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United Kingdom Bug Communications IT

British ISP Bombards Users With Deleted Emails 134

judgecorp writes "For three days, customers at British ISP Sky have been receiving a flood of old and deleted messages. The problem started when the company switched its email provider from Google to Yahoo. As it began to move accounts from one provider to another, it became obvious that the new provider could not tell which emails in the old system had been sent or deleted. Some users had up to 8000 old messages. The incident has been going for three days, as users are migrated. Sky is apparently unable to fix the problem — its best advice been to suggest users delete the old messages."
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British ISP Bombards Users With Deleted Emails

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  • by 7x7 ( 665946 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:13AM (#43390963)
    Apparently they've never heard of IMAPsync ;-)
  • "Deleted" (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:17AM (#43391007)

    I guess they used the Facebook definition of deleting contents...

    • by kasperd ( 592156 )
      An email exists in more than one place. Deleting it from one system doesn't imply it is being deleted from all other systems. From the article it is not entirely clear which systems are in play, where it was deleted, and where it was not. From the description I get to think of two likely scenarios.
      • Users downloaded the messages from the server to their own computer using the POP protocol. On the Google side it was configured such that a delete requested over the POP protocol was interpreted as archiving the
      • > On the Google side it was configured such that a delete
        > requested over the POP protocol was interpreted as
        > archiving the message.

        Then they were not correctly implementing the protocol.

        • by kasperd ( 592156 )

          Then they were not correctly implementing the protocol.

          As long as the message is no longer visible to POP clients, they are indeed following the protocol. The POP protocol does not require the server to find every copy of the message in existence across all servers on the Internet and delete them. If downloading the mail to your computer caused the copy accessible through the webinterface to get deleted, people would be screaming about data loss. Gmail offers four possible configurations on what happens to

  • by eksith ( 2776419 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:20AM (#43391041) Homepage

    ...Unless they're really useless or are too sensitive (I never send sensitive information via email, but despite my best efforts, I do get them sent to me). But I guess even that's not consolation that the information was private by any stretch of the imagination.

    I keep trying to explain to people, email with Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail etc... is like having a private conversation in a coffee shop or something. Yeah, you can get "some" privacy, but really, anyone can listen in or record if they really wanted to since you don't control the venue. Anything without PGP/GPG encryption is like that.

    I can only imagine what this might be like for those folks. If this happened to me, and if I do delete messages, I'd be not only livid, but hosed as well. How can you sift through that much info in a single morning... or a week's worth of mornings?

  • by StoneyMahoney ( 1488261 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:22AM (#43391063)

    Telling the difference between emails that have been deleted and those that haven't, along with those that have been sent and those that haven't, costs extra. Doing it any other way means Progressivism wins!

  • by RedHackTea ( 2779623 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:27AM (#43391111)
    Wouldn't you try a test run on one user account before letting it fly for all users? Then this probably would have been caught. The bar has been lowered. Any takers?
    • by kasperd ( 592156 )

      Wouldn't you try a test run on one user account before letting it fly for all users?

      You are absolutely right, that's how it should have been done. And you can take it in more steps. You don't have to go directly from one to all. Decide how many steps are appropriate and then increase the number of users exponentially between each step.

      This sort of approach is standard practice at Google. I don't think Google made the decision to rush this through. I imagine Google was warning about the possibility of som

    • by tqk ( 413719 )

      Wouldn't you try a test run on one user account before letting it fly for all users?

      I'm pretty much constantly amazed at what crap manages to be considered "competent IT staff" these days. This's at one of the biggest names out there too. There's a lot of blame to pass around here, from HR (for suggesting them), to management (for hiring them), to the drone who did this without bothering to first get their ducks in a row (research the problem maybe?). Then there's the moving from gmail to Yahoo bit. Wouldn't anyone be better than Yahoo, just based on their press over the last few years

      • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

        Not migrating a few accounts at a time does seem to be an over-achievement in dumb-assery. Don't be too harsh on the IT staff however. I'm sure some manager/bean counter types made the decision to migrate based on cost only. Then, the project gets dumped on an already over-burdened IT staff under a tight schedule. Even "competent" IT people can screw up when they're given unrealistic requirements.

