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Some incoming e-mail's occasionally appear as unreadable strings of boxes, letters, and other characters

Posted on 2006-04-27
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Hello, recently we received an incoming e-mail from an individual in Australia and the body of the e-mail looks like this:
%}&jή("@jT{1Nۏ6N|DLM=MB5ݕѡЁ́ݕɐ͕ѡ́ݽɭ̸4(4)ɼ4(4)!܁ɔ儸M䁙ȁ՜ѥѼԸѥ՝Ёȁ她ԁɔѥMՉIHՍѽȁ4($4($4(4(%I典4($4(%Qԁ͕Ёչɕݥ͕ȁ%PѵЁ4($4(%Q̰4($4(%),4($4($=ɥ5ͅ4(%ɽI典]́mѼ݅ɽt4(%Mɥ䰁5ɍܰ؀44MՉIHՍѽȁ4($4(%jie4($:Q;n|9Q0:u5    
And another from a Blackberry from a person in Wisconsin and it came through like this:
$ Fw2&VBFVvFw R &6Wf2"FVFR&BvRvW&r FV6B6f F FR &FRV֖&V& FR VBFWfRWw2F7W2W vVРF2ƖFР' FR V&B"W6w262r RvFV"VG&6 v&Be"w2w&BB’vfRVV FBFV7WBB6GƶRRFwVB

We recently started basically from scratch on our network migrating from Netware to Windows Server 2003 sp1 Standard, while running Exchange Server 2003 enterprise sp2. Our clients are all running both newly installed Office 2003 sp1 or sp2 on Windows XP sp2, and were all running Groupwise about 10 months ago. We upgraded from Office 2000 Pro to 2003 Pro when we migrated from groupwise 5.5(and netware).

Anyway, I am wondering what I might need to do on either the Exchange Server, Outlook 2003 clients, or both to eiminate the issue of these e-mails made up of random characters. It was confirmed that the e-mail from the blackberry was received normally by recipients out of our e-mail system. I assume it has something to do with Unicode or language pack or something, but haven't really found the information I need to clearly fix the problem anywhere. The problem seemas to only happen with e-mails from a few different domains so far, but they are important to our orginization so I do need to get it resolved. Thanks for any help you can provide!

Kyle
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Question by:IRRexperts
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Expert Comment

by:flyguybob
ID: 16555739
The first thing I like to recommend is running Exchange Best Practices Analyzer:
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/exchange/downloads/2003/analyzers/default.mspx

Generally in these situations the messages are coming from a non-English speaking country and the MUI/language pack is not installed.  However, this is likely not the case.  If it appears in Outlook and Outlook Web access as a garbled message, something may have corrupted the message.  Generally this is caused by a file-level anti-virus application scanning the transaction logs, or the Exchange database.
This is a PAQ that I asked, which surrounded the Symantec product.
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Networking/Email_Groupware/Exchange_Server/Q_21300420.html
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Author Comment

by:IRRexperts
ID: 16599994
Well, I ran a best practices test and found a critical warning. I made all the recommended adjustments as suggested by CA for our version of etrust antivirus, ran the best practices analyzer again and the critical issue was elimiated. Unfortunatly the issue hasn't been resolved though. We are having continues problems from a blackberry user(and I've been told a couple of blackberry users, none of which are a part of our e-mail system) and this individual from Australia.

Our orginization has blackberries of our own and messages sent through our blackberries display fine in Outlook 2003, but when they come from this other sender they come through like this:

Ensڶ^^vzڕr:v⽩SgƲM:ݹ9uR
2 M
VWFfReFW&B–W6$F'&BТ"3CТc#sR6V&W7vФgF֖6v7&Fv6ХVVFW6֒2#b#Х76W 7&vR6ХS#ӃRХgVSӃscWФ#cR3pТv76vRg&Ӣ76W"֖W7WFW&6ХVVFW6֒2#bХƖF67VVCFW@Ф=agW`+6|$0С D0A

So, it would seem the problem is ongoing. I am really wondering first of all which of the 3 main components as I see it would mos likely be the problem causer, Outlook 2003, Our Exchange 2003 server, or their blackberry e-mail format? I have pretty much eliminated Outlook 2003 though, since the e-mail is jumbles in outlook webaccess as well. Thanks for any more ideas anyone can come with!
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Expert Comment

by:flyguybob
ID: 16600148
My second thought was that it might have been encrypted, but that does not appear to be an encrypted string (and Outlook would note that it is encrypted).

