There are a number of problems that can occur with the alias database. They all result from a sendmail process accessing the DBM version while it is only partially built. This can happen under two circumstances: One process accesses the database while another process is rebuilding it, or the process rebuilding the database dies (due to being killed or a system crash) before completing the rebuild.
Sendmail has three techniques to try to relieve these problems. First, it ignores interrupts while rebuilding the database; this avoids the problem of someone aborting the process leaving a partially rebuilt database. Second, it locks the database source file during the rebuild -- but that may not work over NFS or if the file is unwritable. Third, at the end of the rebuild it adds an alias of the form