Aug 202018
 

An all too common problem is when users report e-mail delays ranging from 5 to 15 minutes. When troubleshing these types of issues, you’ll notice this commonly occurs when receiving e-mails from organizations that use Office 365. Specifically this occurs due to greylisting.

Why does this happen

You’re organization is using greylisting on your e-mail proxy/SMTP relay to reduce spam. Greylisting temporarily rejects the first send of an e-mail and waits for the sending server to re-transmit the message. This process usually takes around 5-15 minutes to complete. Greylisting is used because spammers won’t re-transmit the message, which leads to a massive reduction of spam messages coming through.

Once the sending server retransmits, the sending server IP address is added to your firewalls “safe senders” whitelist. From this point on the IP address (or server) will not be subject to greylisting (and any subsequent e-mails).

Office 365 has hundreds, if not thousands (possibly 10’s of thousands) of servers they use to transmit e-mail. The chance of multiple e-mails being sent from a single server is very slim, therefor greylisting is applied to every IP (server) that is sending e-mail because it’s different. Each e-mail from an Office 365 user can take 5-15 minutes, since a new server is used every time.

How to resolve

You’ll need to configure and add an exception to your e-mail proxy/SMTP relay/firewall. This exception can be based off domain, DNS name of sending server, or IP address ranges.

Scroll down for instructions on how to create an exception on a Sophos UTM.

Domain Exception

If you use domain based exceptions, you’ll need to configure these manually for each sending domain that you want your firewall to skip greylist checking. This is a very manual process, which requires lots of human intervention to continuously update your greylist exception.

DNS FQDN of MX Server

This method is the easiest, however most firewall or UTM’s will now allow these types of exceptions since a number of DNS queries will be needed everytime an e-mail comes in. One DNS query on the MX record, and then another DNS query on the DNS host contained in the MX record. If you can configure this type of exception, you’ll want to configure it as below:

*-com.mail.protection.outlook.com

IP Address Range

This is the best method. To create an IP address range exception, we’ll need a copy of all the IP address ranges or IP address spaces that Office 365 uses to send mail. This list can be found at: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/office365/SecurityCompliance/eop/exchange-online-protection-ip-addresses.

We’ll need to create an exception that skips greylist checking on the IP addresses outlined in the above link. This will stop any greylist checking on e-mails from Office 365 servers.

In my case, I use a Sophos UTM firewall, and to create an exception I had to do the following:

  1. Log on to the Webmin interface.
  2. Select “Email Protection”, then “STMP” on the left hand side, then “Exceptions” tab at the top.

    Sophos UTM E-Mail and SMTP Exception List

    Sophos UTM E-Mail and SMTP Exception List

  3. Create a “New Exception List” and call it “Office 365 GreylistWhitelist”.
  4. Check the “Greylisting” box under “Antispam”, and then check the “For these source hosts/networks”.

    Sophos UTM SMTP Create Exception

    Sophos UTM SMTP Create Exception

  5. Click the “+” button, and call the Network Definition “Exchange365-EOP-Group”. Change the type to “Network Group”.
  6. Click the “+” button in the members section, and start adding the IP spaces. Repeat this for each IP space (in total I added 23). Each network name (IP address space) requires a unique name, I named mine “Exchange365-EOP1” through “Exchange365-EOP23”.

    Sophos UTM SMTP Configure Exception

    Sophos UTM SMTP Configure Exception

  7. Click Save on the Network Group, and click Save on the exception.
  8. Enable the Exception

    Sophos UTM SMTP Exception Rule

    Sophos UTM SMTP Exception Rule

  9. Completed! You’ve now made the exception and delays should no longer occur.
Jan 142018
 

The Problem

In the latest updates and versions of Microsoft Office 2016, I found a bug where when a user adds a new on-premise Microsoft Exchange 2016 account, it will repeatedly prompt for a username and password and ultimately fail if you hit cancel (no matter how many times you enter credentials). This was on the internal LAN on a domain joined workstation.

I did the usual checks:

  • Check Virtualdirectory configuration on Exchange
  • Check Virtualdirectory configuration on IIS (Internet Information Services)
  • Check Autodiscover DNS entries, InternalURL and ExternalURL configuration
  • Check for SCP inside of domain

All the of the above came back fine and were configured properly.

I have numerous other Outlook 2016 clients configured and working (installed as older versions, but have been updated), so I used those to troubleshoot (same scenario, domain joined on internal LAN and external WAN). After spending 10 hours ripping apart everything, confirming configuration, I noticed that when using the “Test Email Autoconfiguration…” (holding CTRL while right clicking on Outlook tray icon), that the e-mail clients had a skewed order for checking autodiscovery.

The e-mail clients were actually trying to authenticate with Office365 before my own on-premise Exchange Server (domain SCP or autodiscover records). This is absolutely bizarre! After spending 2 hours googling (I couldn’t find anything), I finally stumbled across this document and found an interesting piece of information:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-ca/help/3211279/outlook-2016-implementation-of-autodiscover

“Outlook uses a set of heuristics to determine whether the user account provided comes from Office 365. If Outlook determines confidently that you are an O365 user, a try is made to retrieve the Autodiscover payload from the known O365 endpoints (typically https://autodiscover-s.outlook.com/autodiscover/autodiscover.xml or https://autodiscover-s.partner.outlook.cn/autodiscover/autodiscover.xml). If this step does not retrieve a payload, Outlook moves to step 5.”

WTF?!?!?

So while this doesn’t explain why this happened, it explains what’s happening. I believe this is what’s happening as my working clients are trying to Autodisocver with Office365 first…

I went ahead an created a registry value to control the policy for “ExcludeExplicitO365Endpoint“. After configuring the registry key, I noticed that Autodiscover was now functioning properly and checking SCP and autodiscover DNS records first. I have no idea why the “heuristics” determined I was an Office365 user, but I’m not (I do have access to Office365 as a partner, but don’t use it and don’t have it configured). This may effect other partners, or users that utilize some O365 services…

The Fix

To fix this issue, create a text file and copy/paste this text below.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Outlook\AutoDiscover]
"ExcludeExplicitO365Endpoint"=dword:00000001

Then save it, and rename it as ExcludeExplicitO365Endpoint.reg and run it (this will import the applicable registry key). ONLY DO THIS if you are using an Exchange On-Premise account, and not a Office365 or hosted exchange account.

Keep in mind that autodiscover also queries the domain root (domain.com), before querying the autodiscover host (autodiscover.domain.com). If you want to stop both the Office365 autodiscover and the root domain autodiscover challenge, use the following below:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Outlook\AutoDiscover]
"ExcludeExplicitO365Endpoint"=dword:00000001
"ExcludeHttpsRootDomain"=dword:00000001

You’ll notice that we also set “ExcludeHttpsRootDomain” to “1” which stops it from checking the root domain.

After this, the issue was completely fixed. If you know what you’re doing, you can also use Outlook GPO settings and deploy this to a vast number of systems using Group Policy.

Additional Note (added November 2nd, 2018)

While reading numerous documents covering autodiscovery, I also came across an article that went in to detail with particulars as to how Mapi over HTTP functions. Even with the above, when accessing Outlook externall from the domain, you may still notice a single password prompt for the first time you log in externally.

After reading through documentation, I found that this is most likely because the first user account login (the very first time the user logged in on the computer), the username format of “DOMAIN\Username” was used, and not the UPN. The documentation mentioned that this may fail the negotiation, which will require a single password prompt on autodiscovery. This issue can be avoided by using the users UPN (username@domain.com) to log in for the first time on the system.

Please note that the UPN must match the user’s e-mail address.