Why can't I send mail from my hotel room?

Article written by Leo Notenboom

I checked in to my hotel which provides free high speed internet. All was well and good, except that after a while, I could no longer send email. I could receive all I wanted, but all my attempts to send failed. And the weird thing is that the next morning, sending mail worked ... for a while. What's going on?

I've run into this as well. It's very strange, but once I understood it, it kinda, sorta, made sense. And understanding it allowed me to work around it.

But it's the kind of thing I wouldn't expect the front desk to be able to help with at all. You're kind of on your own.

And I think you can blame spam.

You may already know, but when you send email, you're connecting to a remote email server, and communicating on a particular "port". Port 25 happens to be the SMTP mail sending port.

Many hotels, and possibly other facilities, are starting to intercept mail being sent to any mail server on port 25, and redirecting it to flow through their own mail server. So even though your mail program is configured to send your mail through the SMTP server of, say, your isp - the hotel's infrastructure sends it through their email server anyway.
"Many hotels, and possibly other facilities, are starting to intercept mail being sent to any mail server on port 25"

And on top of that, they then impose a cap on the amount of email you can send.

Why do they do that? My theory is spam - they don't want some spammer to sit in their hotel and use their resources to send hundreds or thousands of spam emails. Or similarly, have a legitimate guests machine that's infected with a spam-sending zombie to do the same. Not only would it clog the hotel's network, but it could result in the hotel's IP address being added to spam-blocking blacklists. Not something the hotels want.

So they intercept, and limit what you can do.

Fortunately there are several workarounds. And the good news is that the workarounds are difficult for the spammers to exploit.

Here are is one way to address the issue:

* Use web mail. If your ISP has a web interface, that can be a quick way to be able to dash off that important email with no further thought.

Like I said, I don't really blame the hotels, they're trying to address a very real and serious problem. I do wish that they had better information available about what they're doing, or at least a warning of some sort. But ultimately I blame the spammers and the purveyors of malware that have forced the hotels and others into the position of having to take these types of actions.

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