A review of spam email detection: analysis of spammer strategies and the dataset shift problem

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Abstract

Spam emails have been traditionally seen as just annoying and unsolicited emails containing advertisements, but they increasingly include scams, malware or phishing. In order to ensure the security and integrity for the users, organisations and researchers aim to develop robust filters for spam email detection. Recently, most spam filters based on machine learning algorithms published in academic journals report very high performance, but users are still reporting a rising number of frauds and attacks via spam emails. Two main challenges can be found in this field: (a) it is a very dynamic environment prone to the dataset shift problem and (b) it suffers from the presence of an adversarial figure, i.e. the spammer. Unlike classical spam email reviews, this one is particularly focused on the problems that this constantly changing environment poses. Moreover, we analyse the different spammer strategies used for contaminating the emails, and we review the state-of-the-art techniques to develop filters based on machine learning. Finally, we empirically evaluate and present the consequences of ignoring the matter of dataset shift in this practical field. Experimental results show that this shift may lead to severe degradation in the estimated generalisation performance, with error rates reaching values up to
\(48.81\%\)
.

AI/ML

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