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A Look At Google's Email Spam Prevention

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the click-here-to-report-as-spam dept.

Communications 176

CNet has a story about the security measures Google employs to protect their email systems and fight the never-ending war on spam. Their Postini team, acquired two years ago, has a variety of monitoring tools and automated response systems to find and block undesirable messages. Quoting: "The system scores each message on numerous combinations of criteria, assigning a weight to each and then comparing the score to those in a database of several hundred thousand message types that have been flagged as good or bad from Postini honey pots and customer spam reports. ... To block fresh spam attacks not covered by existing heuristic technologies and viruses not covered by existing signature databases Postini relies on proprietary Zero-Hour technology to identify new outbreaks that show up in the traffic patterns and quarantine them for later rescanning. Customers can also create and build out their own white lists of message senders they trust and blacklist others they don't trust. It takes an average of 150 milliseconds for a message to be scanned by the antivirus engines that Postini licenses from McAfee and Authentium.

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yawn (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28588399)

postini isnt that great.

Re:yawn (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28588767)

Tucker,

How are the tour plans coming?

You have two more months before the fun begins. It must be exciting.

Are you having any trouble booking theaters on such short notice?

Any problems with insurance and security?

Who is handling the ticket sales, credit card processing and customer service, etc?

Are you going to hire a real video guy to tape the Q&As or will you just wing it with a phone camera?

Do you still need to have a separate hotel room in each city or will you sleep on the bus with the rest of the guys?

Do you cut your own hair?

Will you be selling and distributing the swag bags yourself and will they be stored on the bus or in a separate van/truck?

How is the trailer coming?

Why have you or the trades not announced the films distributor yet?

Will Bob Gosse be sleeping on the bus, and if so, who gets the Dane Cook suite?

Why are you only nice to people you need stuff from?

Why do you hate Shreveport when it sounded like you loved the place when you were there?

You're not one of those guys who pretends that no matter what happens they are still in the best place possible at all times?

Do the guys at Darko laugh at you for predicting that you will "easily gross more than two hundred million dollars"?

Do you think it's odd that you wrote a manifesto declaring that the public will no longer accept garbage from Hollywood on the very weekend that Transformers II made four hundred million dollars?

Why do you need to read a speech? Can't you remember your own story?

How can I get a hardcopy of your book?

Will the guy that was hiding in the closet with the camera be on the college tour?

Why do you constantly call the people who post on your message board idiots?

How did you read the book Hatchet before it was published?

Why did you scalp hockey tickets for a game that was 1/4 sold?

How is Dave Navarro?

Do you still think this was a good idea?

Re:yawn (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28588863)

Parent seems to be talking about Tucker Max [tuckermax.com] and his upcoming movie "I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell".

Don't care how they do it.. (5, Insightful)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588401)

I now get a couple of shed loads less spam. I used to check the apam directory for false positives. Don't bother doing that either.

Go gmail :-)

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (5, Informative)

hansraj (458504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588493)

Pfft.. the internet became sentient sometime ago and used to babble like a baby. Since whatever it said was pretty much garbage, it was impossible for anyone to correctly figure out whether the noise was the baby's (spam) or from the tv (non-spam?). Now that the internet speaks more coherently it is far more easier for Google to figure out stuff that is coming from the internet - spam that is. It is rather obvious actually.

I wonder why yahoo has a miserable spam filter though; maybe Yahoo is like the careless parent who never gave a shit to figure out when the baby stopped babbling. And judging by the kind of spam I get in my hotmail box (it is all from microsoft), probably MS would be like those parents who insist on babbling themselves when the baby is around.

There, mystery solved! Now no one has to RTFA. Now if only someone made this into a car analogy for the greater good.

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28588821)

it is far more easier...

I didn't even know that was possible!

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (1)

hansraj (458504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588839)

Okay, I hope the the moderation to my post was an instance of meta-humor. Just in case someone who is ignorant about spam filtering techniques and believes the moderation that my post is actually informative or insightful: STOP! The internet is not really sentient (yet).

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28589545)

STOP! The internet is not really sentient (yet).

Am too!

(Wiping the soda off the monitor...) (1)

ShadowSystems (527521) | more than 5 years ago | (#28590655)

Damn it, you owe me a new keyboard!
XD XD XD Hehehehehehehehehee...

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589013)

I wonder why yahoo has a miserable spam filter though; maybe Yahoo is like the careless parent who never gave a shit to figure out when the baby stopped babbling.

I'm curious to know why you say this. I have both a Yahoo and gMail account and for both, equal amounts of spam make it into my inbox (which is maybe one message every 3 or 4 months). Both seem to have very good anti-spam technology to me. Now Hotmail, I have no idea about since I stopped using them about 8 or 9 years ago.

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589277)

I get no spam in my gmail account. When I log into hotmail, it's all spam. Viagra, Porn, you name it. I don't think they even use a spam filter. If they do, they should look at another product.

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#28590095)

That's nice. How is that in any way a response to his claims about Yahoo Mail though?

