If you noticed your spam folder was a bit lighter this holiday season you aren’t alone, according to the BBC the global level of email spam has fallen dramatically over the past few months. According to a new report, the volume of unsolicited emails has been in a steady decline since August, and December results are the lowest on records. A steady decline is what we like to hear, but just how much you ask?
Based on numbers out of Symantec the amount of spam messages has dropped from close to 250 billion in late July, to slightly under 50 billion in December. Some of the decreases can be attributed to recent arrests, and a growing sense of awareness around the dangers of spam, but researchers still don’t fully understand why the decline has been so steep. One of the most active botnets for example which has typically been responsible for as much as 48% of all global spam leveled off at just 0.5%.
Spammers might just be regrouping for a massive new campaign, so enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasts.
Hotmail may been losing some of its “geek cred” to more feature rich services such as Gmail, but as one of the most popular email providers in the world, they had a bit of explaining to do after accidentally wiping out the inboxes of over 17,000 users last week. According to Microsoft’s Mike Schackwitz, an error in a script that is used for testing the stability of the service accidentally deleted valid user account folders, rather than just those belonging to internal test bots.
"In Hotmail, one way we monitor the health of the e-mail service is through automated tests. We set up a number of accounts with different configurations, and then use automated tests to log into these accounts, simulate normal user activity and behavior, and report when errors are found," Schackwitz wrote in a blog post. "We use scripts to create and delete these test accounts in bulk. The way we delete a test account is to remove its record from a group of directory servers that route users and incoming mail to the correct mailbox."
Microsoft didn’t really apologize for the error in its blog post, but at least they claim to have learned a valuable lesson. "This issue was one that had not arisen before, and at first, we did not assign it to the correct team for action," Schackwitz wrote. "Additionally, because there were a relatively small number of reports, the volume wasn't high enough to set off alarms. This meant we had a ticket in the system that was getting no action."
Microsoft has restored all missing emails but has this further eroded your trust in Hotmail?
Honda and its customers are the latest victims of a data breach tied to email marketing firm Silverpop Systems, AllThingsD.com reports.
Silverpop Systems is the same company that failed to protect McDonald's customer data when a group of hackers recently infiltrated the firm's database and made off with personal information from an undetermined number of customers. Now Honda -- also a Silverpop Systems client -- is warning over two million of its customers that cybercrooks managed to snake their way into an email database containing their personal information as well.
Some of the information in the database included names, login names, email addresses, and even vehicle identification numbers (VINs), with that last bit a particularly disturbing development. With VINs in hand, hackers would have a far easier time phishing for things like credit card numbers and bank info under the guise of special offers for recent Honda owners.
With our without the backing of the Fourth Amendment, we don't recommend incriminating yourselves via email, but for what it's worth, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did rule that Uncle Sam needs a search warrant before he goes snooping in your inbox, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reports. Here's what the Court had to say:
"Given the fundamental similarities between email and traditional forms of communication [like postal mail and telephone calls], it would defy common sense to afford emails lesser Fourth Amendment protection.... It follows that email requires strong protection under the Fourth Amendment; otherwise the Fourth Amendment would prove an ineffective guardian of private communication, an essential purpose it has long been recognized to serve.... [T]he police may not storm the post office and intercept a letter, and they are likewise forbidden from using the phone system to make a clandestine recording of a telephone call--unless they get a warrant, that is. It only stands to reason that, if government agents compel an ISP to surrender the contents of a subscriber's emails, those agents have thereby conducted a Fourth Amendment search, which necessitates compliance with the warrant requirement...."
The EFF called the ruling a landmark decision, noting that it's the "only federal appellate decision currently on the books that squarely rules on this critically important privacy issue."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced today that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in their favor, meaning that Federal authorities cannot access emails without first obtaining a warrant. The court ruled that such action was in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. The decision strikes down a 1986 law that had been interpreted to allow warrantless access to emails.
The case centered on Steven Warshak, who was the owner of Premium Nutraceuticals, a mail order company that sold the "male enhancement" supplement Enzyte. He was convicted of fraud based partially on seized emails, but he won't be getting out of jail free. The Appeals Court sent his case back to a lower court for a new sentence. The 1986 law, the Stored Communications Act, held that police were permitted to obtain emails older than 180 days without a warrant. All that was required was a special subpoena, which did not require probable cause.
