How Email Bombing Uses Spam to Hide an Attack

Concept of spam email attack, showing many messages arriving at the same time.Hanss / Shutterstock

If you suddenly start receiving an endless stream of unwanted emails, perhaps asking for confirmation of a subscription, you are the victim of an email bombardment. The author is probably trying to hide his real purpose, so here’s what to do.

What is email bombardment?

Young stressed handsome businessman working at desk in modern office shouting at laptop screen and angry with email spam. Collage with a mountain of crumpled paper.Master1305 / Shutterstock

An email bombardment is an attack on your inbox that involves sending huge amounts of messages to your address. Sometimes these messages are complete gibberish, but more often than not they will be confirmation emails for newsletters and subscriptions. In the latter case, the attacker uses a script to search the Internet for forums and newsletters, then creates an account with your e-mail address. Each will send you a confirmation email asking you to confirm your address. This process is repeated on as many unprotected sites as the script can find.

The term “email bombardment” can also refer to flooding an email server with too many emails in an attempt to overwhelm the email server and shrink it down, but that’s not the point. ‘goal here – it would be hard to bring down modern email accounts Google’s or Microsoft’s email servers anyway. Instead of a denial of service (DOS) attack on the mail servers you use, the message assault is a distraction to hide the real intentions of the attacker.

Why is this happening to you?

A bombshell email is often a distraction used to bury an important email in your inbox and hide it from you. For example, an attacker may have accessed one of your accounts on an online shopping website like Amazon and ordered expensive products for themselves. The email bombing floods your inbox with irrelevant emails, burying purchase and shipping confirmation emails so you won’t notice them.

If you own a domain, the attacker may be trying to transfer it. If an attacker gains access to your bank account or an account on another financial service, they can also try to hide confirmation emails for financial transactions.

By flooding your inbox, the email bombing serves as a distraction from the real damage, burying all the relevant emails about what’s going on in a mountain of useless emails. When they stop sending you wave after wave of emails, it might be too late to fix the damage.

Email bombardment can also be used to gain control of your email address. If you have a coveted address – something simple with few symbols and a real name, for example – all the point may be in frustrating yourself until you give up the address. Once you give up the email address, the attacker can take it back and use it for their purposes.

What to do when you are bombarded by email

If you find yourself the victim of an email bombing, the first thing you should do is verify and lock your accounts. Log into any shopping account, like Amazon, and check recent orders. If you see an order that you did not place, immediately contact customer service on the purchase website.

You might want to go further. On Amazon, it is possible to “archive” orders and hide them from the normal order list. A Reddit user discovered an email from Amazon confirming an order for five graphics cards worth a total of $ 1,000 buried in an inbound email attack. When they went to cancel the order, they couldn’t find it. The attacker had archived Amazon order, hoping that would help it go undetected.

You can check archived Amazon orders by going to Amazon Your account page and clicking “Archived Orders” under “Ordering and Purchasing Preferences”.

Amazon your account dialog with a caption around the archived orders link.

While you are checking your purchasing accounts, it would be wise to remove your payment options completely. If the offender is still waiting to break into your account and order something, they won’t be able to do so.

After checking out a site where you have provided payment information, check your bank and credit card accounts and look for any unusual activity. You should also contact your financial institutions and inform them of the situation. They may be able to lock your account and help you find any unusual activity. If you own domains, you should contact your domain provider and ask for help in locking the domain so that it cannot be transferred.

If you discover that an attacker has accessed one of your websites, you need to change your password on that website. Make sure to use strong and unique passwords for all your important online accounts. A password manager will help. If you can manage it, you need to configure two-factor authentication for each site that offers it. This will ensure that attackers cannot gain access to an account, even if they somehow get the password for that account.

Now that you’ve secured your various accounts, it’s time to get on with your emails. For most email providers, the first step is to contact your email provider. Unfortunately, contacting Google is incredibly tricky. Google contact page does not appear to offer a contact method for most Google users. If you get paid Google One subscriber or G Suite subscriber, you can contact Google support directly. Going through their many menus, we only found a direct contact method when you have missing files in Google Drive.

Google Drive contact us for the option of missing or deleted files.

It is unlikely that a member of this support team could help you resolve your issue. If you are using Gmail without a subscription, you will have to overcome the bombing. You can create filters to clean up your inbox. Try to find something common in the emails you receive and set some filters to move them to spam or trash. Just be careful not to filter the emails you want to see in the process.

If you are using Outlook.com email, help is built into the website. Log in to your email, then click on the question mark in the upper right corner.

Outlook.com site with an arrow pointing to a question mark

Type something like “I am getting a bombarded email” and click “Get Help”. You will receive a “Send us an email” option, then follow it.

Outlook.com help with captions to get help text and send us an email.

You will not get immediate relief, but we hope support will contact you to help. In the meantime you will want create rules to filter the junk files you receive.

If you’re using a different email provider, try contacting them directly and set up filters. In any case, do not delete your account or your e-mail address. Taking control of your email address can actually be what the attacker really wants. Giving up your email address gives them a way to achieve that goal.

You can’t stop the attack, but you can wait for it

Ultimately, there is nothing you can do to stop the attack yourself. If your email provider can’t or won’t help you, you’ll have to endure the attack and hope it stops.

Just be aware that you may be in for a long time. Although bombshell emails sometimes go away after a day, they can go on for as long as the author wants or has the resources to do so. It may be a good idea to reach out to anyone important, let them know what’s going on, and offer another way to contact you. Eventually your attacker will get what he wants or realize that you have taken the necessary steps to prevent him from succeeding and moving on to an easier target.

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