As a result of a recent increase of spam in Yale’s e-mail systems, panlists may be on their way out.
Information Technology Services is considering replacements for the service, which allows multiple e-mail addresses to be messaged through a single account, and as of Feb. 4 students can no longer make new panlists, manager of the Student Technology Collaborative Loriann Higashi said. After a slew of spamming attacks, ITS is cracking down on panlists, deleting old ones that have fallen out of use and placing a temporary moratorium on the creation of new ones as it re-evaluates the service. Active panlists will continue to function normally for at least the remainder of this academic year, until ITS reaches a decision on whether to continue to employ them, transition to the more complicated “mailman” lists or contract a similar service to replace both of those options.
“This was the last straw,” Higashi said of the recent spamming attacks. “We want to make sure that [a new list service] is something that’s not easily spammed but is still easy to use.”
Chuck Powell, senior director for academic media and technology, said in an e-mail that he expects ITS will need at least 60 to 90 days for a “thorough and thoughtful review.”
Though panlist creation is on hold, students can still request mailman lists, which are more complicated to set up, but harder to spam, Higashi said. The panlist moratorium has sparked an increase in the rate of mailman list creation, she added. Whereas previously ITS would create one or two mailman lists a day, Higashi said she is now seeing about 10 new lists per day.
Yale currently has over 15,000 panlists and approximately 2,400 mailman lists. Mailman lists can be customized to offer varying degrees of security, but ITS has now decided to require that Yale mailman lists only receive messages from list members, Higashi said.
Though unusually high spam levels precipitated the hold on panlists, ITS has been considering decommissioning the system for several years.
“The recent abuses by a small number of people was an impetus to act sooner,” Powell said, “but not the only reason for the review.”
Powell said ITS will consider a variety of list vendors to replace panlists and mailman lists, but he is still unsure if they will choose to implement a new system. Higashi added that many more mailing list options exist now than did when the panlist and mailman programs were introduced to Yale in 2003.
Deciding on a list service is about striking the right balance between usability and security, Higashi said. Mailman may not fit the bill: Powell said these lists are harder to use than panlists, and also have “functional gaps” that ITS still needs to explore.
Higashi added in an e-mail that it might be possible to redesign panlists so that people not on the lists cannot e-mail them. ITS would have to rewrite the code of the panlist service, which might not be the most effective solution to the problem, she said.
For some students, the realization that they could not make panlists came as an unpleasant surprise.
Kebra Sedam ’13 said she tried to create a panlist for the Yale Precision Marching Band Scavenger Hunt Committee last week but was notified that she would have to make a mailman list instead. Sedam said she found this process far more complicated than she expected.
“It’s so much more difficult than panlist.edu,” Sedam said. “I think it’s horrible.”
The word “panlist” may be even harder to shake than the service itself. Four out of five students interviewed said they would continue to call whatever lists used “panlists.”
But Caroline Bank ’13 said should all lists become mailman lists, she would abbreviate them as “manlists.”
Community members who wish to create mailman lists or migrate their panlists to mailman lists can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.