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (4, Insightful)

jo42 (227475) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588809)

Don't care how they do it..

Then I suggest that you don't really belong on /. ...

Re: I do care how it works (3, Interesting)

npwa (1017242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588855)

...because it's actually not working - Gmail spam filter recently became very ineffective - i have to classify about 5-10 Viagra spams daily. (Google, have you heard of it? geez!) then it occurred to me that a while ago [slashdot.org] Gmail captcha was cracked, so I imagine spammers send themselves hundreds of spams only to classify them as "non-spam". - as a consequence, spams are now slipping through the crowd-sourced filter because the crowd is infiltrated. c'mon google this can't possibly that hard to fix!

Re: I do care how it works (2, Interesting)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589601)

I counter your anecdote with my anecdote! No, seriously - not to be an a$$ or anything, but I haven't gotten a single spam in GMail in over two years. There is none in the inbox, and none in the spam folder (label) either. I'm not sure why you are getting them, but it is clearly not everyone who is so afflicted (thankfully!). I'm not sure if it has something to do with accounts on different back end systems or what, but mine hasn't gotten any spam in one heck of a long time.

Re: I do care how it works (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 5 years ago | (#28590963)

Contrary to what another poster who replied to you has to say, I agree that Postini has gone down hill within the last month or so. The software is missing virii attached as normal attachments to emails. Virii that the Symantec anti-virus on our in house Exchange server is catching. I never in a million years thought I would see the day when Symantec would be doing a better job than Google.

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (3, Informative)

Threni (635302) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588939)

I get loads more spam than I used to. Something broke in Google's spam prevention about 4 months or so ago, and it's not been fixed yet. I redirect my email to my phone, where I get a notification of new email, and I've had to turn the sound and vibrate alert off because I got too much spam coming through.

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (1)

orngjce223 (1505655) | more than 5 years ago | (#28590113)

Off the top of my head it might be the very crack that the commenter above you in the comment-tree hierarchy talked about. Link? Here [slashdot.org] , for your convenience.

Maybe there's less spam nowadays (1)

FRiC (416091) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588993)

I used to have 20,000+ in my spam folder every day for years. Recently it dropped to the low 400's.

But because there's much less spam, I actually check the spam folder quite often to see if there are false positives, and I almost always find a few. Makes me wonder how much mail I missed all this time?

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (4, Interesting)

DrXym (126579) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589005)

Spam is now so bad for me on my home account that I reckon for every 100 messages, only two or three are legitimate contact. I literally get 200-300 spams a day. Bayesian filters will get rid of about 20%, and rules I've added such as deleting any email with cyrillics or other foreign characters still leave me with 100 or so to delete manually.

I've set up GMail to filter my email and by comparison I'd say one or two spams get through. So I'm very happy with GMail's level of coverage. It's not perfect but it makes things tolerable. I'm not at all happy with Yahoo's level of coverage. Yahoo allegedly also has spam filters, but I've yet to see they actually work. It's not uncommon to find my email box filled with Nigerian and other scams.

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (1)

fullfactorial (1338749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589457)

Let's see... 200-300 spams a day, 1:100 legit-to-spam ratio....You only get 3 legit emails a day?

You need more friends! :-)

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (2, Informative)

trawg (308495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589513)

Wow, what Bayesian filter are you using that is only giving you a 20% catch rate?

I'm using spambayes [sourceforge.net] (a pop3 proxy) and I would estimate it catches well above 95% of my spam. My inbox would be utterly unusable without it.

It requires some training - the more training you give it and the more religious you are, the better it works. I've trained it on around 3000 ham and 3000 spam messages and it is incredibly accurate (almost scarily, sometimes) at catching spam. False positives are extremely low - here's the stats it reports:

SpamBayes has processed 114790 messages - 56469 (49%) good, 54032 (47%) spam and 4289 (3%) unsure.
2328 messages were manually classified as good (2 were false positives).
2483 messages were manually classified as spam (829 were false negatives).
34 unsure messages were manually identified as good, and 1583 as spam.

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (2, Interesting)

MoeDrippins (769977) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589639)

20% on a Bayesian filter is ridiculously low; so low in fact I believe you are stretching the truth to make or point, or you're not training it.

My gmail account is quite old (gotten when only google employees were giving out beta requests), using an extraordinary common firstname.lastname account name, and since Jun 17, I've gotten 2247 spams. So that's what, 19 days? Gmail has *let through* probably fewer than 10 actual spam in that time frame (0.44%), and I haven't checked for any false positives.

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 5 years ago | (#28590883)

Beyond the obvious keyword flags (any various drug names and the various ways to spell mortgage) I have three pretty simple rules :
1. If it has invalid html tags in the text, it is probably spam.
2. If the originating IP address isn't from within the US, it is probably spam.
3. If my email address isn't the only email address the email was sent to, it is probably spam. Anybody who emails me knows that if it isn't worth sending me my very own copy, it probably isn't worth me reading either.

Honestly for me though, gmail filtering has been very, very good.

