Is this the answer to Google Drive spam?

Is this the answer to Google Drive spam?

Last week I received an unsolicited email from someone called Emma.

She works for a “language learning app”, and said that they were big fans of the “Smashing Security” podcast (yeah, right…) and that they would love to have a member of their team come on the show.

I wonder if they have actually ever listened to the podcast I co-host, as they didn’t offer to talk about anything to do with cybersecurity.

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Instead, here’s what they pitched (I’ve redacted the name of their product, as they haven’t paid me to advertise for them):

We can cover topics such as GPT-3 in Language Education, EdTech, Learning Science and Linguistics.

Because your podcast sits in the tech space, we think your audience would be most interested to hear about [REDACTED],our AI language chatbot powered by GPT-3 technology.

Hmm, that may or may not be interesting – but it feels like it’s some way removed from what “Smashing Security” listeners would tune in to hear.

What disgruntles me is that not only does this unsolicited email land in my email inbox, but if I enter Google Drive I find an unwanted three-page pitch document from them has also been shared with me.

Drive unwanted shared file
An unsolicited file shared with my Google Drive

Ars Technica describes well the nuisance of an unsolicited file share on Google Drive:

Drive shows any shared files in your shared documents folder, notifies you of the share on your phone, highlights the “new recent file” at the top of the Drive interface, lists the file in searches, and sends you an email about it, all without any indication that you know the file sharer at all.

Well, there’s good news if you’re plagued by shared Google Drive files from strangers. Google Drive is getting a spam folder.

Report spam
Spam-reporting options in Google Drive

Google says that when users move an unsolicited file into the spam folder, they won’t receive any further notifications regarding the file, and it won’t show up anywhere other than the spam folder. Google will also – just as with email spam – attempt to determine if a file is unwanted, and automatically move it to the spam folder.

After a file has sat in Google Drive’s spam folder for over 30 days, it will be permanently deleted.

Sure, in my particular example the file was shared as part of an clumsy attempt to promote a ill-fitting company on a popular podcast. But there have been reports in the past of abusive ex-partners exploiting Google Drives.

Other users have reported having files shared with them which contain ads, pornographic content, dating scams, and malware.

The problem of Google Drive shared file spam may not be as big as that of email spam or instant-messaging spam, but it’s good to see Google wake up to the problem and develop solutions to help users not be overwhelmed by unwanted communications.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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