How AI Has Transformed Spam Detection and Improved Email Security

How AI Has Transformed Spam Detection and Improved Email Security | Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning | Emeritus

In the contemporary era of digital interconnectivity, email continues to be an indispensable means of communication for both organizations and individuals. Nevertheless, in addition to its inherent convenience, spam emails present an ever-present menace, clogging inboxes and exposing users to security vulnerabilities such as phishing schemes, malware propagation, and identity theft. Now, more and more consumers and email providers are turning to AI for sophisticated spam detection techniques to combat the threat. We look at how AI for email security is a need of the hour today and its role in ramping up safety and protecting users from cyber threats. Among the technologies out there, AI can be a significant player in the toolkit for implementing email security best practices. However, we first need to look at the origin of the problem and how commonplace spamming has now become. 

An Overview of Spamming Culture

Masters Degree in AIThe statistics on the adoption of email for communication are remarkable. By 2017, there were over 5.5 billion active email accounts. This number is expected to exceed 5.5 billion by 2019, with around one-third of the population forecasted to use email by then. Approximately 236 billion emails are exchanged every day as of 2018, with about 53.5% being spam. In 2018, an average of 14.5 billion spam emails were sent every day. In 2018, the FBI reported that corporate email consumers lost $12.5 billion due to spam emails. Businesses may face significant financial losses owing to spam attacks, perhaps reaching a cumulative total of approximately $257 billion by mid-2020. The projected annual damage is around $20.5 billion.

The US has historically been the primary origin of spam, although this is no longer the case. Despite legislation such as CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) aimed at protecting users, it did not effectively prevent spammers. The US is home to the majority of the world’s top 70% of spam organizations responsible for organized global spamming.

Spam as a Cyberthreat  

A mainstay for email security best practices is to first build a strong network of protection to handle cyberattacks via spam emails. Spam threats that target users take on different forms. Some common ones include email spoofing and phishing. The latter even has variations such as spear phishing, clone phishing, whaling, covert redirect, and others. In addition to spoofing and phishing attempts, clickjacking has also appeared in spam emails. Some hackers have hidden text behind graphics to evade anti-spam algorithms. Let’s look at some of the more common types of cyberattacks that leverage users’ email accounts. 

Email Phishing

A prevalent method of spam attacks, email phishing essentially means changing data in the “From” box or other parts of the email. Hackers craft the message to make it seem like it originated from a familiar source other than the true sender. In 2017, a Malaysian oil distribution company experienced a significant financial loss of over $1 million due to email spoofing.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a specific type of email phishing that tricks recipients with authentic-looking messages. This phishing scam may include a link to a fake website. Once there, the consumer is tricked into entering confidential financial and personal details. Spear phishing spam uses personal user information obtained through social engineering tactics and looks as though it is from a trusted source. In 2018, the ABC Bus Company was a victim of a scam that exposed their workers’ sensitive financial information.


A business’s senior executives are the typical targets of whaling. Also known as “CEO fraud attacks”, whaling is where a fraudulent webpage or email takes on a more sophisticated, executive-level appearance. Leone AG, Europe’s main producer of electrical cables and wires, suffered a significant loss of €40 million as a result of an advanced corporate email scam involving spear phishing and whaling techniques. During a whaling assault in 2018, the French movie chain “Pathé” suffered a loss of more than $21 million.

How AI Transformed Email Security

Applications of artificial intelligenceConventional spam filters identified and obstructed spam emails through the utilization of rule-based algorithms and keyword matching. Although partially successful, these approaches frequently needed help in matching the ever-changing strategies employed by spammers. As a result, a cat-and-mouse dynamic ensued between security professionals and cybercriminals. This is where AI for email security has changed the game. AI-powered spam filters have significantly transformed email security by employing an intelligent and adaptable methodology.

AI for Email Security and Why it is Important

To tackle such ever-present and increasingly sophisticated threats to digital security, AI for email security is an invaluable asset. AI technology enables email service providers to deploy customized spam-filtering systems that are based on the unique preferences and actions of each user. By utilizing collaborative filtering and user feedback channels, AI models have the ability to prioritize emails according to their credibility and pertinence. This improves the user experience and reduces the occurrence of false positives.

Nevertheless, despite the notable progress that AI brings to the table in terms of spam detection, there are drawbacks. For one, its efficacy is inextricably linked to the caliber and variety of the training data and the complexity of the algorithms that operate beneath the surface. Moreover, to effectively counter emergent threats, AI-based spam filters must maintain vigilance and agility in the face of spammers’ ongoing adaptations to their methods. Clearly, then, AI in email security is an ever-evolving idea that needs to be constantly upgraded.

However, the advantages of AI for email security are undeniable. Email service providers can use AI to enhance their spam-resistant measures and protect users’ inboxes from risks. Email security via AI-powered solutions is essential to establish a more secure and protected digital milieu for all. This is especially true with the ongoing evolution of technology.

About the Author

Senior Researcher and Author, INDIAai Portal
With over 10 years of experience in research writing alongside a full-time Ph.D. in information technology and computer science, Dr. Nivash is a bit of a unicorn: a scientist who loves to write. His articles reflect not just his expertise in artificial intelligence but also his passion for technology and all the ethical questions it poses. Having worked with renowned publications like Analytics India Magazine and INDIAai, he is one of the leading voices in the fast-evolving universe of AI. When he is not neck-deep in research, Nivash is either road-tripping to the next destination or taking a shot at acting on stage, his one unrealized dream.
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