Sucheta Dalal :Gmail goofs up sends regular emails into spam folders
Sucheta Dalal

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Gmail goofs up, sends regular emails into spam folders  

April 15, 2010

 Recently, I found that many of my regular emails in my Gmail account are being delivered to the spam folder. I have been using Gmail since many years and never had any complaints on the way the system was being handled by the search engine giant. I do check my spam folder on a regular basis—just to check if some important message has reached the wrong destination.


But since the past two-three weeks, I have noticed that some of my regular emails, including those sent by friends and colleagues from work, are being marked as ‘spam’. This forces you to keep a tab on the spam folder as well, just to make sure that you receive all your legitimate mails.


According to messaging software developer and provider, Commtouch, during the first quarter of 2010, spam levels averaged 83% of all email traffic throughout the period, peaking at nearly 92% at the end of March. Assuming worldwide email traffic of around 220 billion emails per day, this would equate to an average of around 183 billion spam messages per day, Commtouch said in its quarterly ‘Internet Threats Trend’ report.


During the first three months of this year, medicinal spam, advertising Viagra and other types of medications, represented 81% of all spam messages, about the same average as the previous quarter, the report said.


Usually, free email service providers like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo have a mechanism in place that automatically filters mass mails or mails sent with malicious intention or spam messages.


However, according to the Commtouch report, spammers are using well-known Web names to give a deceptive legitimacy to their mails. Spammers are using fake Gmail accounts to clog up inboxes, making '' the most abused domain name. Overall, 5%-10% of all spam appears to originate from Gmail accounts, Commtouch said.


The report said that Gmail’s message style, as well as those of PayPal and Facebook, is frequently used by spammers and phishers as standard templates to prompt action by targets of spam or phishing. This quarter, a phishing attack directed at Blogger and Google users was based on a template using techniques effectively downplaying the fraudulent content of the email.


What Commtouch has reported may be noticed by Gmail as well and it might have tightened the norms for spam mails. But there is no official word from Google yet. Just last month, Google came out with a feature to detect ‘suspicious’ activity in Gmail accounts.


In January 2009, there was a problem with Gmail's spam filters and a problem similar to the one mentioned above occurred. That time, Google had admitted that Gmail's spam engine uses those filters (among hundreds of other signals) to help protect users from malware, and it mistakenly sent some legitimate mail to spam folders. This problem was sorted out later. However, there still is no solution for this recent problem.


You cannot control Google’s spam filters. Ergo, do check your spam folder regularly. — Yogesh Sapkale

-- Sucheta Dalal