        I'm not necessarily disputing your assertion, but at my former employer, the penny-pinchers were constantly

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Dirty secret is, yahoos email passwords db has already been cracked wide open by a previous xss flaw, it is merely coincidence that i have had floods of btyahoo customers call me with "why do all my friends tell me i sent them 200 spam mails (headers confirm its from yahoo)", yet none of them are infected with anything, coincidence i tell ya, then wait till you hear POP3 problems with btyahoo garbage or their shtty software, go abroad on a business trip and there is a whole world of crap awaiting for you


  • I would have hoped that "deleted" meant "deleted". How naïve of me.

    • I would have hoped that "deleted" meant "deleted". How naïve of me.

      Indeed. How else do you expect people to recover their email messages they accidentally moved to the trash, confirmed the move, and then deleted? ;)

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      As far as anyone can tell with Google, "deleted" does mean "deleted". However, most gmail users "delete" email by archiving it, not actually deleting it. In gmail, you only see mail if it is tagged in some way, or you search for it, so simply removing the "inbox" tag means you stop seeing the mail in your inbox (but it's still there in searches).

      Having all of this not-really-deleted mail show up again and surprise users was a completely predictable side effect of moving mail from Google's idea of mail org

  • Shouldn't one of the basic services provided by an ISP be "email" meaning that they provide their own independent set of email servers?
    • IMO the bundling of email service and addresses with internet access service is a historical artifact that adds lockin and reduces competition in the internet access market.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Not providing email greatly lowers support costs because you don't have to help noobs through how to configure mail clients, getting blamed when their Outlook Express eats their old email, getting complaints about spam, etc. Plus you don't have to field hundreds of support calls when you bungle up moving the services on the back end, like here.

  • Why anyone would switch their email provider *to* Yahoo I have no idea. At least I have an excuse, since I've had my email there for ten years and don't want to go to the trouble of changing it. But between the unexplained service outages (unable to retrieve emails, sometimes for hours at a time) and the security holes (get your contact list downloaded if you click on a bad link) I have no idea why anyone would choose it over other offerings, if they were starting fresh.
  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:55AM (#43391385) Homepage Journal

    Had they actually *tested* this, in advance, would we be discussing the various flaws in each mail systems' implementations, or their real/imagined problems?

    No. We would not even know it happened.

    Don't blame Google's use of IMAP flags and folders, blame Yahoo!'s apparent lack of planning. Or Sky. Or whoever. Plenty of blame at the receiving end.

    If you're moving mail from some system into yours, the responsibility is yours to make it right.

    And I've done this. Wait till ya hose up the passwords, my friend. Fun times.

  • IT happens (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 08, 2013 @10:55AM (#43391389)

    Recently, I saw a large organization convert email systems. They are split into handful of business units that had their own IT staff and email systems. They made the announcement and told us how it would go. All your email, calendar, and contacts would be converted and everyone's mailbox size would be 25G. As the migration got closer, one business unit's IT kept making frustrating announcements while the other units went as smooth as expected. (I don't know the source of that units internal issues, but this is what was seen from the outside)

    Announcement: Our mailboxes will be 2G in size instead of the 25G that everyone else gets.

    Announcement: You will have to move your contacts by hand, we will take care of your calendar and email.

    Announcement: You can't move personal email groups because the addresses are not saved in any known email standard.

    Announcement: We tried to migrate a calendar but could not get it to work. We won't be able to migrate calendars.

    Announcement: The automated email migration is taking longer than we expected, bu the vendor is working with us.

    Announcement: The automated migration is taking too long, so we wont be able to do it. You will have to archive your own email.

    Announcement: If you need someone to migrate your stuff, we can have a contractor do it for $200.00 for each mailbox.

    Announcement: We recommend everyone purchase a license of Acrobat Pro and PDF your emails. Or email old messages to your self after the switch.

    Announcement: Our existing system archives email after 1 year, you have to open each archived message once before you PDF it or it will PDF an empty email.

    Announcement: Here is a trick to open up to 10 archived emails at once.

    Announcement: We must remove every copy of the old email client (due to licensing) so all your old personal archives in that system will not longer be accessible.

    And all the central mail groups needed to be recreated by the admin team with no conversion from the old lists. And the new groups could not contain outside email accounts. There were a hand full of mistakes that showed that someone had to do this by hand (scripts or automation would have create different mistakes).

    I kind of feel bad for that IT team. Because if that was the flow of announcements going out, you can only imagine what they were dealing with inside the team.


