Apple wants to stop, track down spammers with automated disposable email addresses

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2014
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published an Apple patent application describing a system that thwarts spam mail by automatically generating and handling "disposable" email addresses, all while being transparent to the end user.

Disposable


According to Apple's patent filing, suitably titled "Disposable email address generation and mapping to a regular email account," the integrated system would work at the server level to act as a screen for incoming spam mail.

Further, these generated email accounts can be intelligently tagged with contextual clues to help users track down the source responsible for handing off the address to a spam provider.

As noted in the document, email has become a ubiquitous form of communication. Just as physical mail has "junk mail" (advertisements, pamphlets, etc.), so too does email in the form of spam. Unlike snail mail, however, the level of spam can quickly become unmanageable. Not only are user addresses easily obtainable and transferable, but the costs associated with sending digital junk are comparatively miniscule.

To help combat the rising tide of spam, some users have turned to disposable email addresses that can be easily destroyed or deactivated once abused by a spammer. These accounts usually forward mail to a permanent email address without exposing said address to unwanted parties. This saves users from the hassles associated with changing a permanent email address, such as remembering and notifying important contacts.

As it stands, the disposable email system is cumbersome, says Apple, and may require obtaining accounts from sources other than their primary provider. The generated account names are usually easily recognizable and are sometimes not accepted by certain automated online services that block bots.

Apple proposes an automated system that in some embodiments automatically creates and handles a temporary email address, associating it with a permanent non-disposable address. If and when a disposable account is misused, the user can dump it and move on to a new one without ditching their permanent address.

Disposable
Source: USPTO


In some cases, the system can assign context information when creating the disposable account. For example, if a user is giving their address to a vendor, context information associated with that vendor's name can be added as part of the address. If the user receives spam through that specific account, they will be able to examine the associated context information and use it to take action against the vendor for providing the address to an unauthorized party.

An important part of the application relies on the backend system's handling of incoming messages. With normal disposable address methods, emails are forwarded directly to users' permanent accounts. This may lead to accidental replies from a non-disposable address. Apple's system would automatically detect which account a reply is coming from and handle the transfer accordingly without exposing the user.

The temporary accounts would preferably be indistinguishable from a permanent address. For example, if email addresses associated with the server usually use the format "[email protected]," the system would create a similar disposable account for a user. Obviously, real names would not be used in such a scenario.

The remainder of the application details various implementations of the invention, such as browser plug-ins, email clients and server-level instruction sets. Also discussed are possible graphical user interfaces for both a dedicated app and Web clients.

Apple's disposable email patent application was first filed for in 2012 and credits Cameron J. Esfahani, Carl J. Norum, Daniel R. FletcherJames C. Murphy, Santo S. Sapienza, Shachar Ron and Stanley A. Rabu as its inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 69
    wingswings Posts: 261member
    "Further, these generated email accounts would be intelligently tagged with contextual clues that help users track down the source responsible for handing off the address to a spam provider."

    YES! 1000 times YES!

    Once they do that I'll be able to get my cyber hands around their cyber throats.
  • Reply 2 of 69
    shompashompa Posts: 343member
    I wish that Apple at least started to do what Google does with Gmail: Cache all pictures and stuff on their own servers.

    Today most spam gets validation thru HTML mail. Having picture/links cached on local servers stops this.

    I understand that Google does this because THEY want to data mine the stuff instead. In Apples case: I trust them more, since they don't make their money from advertising/data mining.
  • Reply 3 of 69
    This is so obvious that I'd expected it earlier. Still, great if they implement such a system. I used to create a gmail (sic) account if I ordered something online, and delete the account from Mail once delivered. As good as gmail is at getting rid of spam, I moved on, because, well, gmail is still Google after all.
  • Reply 4 of 69
    Is the RFC process dead? Shouldn't the industry, through the RFC process deal with this problem?
  • Reply 5 of 69
    rickagrickag Posts: 1,626member
    Therein lies the difference between Apple & Google, one seeks ways to protect, one seeks ways to abuse privacy.
  • Reply 6 of 69
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Wings View Post



    "Further, these generated email accounts would be intelligently tagged with contextual clues that help users track down the source responsible for handing off the address to a spam provider."