Re:Don't care how they do it.. (1)

ghetto2ivy (1228580) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589319)

So true. Gmail and Hotmail are both incredible at their spam filters. I do get a few more false positives at hotmail though -- but thats also where I send all my receipts and mailing lists so its understandable. With Gmail its pretty flawless -- just one spam message a month or so gets through. As with others -- yes Yahoo filters seem to suck in spam. Especially 419 type spam.

all of my GMail is spam (1)

bstender (1279452) | more than 5 years ago | (#28590959)

i never use the account except as a backup, and have never used it as a throwaway address (i use the awesome spamgourmet for that) but it has a full page or two of spam whenever i visit it. my daily mail goes through http://www.junkemailfilter.com/spam/ [junkemailfilter.com] THAT is the bomb, GMail can't touch it.

"Postini"? (4, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588425)

My previous ISP switched me over to Postini with no advance notice (we got a cheery note from marketing after the deed was done). Blocked half the spam and half the ham. They told us how to disable the filtering "features" but it turned out that all the filtering could not be turned off.

I'm not with that ISP any more.

Re:"Postini"? (2, Interesting)

hahiss (696716) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588593)

I don't take this to be anything more than single data point, but I've had the opposite experience with Postini. The university where I works may have it configured really nicely, since only rarely (i.e., 2-3 times per year) does spam make it to my inbox and slightly less rarely does ham get detained (less than one email a month).

Sadly, the one thing that Postini DOES tend to do on occasion is relegate email I send to others on campus to their spam folder . . . .

Re:"Postini"? (1)

seifried (12921) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588799)

Maybe it knows your email won't be that interesting to other people =). That's the next evolution I want to see, start blocking useless email (like chain letter jokes, etc.).

Re:"Postini"? (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588853)

I wish that my ISP's filter would find Snopes candidates from my mother-in-law and relegate them to the bit bucket. But it never learns. Bayseian filter? No.... it learns only when a user spanks it.

Re:"Postini"? (3, Funny)

veganboyjosh (896761) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589331)

I used to get Snopes candidates from my mother-in-law a few years ago. I used to delete them without saying anything. Then I figured I'd try to teach her about the internet, and trusting things you receive in your inbox. I made an effort to track down whatever outrageous story she forwarded on snopes or wherever else, so that she'd see they weren't true, and stop sending them.

Now, instead of getting emails from her with "I wonder if this is true. It sounds so amazing!", I get "I already checked Snopes, and while this one isn't real, it makes for a good story!" MLIA.

Re:"Postini"? (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589689)

[smacks forehead, mumbles something]

Re:"Postini"? (1)

PReDiToR (687141) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589829)

Actual email I sent to my mother last year:

--

Mum,

<wife>'s just come in and told me that you forwarded the email that you got from "Terry" to her.

I'm not going to have a go at you or anything, you didn't send it to me, as I requested =) But, if you are going to do stuff like that, let me show you the best way to do it so that you don't do to others what I don't want doing to me.

When you get the email that you want to forward it will have loads of addresses in it already, which don't need to be sent around your friends. To take them out, just drag your mouse over the interesting bit of the mail and copy it into a new mail.

If you're going to send it to loads of people, don't use the ordinary "send to" part, use the "BCC" address box. "BCC" means blind cc, because each person that you send the mail to only sees their address, not everyone's that you sent it to.

This stops all the addresses from being visible to any nasty person that could "scrape" the email for addresses and sell them to spam companies.

I know you think this is just me being me, but if everyone did this there wouldn't be as many big willie/viagra/scam mortgages/rolex emails in your spam folder every week.

Believe me, I'm just glad that I wasn't on it, and <wife> wasn't moaning either.

Love,

Mike

Re:"Postini"? (4, Interesting)

icydog (923695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588703)

I have had a similar experience with Postini, but from a different point of view. I usually use my own mailserver to send emails, and in the beginning I was greylisted and occasionally blocked by a few servers here and there, but after just a few quick emails here and there to ask why I was blocked, I was always promptly unblocked. I just use it for personal email so I'm not sending commercial or bulk emails. And before someone asks, no it's not on a dynamic IP or anything, it's in a fairly large colocation facility.

Google is the only mail service that I know of who still just won't accept my emails. They make it very difficult to contact them. There is a form buried somewhere in their help system, but it says that they won't respond unless they need additional info from you, which leads me to believe that they never actually read anything submitted through that form. (I have tried a few times.) They also specifically say they don't take whitelist requests. I have SPF records, I have correct reverse DNS, I'm not on any blacklists, etc.

This means when I send emails to my friends who use Gmail, or comparies who use Postini, I get blocked without cause. Then I have to use a different server. It's kind of annoying.

(Why do I use my own email server? Because I can. This is /., after all.)

Re:"Postini"? (5, Interesting)

Jay L (74152) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588927)

Google is the only mail service that I know of who still just won't accept my emails.