The EFF filed a amicus brief with the court seeking to have the law struck down. Now that this action has been successful, authorities will need to show probably cause, and obtain a warrant before accessing emails. It is unclear if the Justice Department will pursue the case further.
Google has today rolled out the newest update to the Android Gmail client and it's a big one for fans of the Priority Inbox feature on the desktop. Now when viewing the inbox, users will see the familiar yellow arrows to let them know which messages are important according to Gmail. Users can also view just Priority Inbox items by tapping the label link, then choosing Priority Inbox.
Google has added the ability to control what mail is, and is not, marked Important on the phone. You used to need to use the web interface to do this. Now simply tap the checkbox for a message, then use the menu option to toggle its "importance" status. In the settings, the app can be set to notify via sound or vibrate only on new important messages. This could be great for those that get a lot of mail.
Google also added some more options to the composing process. You can switch between reply, reply all, and forward while composing. There is also a new option to configure the from address in replies if the mail was forwarded from another address. This updated app is available in the Android Market, but only for users of Android 2.2 Froyo and higher. If you have a compatible phone, let us know how you like it.
Russia may be popular for its Vodka and caviar, but its stock among the tech savvy has been going down rapidly ever since it was revealed that they are also the No. 1 source of spam in the world. Interestingly enough however this might be set to change with the apprehension of 23-year-old Oleg Nikolaenko who has been accused of spearheading operations responsible for sending over 10 billion spam emails per day.
Nikolaenko’s botnet has been referred to in legal documents as Mega-D, a network of computers that is estimated to be composed of over half a million machines. His advertising efforts have primarily been focused on Rolex counterfeits and herbal remedies, but the true scope of his operations likely won’t be fully understood until the authorities have time to review all the evidence.
According to Valleywag Nikolaenko is facing a fine of up to $250,000 and three years in prison, though a careful examination of the facts would suggest that this might be little more than a slap on the wrist. According to one of Nikolaenko’s clients he alone spent more than 2 million on spam advertising, an admission that would suggest to us that Oleg might just have a cozy little nest egg to retire on when he emerges from prison.
Federal authorities believe they have in custody one of the most active spammers in the world. Oleg Y. Nikolaenko, a 23-year-old from Moscow, stands accused of spearheading a global spamming network that on some days accounted for 33 percent of unwanted mails, according to Yahoo News.
Nikolaenko will be arraigned today in federal court in Milwaukee where he is to be charged with running afoul of the CAN-SPAM act. In order to bring about that charge, a person must be accused of intentionally falsifying header information in commercial emails and sending at least 2,500 spam messages a day.
Authorities believe Nikolaenko's spam network was sending up to 10 billion messages every day, far more than the minimum requirement for the CAN-SPAM act. If convicted, he faces a maximum three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Following the launch of the new AOL.com is an ambitious new email system currently code named "Project Phoenix." This represents AOL's attempt at reinventing AOL Mail which, among other things, will bring a unified inbox into its new bag of tricks.
"Email remains one of the most vital communication tools despite all of the new sites and apps available to consumers today," said Brad Garlinghouse, President of AOL's Consumer Applications Group. "There is still so much innovation to be done in the space and Project Phoenix is just the tip of the iceberg. We see a huge opportunity to disrupt email in a big way. AOL is the company that brought everyone online, and now we're making it simpler and more enjoyable to be there."
AOL claims its email business drives 45 percent of the company's page views, so as you can imagine they're taking Project Phoenix very seriously. Completely redesigned and built from the ground-up, the new mail system includes a bunch of feature additions, including a Quick Bar (send emails, IMs, or text messages and update Facebook and Twitter), email aggregation (send and receive messages from nearly any provider, including Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail), a Smart View system that displays things like photo attachments and maps as thumbnail pics in the right-hand sidebar, and more.
Project Phoenix is currently by invite only, which you can sign up for here. Video preview below.
If you aren’t a huge Gmail user, feel free to skip the next few paragraphs or so. That’s a not-so-subtle warning about this week's Chrome Extension of the Week, as it’s a super-useful add-on that allows you to climb deeper into the depths of your ever-expanding Gmail Inbox. Go figure, it’s called, “Graph Your Inbox.”
Unfortunately, the extension only works for Gmail and Gmail alone—sorry, other email services. But if you’re one of the proud users of good ol’ Google mail, you’ll be able to use this extension to see exactly how many different kinds of emails you’re receiving over days, months, and years. Think of it as… a kind of Excel chart for your inbox.