money to sort out a simple problem.

  32. David Heffernan

    Simple solution

    Why not just use the mail provider's authenticated SMTP server. For example my e-mail is hosted by 1&1 and my broadband is from BT. 1&1 provide an authenticated SMTP server so there is no need for any of this nonsense.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not so bad

    I am a BT customer with my own domain. When I first received this error 553 I noticed that the error message returned by the SMTP server referred me to a website which contained simple instructions on how to sort it out. All I had to do was log into my account and register my domain as authorised. It took all of five minutes. It seems a sensible measure to me - it makes it (slightly) harder to push spam through bt's smtp server.

    I find BTs SMTP service much more convenient most ISPs. Bt's SMTP server requires authorisation and therefore you can use it from anywhere, which I find very useful. This also presumbably how they can check that your sender domain is one they recognise as valid for the account.

    Also they provide an alternative port (587) which is jolly handy when 25 is blocked.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well I decided to leave BT

    when I logged in to try and fix the email problem and found stacks of emails from BT telling me (at the BT email address that I never ever used) that I had to pay extra for4 useage over 5gb a month, plus I could send emails from my own email addresses. Asked for MAC address and joined another ISP same day (yesterday).

  35. Brett Brennan
    Dead Vulture

    See the other El Reg article on US problems

    The same sort of thing has happened over the weekend to at&t email filters in the US. See El Reg article

    for this side of the pond's response...

    (Dead vulture, 'cause that's what my domains look like today...)

  36. Chris Daley

    Why ISP's are doing it wrong!

    We provide email services to various users many from BT and SKY who operate their own domains for business or personal reasons.

    The locking down of users only allowed to send through their ISP's mail servers causes problems things like SPF policies will not validate as mail is not being sent through the hosts mail server but instead the ISP's mail server.

    DomainKey's is becoming a widely used method to sign emails but again if your sending email through the ISP's mail server not the proper hosts mail server, emails will not be signed.

    Methods hosts have in place to make email look legit will not work if ISP's force users to send through their own Mail Servers.

    We also get a lot of customers telling us their ISP's mail servers are black listed in DNSBL's and RBL's which stops email getting through.

    What some ISP's let you do is use an alternative SMTP port which will allow SMTP traffic through to your host’s mail server so it can be sent properly. This works for a most UK ISP's!

    If anyone wants a decent email service have a look at our offerings

  37. Julian Bond

    SSL and AUTH

    1) Use an alternate email supplier

    2) Use SMTP Auth

    3) Use SSL for POP3/IMAP and SMTP

    Like, say, GMail.

    Then no matter what they do with port 25, you're still going to be working. Well until they block pop3s, imaps and smtps anyway.

    IMHO, people should not be running SMTP servers at home on the back of a DSL/cable line. And they should not be using SMTP without Auth. And if you need to access it over a public Wifi system you should not be sending passwords in the clear, hence SSL.

  38. heystoopid


    @ac the TELIASONERA dispute is now full blown and sunk like a proverbial Naval Battle Cruiser the HOOD as the yankee CONGENT has given them the right royal finger up the rear pass on March 13th and fired the broadside to pull the plug !

    The local has some of the story here " " but it would appear much smoke and mirrors is being used by COGENT in order to bounce all customers via the longest routes possible to the US based spy server networks and then back again !

    Or is it to hit back at those evil Pirate Bay p2p patrons ?

    Me thinks the real problem lies with the yankee CONGENT end , for more like reasons of greed or basic insanity in order to work hand in glove with that certain power sucking US Department in Maryland to shock horror spy on the neutral Swede's in this endless no win war on terror , truth can be stranger then fiction .

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Can someone clarify?

    From where I stand, what they are doing is reasonable. Just *tell* us first! And BTW my domain package doesn't come with SMTP, only POP.

    @not so bad: are you from BT? Let's read their help page

    "Why am I receiving an error when I send mail from Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Mac Mail, etc.?

    If you received an error message (553) while sending an email via your external mail client, your alternate non-Yahoo! email address is not verified. To properly use your POP service, please follow these instructions.