I had a similar [wordtothewise.com] experience [slashdot.org] ; I run my own mail server, send no bulk mail whatsoever, and both Postini and GMail independently decided I was a spammer. No DNSBLs had me listed, ReturnPath was happy, etc. Meanwhile, I was blocked from sending mail to my lawyer, my financial advisor, my chiropractor, etc., all of whom turned out to be downstream from Google. Despite Google's claims that the customer is in full control of filtering, none of them were able to get at my e-mail without getting their sysadmins involved - which often required discovering that they had sysadmins at all.

Worse, Postini's spam filtering takes its own output as input. Once it's scored a message of yours as spam, future messages will be more likely to score as spam - which of course makes any subsequent messages even more likely to score as spam. Brilliant. At one point, my spam score from a triple-signed (SPF/DK/DKIM) server was 98 out of a possible 100.

Google's philosophy of "we don't do it unless we can automate it" works horribly when it comes to customer service. There's no feedback loop, no whitelisting, no channels, no nothing. It's SPEWS all over again, or perhaps the Kafka International Airport [theonion.com] .

But Google has no reason to worry about false positives; the more messages they call spam, the more spam they can say they blocked. Perverse incentives.

Re:"Postini"? (1)

mjensen (118105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589899)

While I was in IT, there would be blocked messages from employees to other employees. Flagged as spam. Usually the sales or service departments.

Each one had something like "Come look at our new product at " or some such for 3 lines as a signature. If I didn't know these people, I'd flag it as spam.

Re:"Postini"? (4, Interesting)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589029)

For what it's worth, Gmail has been just the opposite for me. It's Yahoo and AOL which randomly decide to block me -- sometimes with some cause, sometimes just because it's on a residential connection.

Yet Gmail never so much as greylists me -- everything goes straight through, every time.

Re:"Postini"? (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589187)

For what it's worth, Gmail has been just the opposite for me. It's Yahoo and AOL which randomly decide to block me

Ditto. I'm not saying the gp is wrong about his experience. But in my own case, I've found that both Yahoo and AOL just stopped accepting email from me ca. 2008. I run my own server on my own domain (not via a residential connection). In Yahoo's case, it was fairly easy to fix; I filled out a form, and after a while Yahoo users started receiving my emails again. With AOL, I haven't looked into trying to fix it. I know one person who uses AOL, and she doesn't get email from me@mydomain, or from people who send her email from academic accounts at the college where I work.

One good thing about installing domainkeys/dkim on your mail server is that Yahoo and Google both pay attention to it, and therefore they won't suddenly decide you're a spammer because someone else starts sending spam that's forged to look like it came from you. As far as I can tell, Yahoo, probably just insituted a policy last year of blocking vanity domains by default, but then unblocking them as soon as the owner of the domain fills out the form.

Re:"Postini"? (2, Informative)

Toth (36602) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589949)

I helped a customer get off AOL's blacklist a couple months ago.

It was a straightforward process with an immediate automated reply.

In order to complete the process you must be able to receive an email at abuse@, postmaster@, or the technical or administrative contact for your domain.

The final email was from a human. It was completed the day following.

Re:"Postini" - why I use my own mail server (1)

ei4anb (625481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589035)

I use SSL/TLS encryption on my SMTP traffic using STARTTLS. The reason is a long story but it has to do with my work in infosec. So I run my own mail server with STARTTLS configured. After having the same problem with their anal spam blocks I too had to set up a special mail route for anything to gmail to go via my ISPs mail relay.

Re:"Postini"? (1)

Cadre (11051) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589809)

You are definitely not alone. I'm having the same issue with Google. I have my domain hosted with a very popular hosting company. I have correct SPF records. I have domain keys. I am not on any blacklists. Though quite often email sent to Google will get filed into people's spam boxes and I'll have to tell them they need to go digging through it and click the not-spam button.

Re:"Postini"? (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588747)

My publisher uses Postini. Whenever I send my editor an article, I need to also send an IM so he can check it isn't in his spam folder (happens a good 10% of the time). Meanwhile, SpamAssassin has been giving me no false positives and very few false negatives for years. I'd much rather have false negatives than false positives in a spam filter. A false positive means I can lose (or have delayed) an important email. A false negative just means that I have to waste a second or two clicking the 'spam' button in my mail client. Postini generates far more false negatives than any system I'd trust.

That said, since we turned on greylisting, I've seen a massive reduction in spam. The number hitting my spam folder has gone from about ten a day to one every few days. I assumed spammers had worked out how to get around greylisting by now, but apparently not.

Re:"Postini"? (2, Insightful)

rm999 (775449) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588793)

Tell him to look up the definition of "whitelist".

My guess is the system runs much more optimally when your entire address book is whitelisted.

Re:"Postini"? (3, Interesting)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588761)

Have you noticed? GMail gives one no way at all to sort the captured spam. Since I still endure false positives from the system and there is NO way to disable or bypass it, having means to sort all of it by From:, To:, and other criteria would make it easier to identify the false positives and rescue them from the trash bin.

Well, I'll take that back, in part: that applies to the Webmail interface, but if ones uses IMAP with a local IMAP client, then the spam folder could be subscribed and sorted within the client. God only knows how GMail's system interprets the dragging of a message from Spam to Inbox via IMAP: does that automatically whitelist that sender in the future, or do I have to still log into the Web site and identify it as Not Spam manually?

