The Power of Telnet

A client had a problem with “stuck” email in there inbox, we’re not exactly sure what caused this but there were about 60+ emails waiting in there email box all of about 3MB and all the exact same and they just never downloaded. (Mail is downloaded via Outlook using a pop3 account)

This has been a rather common?occurrence?lately with email accounts hosted in the US. Our normal method of fixing this is log in via the ISP’s webmail front end, go through the mail and delete any messages that are “junk”. Unfortunately that did not work, the minute the Inbox was opened the page would sit trying to download and then finally timeout.

It was time to use some knowledge that I acquired in my “younger days” when I hung around the darker parts of the web… you can access a POP email account using Telnet, the big advantage of using telnet is that you never download the message, in fact you don’t even have to see the message to be able to delete it. The downside is that telnet is not the easiest tool to use to read your email, you basically have to stick in all the raw POP commands from the specification in order to login and access your email account and manipulate the emails.

I don’t remember all the commands for POP servers but the basics on this page were enough for me to delete the offending emails and fix the problem.

While fun and not particularly dangerous, this is not something for your typical “user” as it involves command lines, typing often blindly at prompts and careful typing to ensure you make no mistakes as back space often doesn’t work.