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Mail returned with "smtp;500 5.3.3 Unrecognized command" error

By john ·
The mail sender recieves an NDR with this error. It seems to repeatedly happen with the same recipients, but maybe 1 out of 50 times it will error, and the rest of the time it works. There are vast numbers of other recipients on the same domain who never get rejected.

This is what the SMTP log on the sending server shows:

67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "xxxx -? TO:<stellaw@othercompany.com> SMTP" 500 0

Note the xxxx where normally RCPT would be. Where is this coming from? Note in the full log below that this occurs with more than one recipient:

67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "EHLO -? ourdomain.com SMTP" 250 310
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "MAIL -? FROM:<sarahgood@ourdomain.com> SMTP" 250 40
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<janicew@abni.com> SMTP" 250 29
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<paulwahpat@swinfo.net> SMTP" 250 34
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<james@romcast.net> SMTP" 250 36
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<award@msn.com> SMTP" 250 33
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<kbp@yahoo.com> SMTP" 250 28
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<holen@different-company.com> SMTP" 250 37
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<odena@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 29
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<pebbles@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 31
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<donald@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 30
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<andy@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 29
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<larena@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 30
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<lavina@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 30
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<max@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 27
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<portia@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 30
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<sampson@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 33
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<mokey@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 29
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<ruth@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 28
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:53 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<sam@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 28
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "xxxx -? TO:<stellaw@othercompany.com> SMTP" 500 0
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<terry@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 29
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<verah@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 29
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<cpalmer@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 31
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<dfrench@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 31
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<jerrym@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 30
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<lenny@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 29
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<prigdon@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 31
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<pstrom@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 30
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<aliceann@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 32
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<anita@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 29
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<beverley@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 32
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<delford@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 31
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<gloria@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 30
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<kathy@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 29
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<shirleyf@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 32
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<robin@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 29
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:29:58 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<cynthia@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 39
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "xxxx -? TO:<estelle@othercompany.com> SMTP" 500 0
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<burdeau@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 32
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<sheryl@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 30
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<derald@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 30
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<matt@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 28
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<ray@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 27
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<tkjd@othercompany.com> SMTP" 250 28
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<buckley_a@college.edu> SMTP" 250 35
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<blake_c@college.edu> SMTP" 250 33
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<ross_k@college.edu> SMTP" 250 32
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<mansfield_j@college.edu> SMTP" 250 37
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<root_p@college.edu> SMTP" 250 32
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<wynn_w@college.edu> SMTP" 250 32
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<whitefoot@school.wednet.edu> SMTP" 250 44
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<ynha@hotmail.com> SMTP" 250 27
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<juarez@selahjuice.com> SMTP" 250 40
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:03 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<teo@selahjuice.com> SMTP" 250 37
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:08 -0800] "xxxx -? TO:<alison@allegedcasinos.net> SMTP" 500 0
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:08 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<idajo@allegedcasinos.net> SMTP" 250 44
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:08 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<philip@allegedcasinos.net> SMTP" 250 46
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:08 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<Raelynn@allegedcasinos.net> SMTP" 250 43
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:08 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<sarah@allegedcasinos.net> SMTP" 250 43
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:08 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<michael@allegedcasinos.net> SMTP" 250 47
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:08 -0800] "RCPT -? TO:<teresa@allegedcasinos.net> SMTP" 250 37
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:09 -0800] "DATA -? <7D1EACA90FF0CB4AA363EFA2E82C23C80256DD84@ourserver.ourdomain.com> SMTP" 250 146
67.45.66.1 - ourdomain.com [23/Feb/2009:16:30:09 -0800] "QUIT -?ourdomain.com SMTP" 240 67

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5 total posts (Page 1 of 1)  
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All Answers

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NDR (Non-Delivery Report)

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5 series codes

by 45GEEK In reply to Mail returned with "smtp; ...

5 series codes are permanent error codes usually meaning a hardware or configuration error.
5.3.3 means server is out of disk space to accept incoming e-mail. Check your disk space or the "Allowed limit" for that mail box and the quota for it. Up the quota or space for those mailboxes only and you will not have that problem again.

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Response from ISP

by john In reply to 5 series codes

The Internet connection is provided by the (tribal) government and runs through a Cisco PIX firewall. This is the response from the company that manages the internet connection:

"That is the PIX that is causing that problem. You need to disable the "SMTP fixup protocol" in that PIX in order to fix it. Typically this problem happens when an email is sent with EHLO instead of HELO through a PIX with the SMTP fixup protocol enabled. It is a bug with that specific fixup. Let me know if you have any more questions."

Since I don't have access to configuration for the PIX firewall, and the person who does have access is unlikely to care about my problem let alone disable the SMTP fixup protocol, I am considering setting the Exchange server to only use HELO. What are the disadvantages of this, mostly as it impacts end users? The only information I could find myself was that ESMTP supports "graphic rich emails" better than SMTP does, whatever exactly that means.

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"graphic rich emails"

by seanferd In reply to Response from ISP

Meaning HTML formatted with images embedded or linked.

I had a similar problem, on and off, as a home user. Sometimes email would not reach certain recipients, sometimes with a failure notice, sometimes with no notice. Turns out their ISP was using Postini, and nothing with a link in it (even sent as plain text only) would get through. Images went through fine, however (??).

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