GMail: Blocking abusers by IP address?
August 15, 2014 2:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm working with someone (outside of the US) who is getting a series of harassing emails to her GMail account. The abuser is sending from a number of addresses, and is thus hard to identify or block by account. Is there a way to get GMail to block mail by IP address? Filters don't seem to do it, and I doubt reporting the abuse to Google will get a response. Other solutions would also be appreciated (yes, I am talking to her about potentially using other services). Thanks!
posted by gusandrews to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The trouble is that the abuser is likely not to remain at a permanent IP, but rather to attack from various fresh new IPs assigned all the time.

In a similar situation I found Gmail's capabilities not up to the task. I switched to Webfaction and used their procmail abilities to write a bunch of custom rules that blocked the harasser's domains, aliases and fixed business addresses. A server that supports procmail could also block by IP.

This kind of setup was also great because rather than sending mail to the Trash, it sent it to oblivion, so I never knew about it. It is no fun to click on the Gmail Trash only to see hate mail from 27 days ago.
posted by johngoren at 2:36 PM on August 15, 2014

Your colleague might try using Google's violation report form. If nothing else, it might start a conversation with an actual person at Google. Sad to say, though, my experience with Google has always been met with a sort of "It's not our problem" non-response.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:40 PM on August 15, 2014

Is the abuser sending emails with a bunch of phrases in common? If they're sending emails with strings that would be unlikely to appear in legitimate mail, it might be possible to make a filter - the "Has the words" option in the filter creation menu, combined with a distinctive phrase in quotation marks (to force it to search for the exact phrase) would work. Then they could send the messages directly to trash, spam, or a holding folder.
posted by fifthrider at 2:43 PM on August 15, 2014

This may not be an option for everyone, but in case it is: She can ask a trusted friend to periodically go through her email before she reads it, and delete any abusive messages before she sees them. (This may be useful in combination with other steps; for example if automated filters are catching some but not all of the unwanted messages, or if she switches to a new address but wants to periodically check the old address for legitimate mail.)
posted by mbrubeck at 3:28 PM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm really really good at building filters (based on informal syntax pattern analysis). If all else fails, feel free to memail me, I'd be happy to help.
posted by Quisp Lover at 3:29 PM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

What about using one of those gate-keeper apps where the recipient has to approve your email address before you'll approve their email?
posted by radioamy at 3:58 PM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is the user sending from other google addresses, or from one external domain?
posted by zippy at 6:02 PM on August 15, 2014

I would get two new email addresses.

One, call it A, she keeps private, known only to herself and very trusted confidants.

The second, B, becomes her "new" email address, and she gives that to people not likely to give it to the abuser. The second forwards to the first.

Then in her current GMail, she sets up filters for all the contacts she doesn't want having either the very secure A or medium-secure B, and for words that are likely to be relevant to her and not likely to be abuse. That stuff all gets forwarded to A.

Then, if B somehow becomes known to the abuser, she turns off the forwarding and sets up another new shell account that points to A. Meanwhile she gets to keep all her archive and doesn't have to tell everyone again about a new address.

If A becomes known to the abuser, repeat it all again, with an even tighter circle around the new A.

(The simpler version of this is to get one new account, keep it only to confidants, and leave everyone else with the GMail address. She has to set up forwarding rules for everyone she knows, and periodically sweep that account to check the rules haven't missed anything)

Oh: some care needs to be taken about who she emails from the new address with, obviously.
posted by bonaldi at 6:32 PM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are 2 approaches to filtering email: whitelisting where you list the people you want to see mail from (accept from a, b, c; trash the rest), and blacklisting where you list the people you don't want to see mail from (trash from x, y, z; accept the rest). Either can be implemented by gmail rules. For most non-business individuals, whitelisting is much more feasible, it requires an initial setting up period and thereafter requires scanning trash for any missed stuff.

A variant on this scheme is to modify your email address by adding a transparent comment to it, e.g. if your email is then tell people your email is, say, Both will go to foobar, the '+pal' suffix being basically a comment, create a rule so that anything sent to gusa+pal is automatically accepted, all others can be trashed subject to review. Obviously don't publish the '+pal' address just give it to new trusted correspondents and combine it with whitelisting for older correspondents. I do this extensively so I can tell which b***tards are selling any of my (throwaway) addresses to spam lists.

The other thing you can do is ensure that none of the offending addresses is in your address book and then mark each new one as spam, thereafter each email from those addresses should be trashed on receipt.

On review, bonaldi's advice is also good.
posted by epo at 2:02 AM on November 9, 2014

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