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.
Newsflash: Email is popular. You already knew that, but in case you wanted some hard numbers to go with that proclamation, or need a non-sultry poster to hang over the dart holes in your dorm room wall, Pingdom is more than willing to oblige.
Pingdom combed through data from a variety of sources so it could pit email versus snail mail. The result? Snail mail got trounced. According to Pingdom's research, there are 14.4 trillion emails sent out every year, or 39.6 billion per day (incidentally, 81 percent of that is spam, though we've seen that figure quoted even higher). By comparison, sacrificial trees 'only' contributed to 177 billion snail mails per year, or 485 million per day (most of which is legit -- 53 percent compared to 47 percent junk).
In other words, email outnumbers snail mail 81 to 1. Grab the full sized infographic from here.
When Gmail launched, it brought a new way of organizing emails that saved space and made many users quite happy. Of course we're referring to the Conversation View. Gmail groups all messages in a particular reply thread together under a single heading. While the majority of users have been happy with the system, a small, but vocal, minority have been looking for a way to disable it. Now Google is obliging with a new feature addition.
Users that want to ditch the Conversation view and go back to the traditional way of showing emails (i.e. each message gets its own entry), can do so. In the main Gmail settings page, There is a new section called "Conversation View". There is a simple toggle for turning this on and off. Some feel that it is easier to find specific emails without the Conversations enabled. If you fall into that camp, look for the option to roll out to your account in the next day or two.
While most users might be perfectly happy with the way Gmail works, we want to know what you think. Will you leave Conversations on, or turn it off?
Microsoft is making a concerted effort to beef up the security of Hotmail email accounts, the Redmond outfit announced in a blog post this week.
"Last week we purged hijackers from legitimate Hotmail accounts that had been identified as compromised, and earlier this month we used legal action to take down a range of domains used by hijackers known as the Waledac botnet," Microsoft said. "Today, we are releasing new features to safeguard everyone's account from hijackers."
Those safeguards include two new "proofs" for account recovery. One involves linking your Hotmail account to one or more of your PCs, so if you need to reset your account, you just need to be using your PC. The second proof option is your cell phone number, where you can receive a secret code via SMS to reset your password.
Yahoo plans to revamp its Yahoo Mail service, in part to improve the speed of the service in overseas markets where connections are typically slower than here in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports.
It's part of a project codenamed "Minty," and in addition to a faster underlying architecture, Yahoo will also be giving its email service a bit of a facelift, one that will make the service better resemble the simple design of the downloadable email app.
"We continue to innovate our product experiences, and specific to Yahoo Mail, we have been previewing our next version of email that provides higher performance, sleeker design, and great integration" with social-networking services, a Yahoo spokesman said.
The makeover comes at a time when Yahoo Mail still ranks as the No. 1 Web-based email service in the U.S. with 97 million unique visitors in August. Not only is that more than Gmail, but it's more than Gmail and Hotmail combined. At the same time, that number is down from about 107 million visitors Yahoo Mail recorded in August, 2009.
Even at the risk of political party mud slinging that typically accompany these kinds of stories, there's definitely something here worth discussing, and that's what kind of punishment should be levied for abusive emails. Let's back up a moment.
Luke Angel, a 17-year-old British teenager, is now permanently banned from ever setting foot on U.S. soil. What did he do to warrant such a punishment? He fired off an inebriated email to the White House in which he called President Barack Obama the "P" word (and he wasn't talking about felines), among other things, Sky News Online reports.
The FBI intercepted the message and then contacted U.K. police.
"The police who came around took my picture and told me I was banned from America forever," Angel said.
According to the local police, "the individual sent an email to the White House full of abusive and threatening language. We were informed by the Metropolitan Police and went to see him. he said, 'Oh dear, it was me.'"
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wasn't willing to discusses specifics in this particular case, but did say that there are about 60 reasons a person can be banned from the U.S.
So what do you think, was the punishment too harsh or right on the money?
It's the vicious cycle of modern life. The more important and established you become, the more email clogs your inbox. Google is out to help with a new Gmail feature called Priority Inbox. This new interface, which will be rolling out to users in waves over the coming days, will present messages more likely to be important in a separate area at the top of the inbox.
Gmail decides what is important with a good old fashioned Google algorithm. Mail similar to that which you frequently read or respond to will be marked as important an promoted to the priority area. Users can alter this sorting process, and teach the Priority Inbox what's actually important by flagging mis-categorized items. This new inbox view also makes better use of the starred mail label by creating a starred mail area right below the Priority box.
The jury is still out on how effective and useful the new system is. We just got access to it ourselves, so it's hard to say how it will work out. As usual, Google has a cute animation explaining the feature, which you can catch at the source link. Have you had a chance to use Priority Inbox? How well is it working for you?
Spam senders aren't just a slimy bunch, they're apparently a busy bunch, too. So much so that spam now accounts for 92 percent of all email messages, according to a new study by Symantec. Let that sink in for a moment. Less than one out of every 10 messages you receive is legit.
That's up from last year when spam accounted for 89 percent of all email. At this rate, in a little over two years, only about 1 percent of all email will be legit.
Spam isn't just annoying, it also poses a security threat. These messages often contain links to malicious downloads and URLs, and according to Symantec, a new type of attack that spoofs an e-commerce site's "live chat" feature is making the rounds.
"The phishing site involved bogus chat sessions to help the page look more authentic, trying to give cutomers the impression that the phishing website was interactive," Symantec said.
Looking for a sliver lining? You won't find much of one, though Symantec did say that the amount of spam containing a phishing attack decreased by 5 percent from June to July of this year.