I suspect that whatever is coming in may be scrambled when it comes in.  Have whomever is sending it send to a non-Exchange server.  I suspect that the messages may work fine to those non-Exchange server addresses (gmail.com and aol.com).  If you have the ability to sniff at the firewall, and can isolate the inbound IP addresses/netblock, sniff the traffic and see if it comes in jumbled at the firewall.  That will eliminate CA and Exchange.  If you can do the same at the Perimeter, you may want to try that as well.  If you don't have the ability or a network person on-site, see if there is someone in the community that can help.  Determining where the corruption starts will definitely be critical in resolving the contract.

Bob
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Author Comment

by:IRRexperts
ID: 16614557
An interesting new development, another different user just received several e-mails with Excel attachments. All the attachments are coming through scrambled and look the same as the e-mails I mentioned above. When they send the Excel file in .pdf form it comes through normally every time. very odd.
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Expert Comment

by:flyguybob
ID: 16627700
Since this only happens coming from some domains and this only happens with certain attachments, is there any common indicator that you have been able to determine?  Were you able to take my suggestions mentioned above and push forward with them?  Since it is a few domains and a few attachment types, this does limit that it is not a wide-spread problem, but may be limited to issues on their end or possibly on a system on your end.

It may be, due to the issues you are experiencing and the fact that this is an archived forum, that you need to touch base with the IT staff of the other domains, and possibly even Microsoft PSS.

Bob
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LVL 24

Expert Comment

by:flyguybob
ID: 16786374
I am insanely curious regarding what the final outcome was.
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Author Comment

by:IRRexperts
ID: 16802525
I haven't had a resolution yet, but the problem isn't limited to attachments, nor is it limited to specific workstations or recipients. The one thing that is similar about all the problems it thay all involve Microsoft products, i.e. excel attachments and regular e-mails in Outlook. They are also garbeled in Outlook webaccess, so I have ruled out Office 2003 as well. Like I mentioned earlier in the thread, it all started with one particular Blackberry user, then it was a different user from Australia just sending regular e-mail(no attachment). I have had this Blackberry sender also send to me and it comes through the same way, all garbled. Another user sent an excel attachment to one of our employees and that was garbled.

Unfortunatly the "If you have the ability to sniff at the firewall, and can isolate the inbound IP addresses/netblock, sniff the traffic and see if it comes in jumbled at the firewall" is something i've never done before so i am not really sure what an easy tool would be to accomplish this. If I find one, would I have to sniff the line in real-time as it arrives to see if it is corrupted?

We have Watchguard firebox 700's, but i am not sure if they come with any tools to "sniff at the firewall", but I just have never done this before. Another thing, We have had these firewalls in place for much longer than our new Exchange 2003 without any problems with garbeled e-mail, which is why I am hesitant to coordinate believe it is garbeled before it gets here, but I guess its possible. I was also thinking about calling Microsoft and opening up one an "incident" or whatever, but I am dreading if the person I and up getting doesn't speak very good english but I am going to have to resolve this somehow I guess. I don't have any experience with Microsofts phone tech support, but if you can vouch for it being pretty good, I might just go with that.

One last thing, these garbled e-mail occurances though relativly rare, all seem to only occur(so far) at one of our two remote locationswith a.
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Author Comment

by:IRRexperts
ID: 16802571
Ultimtimatly it seems the problem is specific to certain senders sending e-mail to us, because its not really random. The problem seems to always be the same people/orginization, so it probably is a setting on their end that is different from everyone elses. Any idea what that might be? Thanks!!!!!!
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Author Comment

by:IRRexperts
ID: 16802580
Also, what I was typing above "One last thing, these garbled e-mail occurances though relativly rare, all seem to only occur(so far) at one of our two remote locationswith a." is NOT ACCURATE! Thanks!!!
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Author Comment

by:IRRexperts
ID: 16802605
Whoa, Sorry about the syntax of some of those sentences too. I guess it wouldn't kill me to proofread my posts before submitting.
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Accepted Solution

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flyguybob earned 2000 total points
ID: 16804074
IRR -

If you have a problem with someone who does not speak clear English, politely let them know that you are having a hard time understanding them and you respect them, but would like to respectfully request another assistant or would respectfully request to speak with their tech lead.  When I worked in downtown D.C. I found that, for whatever reason, I recieved a lot of support from Canada when calling the support at 8PM.  Granted, the organization I worked for was a Premier customer.  A call after 8PM Eastern may be helpful as well.

Regarding sniffers at the Exchange server - Netmon works well and Ethereal is a good sniffer.  Netmon can be installed through Add/Remove programs and Add/Remove Windows components.
Regarding a sniffer at the perimeter, you have to look to a hardware device or the ability for your firewall to allow you to sniff traffic.  Some organizations/customers on E-E have those and others do not.  Watchguard may have something within their device.  Otherwise, purchasing a sniffer box to put on the perimeter is going to be out of the question.

Bob
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