Re:"Postini"? (3, Insightful)

rm999 (775449) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588819)

"there is NO way to disable or bypass it"

Have you looked into filters? They added an option to "Never send it to Spam" about a year ago. You can create custom white lists with this, or just include everyone in the filter and totally bypass the spam filter.

Re:"Postini"? (0)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588891)

It doesn't work, at least not in the global way you suggest. Been there, tried that. Actually what it did do was screw up some of my other non-spam filters.

I wanted to disable it so I could use local spam filtering again (PopFile), which was 99.96% accurate for me once upon a time... before I sold my soul to Google.

Re:"Postini"? (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588843)

Have you noticed? GMail gives one no way at all to sort the captured spam. Since I still endure false positives from the system and there is NO way to disable or bypass it, having means to sort all of it by From:, To:, and other criteria would make it easier to identify the false positives and rescue them from the trash bin.

I haven't noticed - filters make this pretty trivial:

in:spam from:blah

Re:"Postini"? (2, Insightful)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588911)

That's irrelevant: you'd have to KNOW who it was from in order to employ a SEARCH like that. That's not useful at all when you aren't looking for something specific.

Re:"Postini"? (1)

d7415 (1068500) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589407)

You can't permanently delete from a search - it all ends up in the bin unless you delete it from the spam folder view.

Re:"Postini"? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588823)

My previous ISP switched me over to Postini with no advance notice

Who uses their ISP's email/webspace anymore anyway? It makes switching ISPs much more difficult, unless you don't mind breaking all your old addresses or feeling stuck with your current ISP.

Re:"Postini"? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588967)

> Who uses their ISP's email/webspace anymore anyway?

Not me any more, and that was one of the reasons. I pay Newsguy for Usenet and email service and also have another address provided by friends. All I want CenturyTel to do is handle packets.

damm (1, Funny)

omgarthas (1372603) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588457)

and now, where I am supposed to to get my weekly viagra supplies?

Yawn... (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588471)

...has a quick look and goes back to catching up with news on the MailScanner mailing list.

Postini may or may not work, (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28588487)

but what I really want to tell you is that I've inherited a great deal of money and I need someone to help me transfer it to the US. I live in Nigeria. You all seem to be great gentleman, so I will pay appropiately.

Contact me.

Re:Postini may or may not work, (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28588695)

You all seem to be great gentleman

You must be new here.

Re:Postini may or may not work, (1)

hannson (1369413) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589067)

Hi

I like money :)

Please reply to this message with your contact information

better then their fishing 'algorithm' (2, Funny)

cliffski (65094) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588565)

part of gmails phishing filter seems to do this

if(hyperlink in email ends in .exe)
{
    isphishing = true.
}

Even if this is an email from someone in your whitelist and is merely quoting text from your own message you sent them.
And there seems to be NO way to prevent a message with .exe in it to be marked this way :(

Toughest spam (5, Funny)

Pessimist+Cynic (1587497) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588573)

They can filter out the obvious spam mail, but some spammers are so clever and so well hung - because they've taken some DrMaxMan to acquire an enlarged sexual wand with which you can perform better and be bigger for f.r.e.e - that they can actually embed their spam offers inside real messages in such a way as to be completely undetectable by filters.

Re:Toughest spam (1)

Gazzonyx (982402) | more than 5 years ago | (#28590735)

Really? Don't leave me hanging.... How do they go about doing this?!

Spam Poetry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28588579)

We go to cinema. Join us.
Waiting for a telephone call.
Club you asked about.
Check this song.

---

Is it worth a try?
Stop ruining yourself.
From Gaston Woodard to me,
Buy unexpensive, best price pharmaceutical products online.

---

And here's my favorite, Aloha by Josie:

loss enable smug filth!
joy smug. stable smug egress smug? telly comity argue jocose?
entail haggle. abbess sleigh dalle filler. loss quid egress.
ennui smug put. scrap stable haggle. focal terse.
furore pirn spur uptake? tower alert dagger tower! pinto abbess.
tother diver tower solar! jocose solar lower juicy. proem common pant.
enable today whack juicy! winy bane juicy. jocose sleigh drill uptake.
hern haggle khan abbess? enable common pant egress! sinewy ennui.
focal robin tower potto. paid jocose legal hunch. parish whack loss paid?
tother brooch tower lower! metope tendon. scrap boh.

It was me! (1)

Dynamoo (527749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588613)

It was me who submitted that old /. story. I'm still with Postini, and it still does the job. The problem? Well, no spam filter is 100% effective.. and just about every time Postini lets spam through (very rarely), then they phone up the helpdesk irately and say "Postini should have stopped this!".

So, the product is still great. Tech support has gone downhill though. Anyone who has tried to deal with Google tech support for anything will know how it feels..

