The Spamhaus Project

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Getting a Spamhaus error when using phpBB? Here’s what’s going on

If you're using phpBB and have recently started getting an error from Spamhaus, in this blog post we explain what’s going on and a simple fix.

by The Spamhaus TeamSeptember 09, 20223 minutes reading time

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Introduction

Are you a user of the forum software, phpBB? Have you recently started getting an error from Spamhaus preventing you from posting? If so, you’re in the right place – we’ll explain what’s going on (it’s not you, it’s them!), how you can remediate with three simple clicks, and a watch out for the longer term.### It’s not you; it’s phpBB

If you are worried that Spamhaus has listed you and it’s preventing you from posting to phpBB, set that worry aside. Using the Spamhaus Checker, you’ll likely see you are not listed by Spamhaus – great news!

For anyone who is seeing a listing and it’s on the Policy Blocklist (PBL), please keep reading. This advice still very likely applies to you.

So what is causing the issue? The phpBB software itself; we believe the software is using legacy data which is causing issues. It’s likely some development work is required. Fortunately though, there’s a straightforward fix that you can carry out to get the software working again.

Here’s the fix

… or rather, here are the fixes – you have two options:

The one-off, more technical option:

Use a non-public DNS resolver for your phpBB software. How will that fix things? At a very high level, queries from an open resolver, like Cloudflare or Google DNS, are causing this error – we’ll return to this shortly.

The more temporary but speedy, three clicks option:

The phpBB software has been developed so you can easily turn off the queries to the Spamhaus data. Here’s how you do it:

  • Go to the phpBB management portal.
  • Navigate to “security settings.”
  • Set “check IP against DNS blockhole list” to NO.

Please note: (without stating the obvious) if you choose this second option IPs will no longer be checked against Spamhaus’ reputation datasets.

It worked fine before – what’s changed?

Let’s delve into the point of using an open resolver. Where queries are being made outside of The Spamhaus Project’s Fair Use Policy, e.g., if queries come via an open resolver, those queries are blocked. This is to protect The Project’s infrastructure – you can read more on this here.

Error codes have been introduced to provide a clear signal that there is an issue for users. We suspect the phpBB software is misinterpreting these error codes, determining them as “everything is blocked” … and ultimately blocking users from posting.

Can you help us to contact phpBB to implement a fix?

The ultimate fix is for the phpBB software configuration to be updated to point to the FREE Spamhaus Data Query Service (DQS). This will allow queries to continue from an open resolver.

So if you work for phpBB or can support us with an introduction to help get the necessary fix made, please let us know via Twitter or LinkedIn.

A note to those listed on the Policy Blocklist (PBL)

What we said at the beginning is still very likely to remain true – it’s not you, it’s phpBB. Your PBL listing is not at all likely to be causing you an issue with phpBB. Far more probable is the two are entirely unrelated. For more info on the PBL, click here.

So please, take the remedial steps outlined above – it’s likely to land you the fix you need.

A final watch out for the longer term

We’re hopeful we can make contact and work with phpBB to get the necessary changes made. Once implemented, if you took the second – more temporary – fix, make sure to a) update the software and then b) set “check IP against DNS blockhole list” back to yes so you benefit from the free data once more.