Spam is still a problem – for Outlook webmail users at least

Graham Cluley

Spam is still a problem - for Outlook webmail users at least

Spam is still a problem - for Outlook webmail users at least

You might be under the misapprehension that spam was a problem that went away.

Yes, back in the 2000s, maybe you found yourself regularly bugged by Nigerian princes, fake doctorates and dubious ways of increasing your manhood… but chances are that you don’t see as much of it as you used to.

Trust me, the spammers are still out there – and busier than ever.

Spam folderThe only difference is that some of the webmail services that many of us use have got really good at filtering out the spam, and shoving it into a folder where it (almost) never gets in your way of the email you really want to read.

If you ever find yourself pining for the past, and are feeling bold, you should take a trip to your Spam folder.

With just a click or two you will be hurtling back in time, and shaking your head in bewilderment as to how anyone could ever fall for the scams, or be duped into clicking on the malicious attachments designed to infect your PC.

But just this week there was one group who didn’t have to go to unusual efforts to find spam in their webmail account, because Microsoft delivered it straight to their inbox.

Yup. As BBC News reports, users of Outlook.com (the new name for Hotmail) found themselves drowning in spam yesterday after something went horrendously wrong with Microsoft’s spam filter.

Outlook swamped

“Some users may be receiving excessive spam mail.”

It’s kind, of course, for Microsoft to treat Outlook.com users to such a nostalgic trip – but probably not so good for those who rely on their email inbox being as uncluttered as possible to work and play efficiently.

Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

3 Replies to “Spam is still a problem – for Outlook webmail users at least”

  1. I realise that Bill Gates is no longer head of Microsoft but I find it incredibly ironic that it was he (though probably others too at some point in time) who suggested years ago that spam would be fully eradicated in a few years time – and now a Microsoft product is having major spam problems. BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3426367.stm

    It seems that was in 2004. I have no idea how I remember this claim (didn't recall the year but I remember it being on the BBC so a quick search found that article) but I remember all sorts of seemingly innocuous things. But to be fair to Microsoft: spam is a thorn in the side of not only mail server administrators but all networks, services, users and everything that spam uses (good example: DNS). Not only that I witness bursts of mail relay (and also many on my own email addresses… well, addresses that never exist but they hope I have wildcard enabled or they exist or will exist at some point; alternatively it's pseudo-randomly generated) attempts.

    Personally I don't use webmail but on mail providers that aren't my own I do indeed have it filtered (albeit I have it marked as bulk and I filter it to be in a bulk folder – which I seldom check) and I have extremely aggressive filtering on my own mail server. But to say that spam isn't a problem is completely wrong, I'd say; what is true perhaps is you might not see it as often: but it's still a huge problem and it always will be!

    1. Well remembered Coyote. Perhaps not the best prediction ever made by Bill Gates, but I've been able to dine out telling that story many times!

      1. In this case it's something I am glad to have remembered; other times it's a curse. But I suppose that's life. I guess I remembered that one because I tend to remember stupid prophecies wrt computers – the more absurd the more likely I'll (and probably everyone else) will remember.

        Another fun one is that keyboards will be obsolete in a few years; those making this suggestion very obviously have never done any advanced programming (e.g. advanced pointers in C or even going so far as assembly!) but it's more ridiculous: in order for keyboards to be obsolete there has to be another device for input and/or software to interpret voice (which of course there is but the concept has many problems). Now ask yourselves what happens when bugs are discovered. I can't be certain but I swear this prophecy is repeated roughly every decade to a decade and a half… Even if the other problems were resolved some people (like me) can type much faster than speak and much more clear too (in my case 'clearer' is significant for I tend to word things differently).

        Yes, computer (technology in general) history is really fascinating and there are many stories to tell the kids. What's a cassette? You mean computers can operate without a hard drive?! What's a floppy diskette? How could software be so small?! You mean computers work without monitors? List goes on.

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