    1. Click Options in the upper-right corner of the page. If you are using the All New Yahoo! Mail, click Mail Options in the menu that appears."

    I was having problems with thunderbird. Looking at step 1, I can't find an options button in the upper right corner of thunderbird. Or the instructions page I was reading.

    Step 0 is in fact to log into their yahoo web mail (which I've never, ever used because I use thunderbird+pop exclusively). I wouldn't mind this stupid oversight so much if they'd fucking told me beforehand this was going to happen!

    And as for taking 5 minutes, it took 1/2 an hour with support staff, poor guy.

    And how do you know about port 587? BT never mentioned this to me. Would have saved a bucket of time if they had.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Nick Smith and Andrew Macrobie

    I've just sent out an email from one of my domains, via that domain's SMTP server on port 25, and it went straight away no bother, so I would say that it's BT applying the whitelist to their own SMTP servers.

    I'm suprised it's taken them this long for the residential connections, as I remember having to go through the whitelisting process for a couple of customers who wanted to send from their domain via their BT internet connection SMTP server.

  41. teacake

    Bit me over the weekend

    I contacted BT describing the problem, and this is their helpful reply:

    "I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing difficulties with accessing your email account. I apologise for the inconvenience caused.

    Please let me explain that it could be an intermittent issue I request you to try after some time."

    So they're well briefed, then.

  42. DayTM

    Use Gmail? Seriously?

    With their shonky privacy policies and the fact they're already scanning your mail to give you relevant adverts, are you sure you want to use Gmail instead? Really sure?

  43. Mountford D

    Not quite right

    The problem I encountered was that the user had a sub-account alongside her main family account. She was registered as "" and her sub-account was "". She tried to send mail as "Mrs.Smith" and the SMTP server at BT Yahoo! (or whatever they call themselves) could not verify her email address. When I changed her email address to "MyFamily" (with a reply-to "Mrs.Smith" so her contacts knew who it was), all her emails sent without any problems.

    I have advised her not to renew her contract with BT when it finishes in July. I am just amazed a global company like BT can make a cock-up of this phenomenal magnitude. Do they pull people off the streets or take on anyone who completes an IT course as advertised on TV and promote them to project managers as soon as they complete their probationary period?

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm on BT but don't use their mail servers or the excrescence of Geocities for web hosting. My mail goes out using my hosting company's (Register 1) authenticated SMTP servers, which is handy because I don't need to worry about changing things if I'm using my laptop away from home. I've been through 4 different ISPs in the last few years so it's easier to have my own domain than messing about with whatever my ISP wants me to have. I checked today and it's possible to send and receive mail without going anywhere near BT's servers.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's Yahoo!

    Yahoo! are to blame for this, they are the ones who screwed it up for everyone.

    You may like to see this page for help

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Andrew Macrobie


    And 'boo hiss' for:

    1) No forewarning via email;

    2) Pathetic support pages that make it nigh-on impossible to find the fix and;

    3) Even worse process for implementing the fix that requires several reauthentications and various redirs between Yahoo and BT pages.

  47. Jacqui Caren

    SMTP verify for ISP incoming email

    This makes SMB mail services useless and means that you can no longer SAV incoming email from your ISP.

    This is the same BT who provide fixed IP DSL in the middle of 'dynamic' blocks with '-dsl' in the rDNS which make it useless for SMTP.

    Furthermore they will NOT allow you to configure the rDNS which makes it no better than a much cheaper dynIP.

    BT/yahoo are just looking to screw as much out of as many customers (left) as possible.

  48. Robert M Jones

    How to fix your BTYahoo Sending mail problem

    Users frustrated at the smtp 533 errors and not getting on with the official BTY help page at

    may like to go to our unofficial help page here

    where they can find user friendly instructions that relate to the BTYahoo interface, and include guidelines for several common email clients.

    Two BTY users put this together over the Easter weekend, myself and the host of the website, Andy.

