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Software is great until users screw it up

Every month, our e-mail list server sends out “reminder” e-mails to everyone who is subscribed to all the lists that we provide. These e-mails are essentially, “Hey, don’t forget that you’re subscribed to this list. If you don’t want to be subscribed to this list anymore, here’s how you unsubscribe…”

Periodically, we get irate users who reply to us about various things — sometimes justified, sometimes not. Sometimes the angry replies are so misguided as to be quite amusing. Here’s one — including my reply to him — that came in this month:

On Mar 1, 2005, at 7:32 AM, L. User wrote:
I just realized for the first time, each time you send me a membership reminder, you send me my password, UN-ENCRYPTED.

Correct. This is how the GNU Mailman software works — you will find the same setup on a very large number of other mailing lists around the internet. The fact is that there is no good way to have 100% secure passwords in software that is driven by e-mail. In order to reach a wide variety of people with a huge diversity in mail clients, one cannot assume encryption. This was not our decision — please feel free to take it up with the GNU Mailman developers.

On the list subscription page, it quite clearly says:

“You may enter a privacy password below. This provides only mild security, but should prevent others from messing with your subscription. Do not use a valuable password as it will occasionally be emailed back to you in cleartext.”

Are you people nuts?


I use that password for all my email accounts!!!!

If you truly are a security-conscious person, you:

a) should not do that
b) should not have admitted that in an un-encrypted e-mail

Now stop doing that, or else un-subscribe me.

If you are unhappy with the [free] service provided to you, please feel free to unsubscribe at the following URL: http….

Thanks for your time.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 1, 2005 8:01 AM.

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