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Google improves spam filter to combat Unicode spoofing

No home for the highly restricted
Wed Aug 13 2014, 16:43

gmail-logoGOOGLE HAS TAKEN STEPS to secure its Gmail service from spam produced through the introduction of non-latin characters into web addresses.

Last week, Google introduced the function to add characters from other alphabets into its email addresses. This was in an attempt "to increase its global reach", according to the internet giant.

However, the spam community soon spotted a vulnerability in this plan and began spoofing and spamming in droves. As a result, today Google has announced improvements to its spam filter to tackle the problem.

In the example above, we've used the fictional Gmail account theinquirer@gmail.com. Under the new rules, a Japanese company could have their own address:

inquirerjapanese

That's pronounced "Kuwaiara at gmail dot com" since you asked.

But equally, a cunning spammer could create their own account that mixed latin characters with similar ones such as this one:

spoofinquirer

We've slipped in a cunning epsilon from Greek so it looks almost but not entirely identical. It's a trick that spammers have been using for years.

Gmail will use the Unicode Consortium's "Highly Restricted" specification to decide what's dodgy and what isn't - an open standard that the company believes strikes the right balance between opportunity and potential for mischief.

At the Google security blog, Mark Risher of the Google Spam and Abuse team said, "We hope that others across the industry will follow suit. Together, we can help ensure that international domains continue to flourish, allowing both users and businesses to have a tête-à-tête in the language of their choosing."

As well as monitoring alphabets, the Unicode Consortium has added support for more Emoji emoticons, announcing a raft of new ones in June including a one finger salute. µ

 

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