    • I guess the advantage of having multiple IT departments in the same organization is that when you give each of them the same tasks, you can see which ones are competent and which aren't.

      I'm with the parent in feeling bad for the IT team that had all this trouble. On the other hand, one has to wonder why all the other IT departments managed to pull off the migration smoothly, but this one didn't.

    • Mistakes with this level of both fail and visibility are invariably due to politics rather than technology. I'm guessing some mid-level manager decided their department was special and severely under-estimated the amount of resources required, and tried to in-house the migration for a political reason that now is obviously stupid but at the time seemed really smart, or at least said manager wasn't told it was doomed to failure.

  • Who uses the email service provided by their ISP anymore? How may times have you received the email "I changed my ISP so this is my new email address"? If you are using the email service provided by your ISP you are doing it wrong.
  • by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <greg@gksnetworks.com> on Monday April 08, 2013 @11:58AM (#43392065) Homepage

    to run your own mail server.

    • by fazey ( 2806709 )
      The problem I run into with that, is that people who email me are using these services. But I am right there with you on that.
    • by chihowa ( 366380 )

      to run your own mail server.

      Absolutely. With incredibly cheap backup MX services and the ease of using your ISP's SMTP server as a relay, there's no reason not to run your own, even if you're on a residential link.

  • by gravis777 ( 123605 ) on Monday April 08, 2013 @12:51PM (#43392673)

    Sky is apparently unable to fix the problem — its best advice been to suggest users delete the old messages

    I can tell you a fix to the problem in two seconds - Go back to Google. You are going to risk pissing off your customers with this, then they will discover that they have worse spam filtering, to save some money? Sounds like Sky needs to rethink a few things - that is a major issue!

    Also, Google with Imap and all my mail clients that plug into it have no issues with this. Why is Yahoo having an issue with this? Sounds like someone at Yahoo is just lazy and doesn't want to be bothered to do a few hours worth of programming - meaning bad customer service they are offering to the ISP which turns around to screwing the end customer. I mean, really, that is inexcusable!

  • Folks, any poster who talks about "folders" in Gmail is not someone to listen to. Gmail doesn't use folders. Messages are tagged with labels and sorted and viewed using those labels. I was modding posts down, but there are just too many that show no understanding of Gmail, yet pretend to have worthwhile points (shock!).
    • Which might of flown if sublabels did not exist. But they do, so "label" is just Googles name for folder.

      • Folders with symlinks maybe.

        The ease of use is incredible though. I love being able to have an E-Mail with multiple labels, and see/edit all of those labels easily.

        It's 2013, and most E-Mail clients still treat an E-Mail with multiple labels as multiple copies. I can't easily search, edit, or even delete my E-Mail with anything but the gmail web interface.

  • an oldie but a goodie
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A similar thing happend to me too. I switched from google to another provider. I deleted my emails (also the trash) on my google account but after that old emails came in over IMAP which i did delete several weeks ago. Normally they shouldn't have existed on the google server anymore.
    I deleted my whole account but i can still acces my google calender over the private ical link...

  • Email is so incredibly useful, but far less useful if you have to change email addresses with every ISP.

    I have entered my email in far too many important sites, let alone given it to people/organizations, for me to recover from having a change of address.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ..is that, despite USERS EXPLICITLY DELETING THEM, Google still retained all the messages. You can't have a problem with re-delivering an e-mail you don't have.

    Google. Keeping every piece of information they can possible learn about you forever, whether you like it or not.

    Amazing Catcha Moment - I got "Expunge."

    • by vakuona ( 788200 )

      Google makes it clear they do not delete emails. And they also make it very clear how you can permanently delete emails. Click on "delete" in the webmail interface.

      It would have been very easy for Yahoo to provide users with a "clean" inbox. All they had to do was to map the gmail inbox to the Yahoo inbox, create a Gmail "all mail" folder, and recreate all other folders/labels to match what Gmail was providing. The only downside would have been where users had tagged emails with multiple labels, and they wo

  • It's just these inquisitive little goo balls dropping the Undelete button into the red liquid so that World of Goo Corporation will be destroyed.
    Everyone is crazy but me!

    -the dotslashing Sign Painter.
  • Surely if they did a test run on a few mailboxes they would have discovered this.

Profanity is the one language all programmers know best.