    YES! 1000 times YES!



    Once they do that I'll be able to get my cyber hands around their cyber throats.

     

    I've been using this system for some time


    • Generate private 'key'

    • Hash it + website url together using crypt algorithm

    • Resultant hash becomes your email, [email protected]

     

    If only I had realised this was patentable!

  • Reply 7 of 69
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    Good God.

    You all sound like you don't want bigger, more erect penises!

    ;)
  • Reply 8 of 69
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,414member
    gtr wrote: »
    Good God.

    You all sound like you don't want bigger, more erect penises!

    ;)

    LOL, that made me nearly spill my coffee.
  • Reply 9 of 69
    sounds like spamgourmet.com to me. Works like a charm.
  • Reply 10 of 69
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,722member

    I used to have this with Yahoo mail, until Marissa's redo, when it disappeared. It was nice that they had it somewhat integrated into existing accounts.

  • Reply 11 of 69
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,722member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by waldobushman View Post



    Is the RFC process dead? Shouldn't the industry, through the RFC process deal with this problem?

     

    The "industry" includes companies who want to spam you and other companies who want to track you.  The RFC process has proven to be ineffective in cases where there are competing interests (ref: Adobe/HTML5 and Google/Do Not Track).

  • Reply 12 of 69
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member

    So stupid. It's just e-mail. If someone wants to e-mail you, they should be allowed to do so.

  • Reply 13 of 69
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,722member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by John.B View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by waldobushman View Post



    Is the RFC process dead? Shouldn't the industry, through the RFC process deal with this problem?

     

    The "industry" includes companies who want to spam you and other companies who want to track you.  The RFC process has proven to be ineffective in cases where there are competing interests (ref: Adobe/HTML5 and Google/Do Not Track).


     

    As if on cue:  Firefox to start putting new ads in new places | Ars Technica

     

    I rest my case.

  • Reply 14 of 69
    Brilliant! I wish I thought of that.

    But seriously, there have been many other companies doing this for many, many years. Lots of prior art. One good one today is called Abine.com.
  • Reply 15 of 69
    welshdogwelshdog Posts: 1,695member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pmz View Post

     

    So stupid. It's just e-mail. If someone wants to e-mail you, they should be allowed to do so.


    I want the exact opposite.  If anyone you don't know or approve wants to email you, they cannot.  Surely this would not be hard to implement.

  • Reply 16 of 69
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by GTR View Post



    Good God.



    You all sound like you don't want bigger, more erect penises!



    image

     

    I love this company. Like was said earlier, Apple seeks to protect their users from spam while Google is the exact opposite. Bring it on!

     

     

    Maybe those who are raving about it…..don't need the help! :D 

  • Reply 17 of 69
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,673member

    This is why I have my hotmail account and had it since the 90's, anytime I do business over the internet with a company I am not sure about they get the hotmail account email and I let M$ deal with all the spam. Since I have been doing this my person IPS email address has never been spammed. M$ does a pretty good job of filtering out the spam, but the account does get hit from time to time with Spam.

  • Reply 18 of 69
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,432member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by waldobushman View Post



    Is the RFC process dead? Shouldn't the industry, through the RFC process deal with this problem?

    Clearly, the RFC process has not demonstrated a stellar track record in dealing with this problem.

  • Reply 19 of 69
    Originally Posted by GTR View Post

    Good God.



    You all sound like you don't want bigger, more erect penises!



    image

     

    Oh, no. You don’t understand. It’s not us… it’s Apple. Apple is doing this to get back in bed (so to speak) with the spambots! I have proof! Look at the mailing address! 

     

  • Reply 20 of 69
    gtr wrote: »
    Good God.

    You all sound like you don't want bigger, more erect penises!

    ;)

    "I once tried setting my email password to penis, but it was too short"

    (getting old, but hope it's still allowed)
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