Re:It was me! (2, Interesting)

Goldenhawk (242867) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589175)

I signed up with Postini just as it was acquired by Google. Before that I'd used SpamSoap, which worked great but was declining in effectiveness (more false negs) but not in price ($30 per month is a lot for a small business). Postini and then Google were far more reasonable at just $3 per year per address (for the less-flexible controls). I get maybe one or two delivered spam per week, usually when I also see a corresponding spike in filtered spam which indicates a new attack of some kind. I get only one or two false positives a month.

The biggest thing I have noticed lately is that the spammers have started collating domain name "from" lines. I now routinely get a lot of spam (in the quarantine) listed as coming from the other valid e-dresses in that domain. This is new as of a month or so ago.

The real problem with Google/Postini is that, as others note in this discussion, they don't answer tech support AT ALL. You either take what they offer, or you don't. The control panel (for the $3/month option) is rather limited, and you have no blacklist features. There seems to be no way to tweak things, ask for assistance with filtering issues, etc. You just get what they offer.

For me, for a savings of $27 per address per year, that's a tradeoff I'm willing to make.

And by the way, I provide filtering for my family for free... it costs a few dollars extra per year, but I figure it's money well spent since Mom and Dad and the less geeky in my family don't get infected and I do less tech support than before.

Praise Gmail (4, Interesting)

zhilla2 (1586095) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588633)

This is great for business mail too... small company where I work was literally BURIED with spam until we moved to gmail. Since their mail addresses were "in the open" on our website for years, some of them get 200+ spams a day. Now, if 1 in 1000 passes, it's a bad day. Also, in my private inbox, I had an VERY old mail address still redirected to gmail address... turned out that was the source of 1/2 spams (100+ / day). But those were filtered too without problem. So far so good... not a single false detection for ham. Nothing but praise so far. Disclaimer: I do not work for gmail. I am the genuine satisfied customer with smile on my face, from "after" picture, as seen on TV!

Brilliant (1, Offtopic)

HavocXphere (1208158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588655)

Its brilliant. End of story.

But what about spam from "me"? (3, Interesting)

Peaquod (1200623) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588673)

At least 75% of my spam is addressed as though it was sent from *my* gmail account. Of course, it's easy to set up a filter to reject all such spam, but then I lose the ability to send reminder messages to myself. Seems like it would be extraordinarily simple for google to outright reject messages that claim to be sent from their servers that in fact were not. I sure wish they would!

Re:But what about spam from "me"? (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588847)

I believe e-mail spoofing (where the spammers spoof the header to make it look like it comes from you) is completely different than sending e-mails to yourself, and gmail knows this. That said, when is the last time a spoofed e-mail actually made it to your inbox?

Re:But what about spam from "me"? (1)

Peaquod (1200623) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589147)

That said, when is the last time a spoofed e-mail actually made it to your inbox?

About 10 minutes ago, and multiple times every day.

Re:But what about spam from "me"? (4, Insightful)

hidden (135234) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588879)

Keep in mind:
It's a perfectly legitimate (and common) for non-webmail users to have their outgoing server be their local ISP. So if google did what you're suggesting, all those people that use an IMAP client to receive their gmail, and send via their ISP wouldn't be able to send to other gmail users

Re:But what about spam from "me"? (1)

Peaquod (1200623) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589131)

Ah, that makes sense. thanks. Still, it seems like a common enough issue to at least warrant a "labs" option to reject such self-addressed messages from non-gmail servers.

Re:But what about spam from "me"? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588883)

You could filter your own address and then add another rule for messages with a 'self:' at the beginning of the subject line.

Not ideal, but some middle ground anyway.

Re:But what about spam from "me"? (1)

JSG (82708) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589243)

So why on earth don't you sign your mail. Some really clever people have come up with some pretty good ways of proving your electronic identity.

Alternatively, why not tell your system where your mail comes from and then reject anything that doesn't come from those sources.

Its not that hard to persuade your own mail system what mail is really from you and not a fake.

There's no need to lose functionality, you just have to think around the problem

.

Re:But what about spam from "me"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28590103)

As far as I know, gmail doesn't let you send emails to yourself- spam filter or not.

Re:But what about spam from "me"? (1)

Aehgts (972561) | more than 5 years ago | (#28590399)

One amusingly annoying anecdote about this: Emails sent to me by ticking the 'Send me a copy of this email' box when sharing Google Reader articles were put in my spam folder.

now am worried !! (1)

alsmair (1552859) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588687)

It takes an average of 150 milliseconds for a message to be scanned by the antivirus engines that Postini licenses from McAfee

Re:now am worried !! (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588999)

One of my complaints about Postini (and whatever it is that CenturyTel uses) was that the "virus" filters cannot be turned off. I have no Microsoft or Apple software.

Re:now am worried !! (4, Insightful)

Ron Bennett (14590) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589261)

150 milliseconds sounds fast, but equates to only 7 messages per second.

Sure that may be faster, presuming it's a deep intensive scan, than what one can do on their home PC, and yes Google has zillions of boxes ... but anyways, my point is that 7 messages per second illustrates the very real, high cost of dealing with spam; scanning of just a million messages, which is a fraction of the spam volume, at 7 messages per second, takes well over a day of computer time.

