Google claims drop-off in Gmail spam

Google claims drop-off in Gmail spam

Gmail engineer says junk mail levels falling for first time in years

The number of spam advertising messages sent to email users is levelling off, according to a software engineer at Google's Gmail service.

Brad Taylor said that the percentage of spam transmitted through Gmail had waned over the past year, although he declined to release any figures.

Taylor has overseen Gmail's spam filter since the service launched in 2004, and told Wired magazine that catching spammers is fun. "Sometimes I think 'Oh, wow, that guy's really clever,'" he said.

The engineer said that he often searches for the text that spammers use in messages to try and make them seem like ordinary emails. He found that they came from sources as diverse as Harry Potter and Russian science-fiction novels.

Taylor said that his ideal is to return email to the "pristine experience it used to be".
Eldar Tuvey, chief executive at web security firm ScanSafe, agreed with Taylor, and said that malicious attacks are moving away from spam as a source.

"We have noticed for a while that this threat is moving from the inbox to the browser," Tuvey said.

"Email security has improved and most [users] are protected, but most companies still allow web traffic straight in through the firewall and that is where cyber-criminals are now concentrating their key-loggers, spyware and Trojans."

Tuvey explained that companies are facing more transparent and silent attacks which are not as obvious as spam.

"Web threats are becoming so sophisticated that well known websites are hacked and ordinary users who trust and visit them find themselves at risk of financial loss if their web security is not up to speed," he warned.

Mary Landesman, security analyst at ScanSafe, said that Gmail's effective filtering policy may have led spammers to look elsewhere.

"Spammers are interested in the bottom line, and the return on investment for a spammer is the percentage of open rates that result from any campaign," she said.

"It is certainly possible that the open rates for Gmail targeted addresses have not been as successful, such that Gmail is being slightly less targeted as a result."