    Peer user help is also available at the newsgroup,

    and on the "BT General Broadband support" forums at

  49. Andrew Macrobie
    Thumb Down


    "Boo Hiss" was the least offensive way of describing the thoughts going through my mind at the time. It's like AOL, alll over again, only no-one knew about it...

    BT's customer support is (in my experience) historically terrible and I'm glad I don't have to deal with them at work for data services, only for analogue services. Comments about lepoards changing spots spring to mind.

    Thumbs down for BT's typically crappy handling of the situation. A bit of publicity on the customer services homepage and a round of emalis forewarning of changes (with helpful links) would have sidestepped the entire issue.

  50. Mr G

    Small Businesses / Home Workers

    What if you have to send the odd work email from home? Don't you want to use your companies domain name? BT for me are expensive and very slow (256k) so I'm going with Virgins in the near future :D

  51. Carl Taylor
    Paris Hilton

    SMTP madness -> solved!

    Over a year ago I had all this with my ISP - they provided SMTP but it was restricted. I use 4 email addresses across 2 domains and sometimes need to send a fairly small mailshot to about 1500 people (perhaps once a month).

    My ISP would only let me send from the 'free' email address they provided = no good. My email host limited the number of emails per hour I could send etc. Do not want to use Google as although they are free have concerns over privacy and think they also limit xx messages per day.

    After a bit of searching I found - monthly message quotas, sending from multiple email addresses, virus scanning and more - been using it ever since from my home and work connections, 3G when mobile and abroad - no problems - just as it should be.

    It's not 'free' but for £1-2 a month it pays for itself 10x over at least.

  52. Anonymous Coward

    Similarities with BT Business

    This has been the case with BT Business Broadband for years. Users with non-BT domains were required to provide proof via whois entries or by faxed details (as mentioned above). They would then be added to a whitelist enabling them to send via BT's smtp servers.

    Outwith BT's smtp system, port 25 was only blocked on dynamic IPs. Static IPs users (who paid extra) usually ran their own mailservers so were not affected.

    I don't think it's unreasonable for users to have to authenticate themselves to use BT's servers but typically this had been handled dreadfully. In the BT Business section there were no warning emails or letters sent & no general switch date for all. It seemed users were arbitrarily moved from open relay to having to jump through these hoops which caused a lot of customer irritation & pissed off tech desk guys for having to deal with unnecessary flack

  53. DR

    internet problems

    How long will it be before BT block port 80 as thats where all the porn and malware etc gets downloaded on?

  54. Andrew Meredith
    Paris Hilton

    Self hosting - The facts that they don't want you to know.

    [[ By Julian Bond

    Posted Tuesday 25th March 2008 22:16 GMT

    ... IMHO, people should not be running SMTP servers at home on the back of a DSL/cable line. ... ]]

    IMHO people called Julian should not be allowed to wear any item of clothing that is blue in colour ... well it's about as well argued.

    Self hosting is a perfectly legitimate way of structuring your networking. It allows a much greater range of freedom to implement services for your company or household. It prevents your ISP from locking you in via a proprietary email/web domain.

    If you want to know more, there's an article here that explains more about it:-

    Paris: Because she knows how to do it for herself !!

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You said : "I don't think it's unreasonable for users to have to authenticate themselves to use BT's servers "

    You don't understand, users already have to. They have to use smtp authentication. The mail headers will contain the IP address and the sending profile/email address of the original email. The difference is that a reply-to/from address would show a personal domain address.

  56. Heinz

    BT email

    My ISP is BT and I have a email address.

    However, I only use that email address with one company - BT.

    Everything else is gmail or hotmail.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Cimpanies with that word in the Title

    I have noticed that companies with That word in the title (British) need to be avoided. Like British Telecom (BT), British Gas, British Airways (Terminal 5). Possibly why British made goods have such a poor reputation.

    Paris, because when she screws you, at least you feel good at the end of it.

  58. Sceptical Bastard

    The absolute pits

    This story doesn't surprise me - BT must be the worst ISP anywhere ever. Not to mention being the arseholes who secretly trialed Phorm and lied about it.

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