Ron

Not for everyone (1)

findoutmoretoday (1475299) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588701)

The filtering works for me.  But I know people where the filter catches 400 spams a day and 5 hams,  making it totally useless.

Spam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28588713)

All I know is gmail's spam filter is amazing, mabye 1 gets through a month but thats it.

How come this is still not always filtered ? (0, Redundant)

ZyBex (793975) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588833)

LAGOS, NIGERIA.

ATTENTION: SLASHDOT USER

DEAR SIR,

CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS PROPOSAL

HAVING CONSULTED WITH MY COLLEAGUES AND BASED ON THE INFORMATION GATHERED FROM THE NIGERIAN CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, I HAVE THE PRIVILEGE TO REQUEST FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE TO TRANSFER THE SUM OF $47,500,000.00 (FORTY SEVEN MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS) INTO YOUR ACCOUNTS. THE ABOVE SUM RESULTED FROM AN OVER-INVOICED CONTRACT, EXECUTED COMMISSIONED AND PAID FOR ABOUT FIVE YEARS (5) AGO BY A FOREIGN CONTRACTOR. THIS ACTION WAS HOWEVER INTENTIONAL AND SINCE THEN THE FUND HAS BEEN IN A SUSPENSE ACCOUNT AT THE CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA APEX BANK.

WE ARE NOW READY TO TRANSFER THE FUND OVERSEAS AND THAT IS WHERE YOU COME IN. IT IS IMPORTANT TO INFORM YOU THAT AS CIVIL SERVANTS, WE ARE FORBIDDEN TO OPERATE A FOREIGN ACCOUNT; THAT IS WHY WE REQUIRE YOUR ASSISTANCE. THE TOTAL SUM WILL BE SHARED AS FOLLOWS: 70% FOR US, 25% FOR YOU AND 5% FOR LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL EXPENSES INCIDENT TO THE TRANSFER.

THE TRANSFER IS RISK FREE ON BOTH SIDES. I AM AN ACCOUNTANT WITH THE NIGERIAN NATIONAL PETROLEUM CORPORATION (NNPC). IF YOU FIND THIS PROPOSAL ACCEPTABLE, WE SHALL REQUIRE THE FOLLOWING DOCUMENTS:

(A) YOUR BANKER'S NAME, TELEPHONE, ACCOUNT AND FAX NUMBERS.

(B) YOUR PRIVATE TELEPHONE AND FAX NUMBERS -- FOR CONFIDENTIALITY AND EASY COMMUNICATION.

(C) YOUR LETTER-HEADED PAPER STAMPED AND SIGNED.

ALTERNATIVELY WE WILL FURNISH YOU WITH THE TEXT OF WHAT TO TYPE INTO YOUR LETTER-HEADED PAPER, ALONG WITH A BREAKDOWN EXPLAINING, COMPREHENSIVELY WHAT WE REQUIRE OF YOU. THE BUSINESS WILL TAKE US THIRTY (30) WORKING DAYS TO ACCOMPLISH.

PLEASE REPLY URGENTLY.

BEST REGARDS

Re:How come this is still not always filtered ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28589051)

Even more interesting, how did you post all caps to /. ?

Re:How come this is still not always filtered ? (1)

ZyBex (793975) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589091)

Simple copy/paste from a web site on the 419 scam...
Why, is all-caps automatically lower-cased on slashdot? Didn't know that. Maybe the algorithm fails because of the symbols, like "%". Post a bug :)

Re:How come this is still not always filtered ? (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589287)

No, it ought to trip the "STOP TYPING IN ALL CAPS! IT'S LIKE SHOUTING!!" filter and prevent you from posting it.

McAfee (4, Interesting)

contrapunctus (907549) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588845)

So by using gmail, am I indirectly making money for McAfee?

Re:McAfee (1)

trawg (308495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589547)

Yeh, that's information that would have been useful yesterday. Now I feel dirty.

Look at it this way:

At least it's not Norton !

Recently... (0, Redundant)

jefu (53450) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588921)

I started getting much more unfiltered spam. Lots of it looks like this (a real example) : Subject : acceptant accelerometer abysmal abusive accession accolade So, no website, no valid return address. Just random words. I'm wondering if either there's a bug in the spam generator (I get others that start with a line of similarly random words, but then continue for a page or so and are followed by an ad), or if they're trying to confuse spam filters.

There's another variant that looks more like english text with a number of errors in spelling so only a few of the words are real.

Postini works (1)

twistah (194990) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588943)

In my humble and largely anecdotal experience, Postini works well. We send out e-mail that can often be flagged as SPAM when we perform penetration testing, and Postini seems to be the toughest to get around. We see in-house devices such as IronMain, and outsourced services such as MXLogic and FrontBridge/hosted Exchange, but Postini seems to do the best at stopping illegitimate messages. The company I work for uses this it as well, and logging into my Postini inbox I see a lot of spam but no false positives. I think it's a pretty good solution if you don't want to handle SPAM in-house.

