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Gmail users have been unintentionally spamming themselves: The story behind the glitch

Gmail owners experienced a somewhat peculiar glitch during the last several hours, due to which their sent folders were filled with spam email that were generated from an unknown source. If you’re one of those owners you can rest assured now. And keep reading to find out how it all went down.

The issue

The first few incidents fed wild scenarios of a mass attack from cyber criminals. The alleged attack was supposedly instrumented by hackers that wanted to run spam campaigns. Truth be told, when you find out that you’ve been sending spam emails to yourself with subjects like “growth supplements”, it’s quite natural to assume that you are the victim of some sort of cyber-attack.

Soon enough, the Gmail Help Forum was flooding in user activity, with the most trending thread being titled “My email account has sent out three spam emails in the past hour to a list of about 10 addresses that I dont recognize. I changed my password immediately after the first one, but then it happened again two more times. The subject of the emails is weight loss and growth supplements for men advertisements. I have reported them as spam. Please help, what else can I do to ensure my account isnt compromised, reported a user who goes by the name of Louis Morton”.

A few hours of panic and despair later, the vast majority of users pointed out that all such spam emails were seemingly being sent from a Canadian telecommunications company called Telus. The said company is a third-party associate of Google which also serves as a vendor for the company’s products and services. The Canadian carrier however rushed to post a statement on the Help Forum where it clarified that it was not involved in any such activity.

“We have identified spam emails being circulated that are disguised to appear as if they are coming from http://telus.com. We are aware of the issue and can confirm the messages are not being generated by TELUS, nor are they being sent from our server. We are working with our 3rd party vendors to resolve the issue and are advising our customers not to respond to any suspicious emails”.

Not so surprisingly, things did not calm down, despite Google’s early acknowledgement of the issue. The Silicon Valley tech giant made sure to use all of its media communication channels to inform users through a plethora of social networks that the engineering teems are working on it around the clock.

“We are aware of a spam campaign impacting a small subset of Gmail users and have actively taken measures to protect against it”, Google’s spokesperson stated. “This attempt involved forged email headers that made it appear as if users were receiving emails from themselves, which also led to those messages erroneously appearing in the Sent folder. We have identified and are reclassifying all offending emails as spam, and have no reason to believe any accounts were compromised as part of this incident. If you happen to notice a suspicious email, we encourage you to report it as spam”.

The story behind the glitch

This last statement – the one that came from Google – was published on April 22 at around 3.00 p.m. The story of what happened and how, is quite interesting. Unfortunately, no side of this story has answered to any of our requests for comments. However, the glitch seems to have derived from a widespread spam filtering mismatch which in return occurred after Telus’ servers maintenance took place.

Until things get sorted out, all affected users have been asked to keep reporting those emails as spam.

Do you have any updates on this issue? Let us know in the comments!

Published : May 3 2018
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