Coming soon: crowdsourced mailops automation

Sam Tuke Sep 30 2021 Share

Still got questions? See the related FAQ

It’s time to work together

Email conquered the world with a revolutionary decentralised messaging system – using Open Source and Open Standards, it enabled anyone to host their own email, and today over 3 million mailservers do.

The diversity of email is its greatest strength: it’s a hotbed of innovation and investment, providing open access for use and deployment. But disunity has become its great weakness – independent mailservers working against each other, in a zero trust environment, causing enormous inefficencies for technicians and email users.

Double-edged diversity

Google has taken advantage of these problems to gain 40% of the global market with a simple service offering, benefiting from economies of scale that independent hosts cannot match. The result is diverging email standards like AMP and BIMI, and an unlevel playing field for other mail hosts. What’s the solution?

We’re building a new way for independent mail hosts like you to meet the ever-growing demand for email services – by working together. Through cooperation, email can be better than Google and Microsoft – and stay Free and Open Source.

Building cooperation into Lightmeter

Lightmeter is a mailserver monitoring app, and soon it will be a network of collaborative peers as well. By gaining the ability to learn from other Lightmeter instances, Lightmeter will gain new features to save you time and stress.

Our vision is of mailservers that are as easy to run as a WordPress blog. The upcoming peer network is an exciting step towards making this reality.

A new network of peers

Over four thousand people have installed Lightmeter to date – Lightmeter 1.9 will introduce sharing of data (which we call ‘signals’) with other Lightmeter users via a central service. Information which can benefit other Lightmeter users will be processed and shared such that everyone with a Lightmeter installation can benefit. This system is the basis for a new generation of mailops automation features.

It will be transparently and securely generated, sent, and stored, and be GDPR compliant. Mail logs and message data will stay local always. You can find details and examples in the FAQ.

Outnumbering attackers together

The first feature to be powered by the peer network will be automated protection from brute-force attacks over SMTP. When successful, these attacks ruin the reputation (and deliverability) of mail hosts, harm the reputation of the buisiness responsible, and typically coincide with inbox break-ins which breach message privacy. A solution is the #1 requested feature by Lightmeter users.

After being verified and combined, Lightmeter installations will be able to use the crowdsourced blocklist to prevent authentication attempts from attackers. Look out for details about this feature in the Lightmeter 2.0 release.

The same principles will, in future, allow automatic handling of mail delivery, performance, and security threats. Automated cooperation like this will level the playing field and keep digital communications open, convenient, and accessible.

Preventing abuse

Any system that depends upon user-submitted data is open to abuse. To check that the data signals shared by Lightmeter installations are honest, steps to verify them will be executed centrally (some automatic, others by Lightmeter team members) before sharing the insights with other users. We’re starting with simple solutions to this complex problem, and it will evolve over time.

To be transparent, GDPR-compliant, and protect our servers, we’ve added a ‘Terms of Service‘ relating to the data processing which is handled centrally. To use Lightmeter 1.9 you will be required to agree to these terms. This is also true if you use the Lightmeter Hosted service.

To fund development of the features we plan to introduce, we will offer of a subscription service with additional support and functionality. More information coming soon! Lightmeter software will always remain Free and Open Source.

Seeding the network

To make this new collaborative system work properly a critical mass of participating Lightmeter users is required. This minimum level must be reached before releasing the first feature that uses it, to seed the network. Therefore sharing will be introduced in Lightmeter 1.9, followed by the first feature (SMTP brute-force protection) in Lightmeter 2.0. Look out for a countdown calendar to the 2.0 release soon!

Control and transparency

More cooperating peers means better protection for everyone. So in Lightmeter 1.9 sharing is enabled by default and cannot be turned off. If you don’t want to get the new features, and share with the network, then you can continue using Lightmeter 1.8.2.

The ability to opt-out is planned for future releases, and we are actively gathering your feedback on this question. We believe that sharing offers unique benefits which are the best choice for email administrators, and for the good of the mail network as a whole.

You can check what is being shared at any time. See the new peer network FAQ for details.

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