Spam is getting through, (1)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 5 years ago | (#28588983)

Don't know about anyone else... I've been with gmail since it really *was* a beta, and it has been pretty good about not letting spam through. Past couple of months though and I have been getting three to four a day through. Are the spammers getting better or is the filter getting worse?

Processing load (1)

electrostatic (1185487) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589111)

"...computerized systems monitor 3 billion messages per day"
"It takes an average of 150 milliseconds for a message to be scanned by the antivirus engines..."

A little arithmetic: 3E9 * 0.150 /(60*60*24) = 5200 messages being processed at any given time.
I take it that there must be more than 5200 processors at work -- on average.

Gmail and Me (1)

Petersko (564140) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589285)

When gmail was "invitation only" I opened an email account. I never used it for anything. Never gave it out, never signed up for anything with it, never sent a single email.

I've logged in to it four times, and I deleted something like 2000 spam messages.

I'll continue to not use it, thanks.

Re:Gmail and Me (1)

robogun (466062) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589885)

Every gmail account I've opened has been flooded with spam. One I never sent a single message from.

Great (1)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589333)

Now apply this technology to Google Groups.

Yeah, I know it's usenet, but they could apply it to their web interface (see comp.lang.c++ for a sample of what it has to deal with).

SPAM volume patterns (2, Informative)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589533)

What I find telling is how my SPAM volume rises and falls according to the American holidays. Whenever the Yanks have a holiday, SPAM drops to a trickle.

That to me is a clear indication that most SPAM originates in the US even though it mostly gets relayed through Asian proxies.

150ms per message is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28589875)

Sorry but my laptop can do it faster when using something like CRM114 [sourceforge.net] or DSPAM [sourceforge.net] .

When ever I see those wild claims how good and accurate a commercial service or filter is, then I get reminded on the excellent text written in 2005 by Jonathan A. Zdziarski called Justifying Statistical Filtering [zdziarski.com] .
 
Postini might be good but I am not letting them decide what spam is and what not. Users have their own opinion and something so static as Postini can not adapt fast/good enough to my needs. And the same goes for the other services like MXLogic, SpamSpy, MessageLabs, Barracuda, IronPort and all the others out there.
 
And why paying money when I can have better for free?

McAfee Sucks (1)

Sam36 (1065410) | more than 5 years ago | (#28589893)

McAfee Sucks

Gmail spam filter spot on for me, but it has to be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28589929)

because I get so much more spam than I do to my 4, older ISP accounts. Almost from day 1 (about 4 years ago) on my gmail account, the spammers had my address figured out, and it is not what I would consider a very obvious one with some numbers mixed in to make a non-dictionary/non-normal name.

So many spammers -from- gmail (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28590091)

I run a moderate sized community and last month alone we banned over 50 throw away gmail spammerbots. That might seem to be a small number, but we're currently blocking .cn and .ru, and most other free email providers. Gmail addresses account for over 95% of our spam problem.

Be nice if they did something about that.

Incoming spam isnt the problem outgoing spam is (1)

grapeape (137008) | more than 5 years ago | (#28590231)

Spam and scams originating from Gmail has been so bad lately that several clients of mine have actually requested that I block gmail entirely. I have been tempted to do so with my home account as well since its rendered craigslist all but unusable. When do they plan to address that...but then what could they really do??

No spam at all (1)

Kiuas (1084567) | more than 5 years ago | (#28590273)

I have had two gmail accounts for a couple years now. One of them has my name on it (in the form of: "firstname.lastname@gmail.com") and the other is a nick (not the same as my /. one) that I often use in forums/games. Curiosuly enough, neither of these accounts gets any spam at all. And by this I don't mean that the spam filters are effective because there is no to be filtered. I can understand that my name based account doesn't get spam, after all I rarely give it out to anyone except people I know in person and very important sites (mostly web-stores that require my full name anyways) that I trust. However, I use my nick based email on nearly all forums and sites that require an email address during registration and despite that, I only get mail from those sites. No unwanted viagra adds or anything. Now I know from earlier comments and stories such as this that spam is a huge problem to many people. So am I just incredibly lucky? I honestly don't know.

The only thing I have consciously done to avoid being spammed is that I have never typed my adress directly to any forum post/site. In fact, most forums allow you to hide the email address, and even the sites that option of sending email to other users usually require registration to see the adress and have methods such as CAPTCHAS in place to prevent bots from getting in to harvest the addresses. If somebody asks for my email I'll just send it to them via private message or similar method instead of leaving it "in public view".

Like I said, I have no idea if I'm just lucky or something, but spam has never been a problem for me.

GMail Spam Filter != Postini (2, Informative)

aligas (167845) | more than 5 years ago | (#28590811)

Keep in mind folks, Gmail's Spam filtering is seperate from Postini.

From the article:
"Google's Gmail antispam efforts are separate from those of Postini, which Google acquired two years ago, although it follows similar computerized operations and the teams have started to integrate the processes."

I've had email at an ISP that uses Postini, and I have email at Gmail. IMHO, Gmail > Postini.
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