What is an E-mail storm ?
An e-mail storm is a sudden spike of Reply All messages on an email distribution list, usually caused by a controversial or misdirected message. Such storms start when multiple members of the distribution list reply to the entire list at the same time in response instigating message. Other members soon respond, usually adding vitriol to the discussion, asking to be removed from the list, or pleading for the cessation of messages. If enough members reply to these unwanted messages this triggers a chain reaction of email messages. The sheer load of traffic generated by these storms can render the email servers inoperative, similar to a DDoS attack.
On the 31/12/2009 10:20 the following email was send by someone in HP, his/her mistake was that it was sent to the wrong address, the email was sent to an exchange discussion list which hold all the employees who has remote access to the company – yes all the employees who has remote access to HP and you can start counting them…
In response to this email hundreds if not more emails were sent back using Replay-To-All asking to be removed from the DL as people were/are flooded with emails – anyone who responded responded back to the DL itself and by that sending email again to company wide.
One email was hilarious, someone decided to send to the DL an email asking ppl to take an outlook training over the internal portal hoping that ppl will learn NOT to press Replay-To-All
This led to a line of even more hilarious emails as some employees answered to the DL that they are not using outlook and they are using linux systems and as such what will be with their bonus, do they need to take the training or not ? :-)
I’ve noticed several emails requesting ppl to stop sending emails but the flood is keep on coming…
If you look at Wikipedia again for former incidents:
- On October 14, 1997, a Microsoft employee noticed that they were on an as-yet unknown email distribution list 'Bedlam DL3', and emailed the list asking to be removed. This list contained approximately a quarter of the company's employees, 13,000 email addresses. Other users replied to the list with similar requests and still others responded with pleas to stop replying to the list. A Microsoft employee estimates that 15 million emails were sent, using 195 GB of bandwidth.
- On October 3, 2007, an email storm was generated at the US Department of Homeland Security, causing more than 2.2 million messages to be sent, and exposing the names of hundreds of security professionals.
- State Department employees were warned they could face disciplinary action for taking part in a massive email storm that "nearly knocked out one of the State Department's main electronic communications systems."
It really makes you think of what can a simple mistake of an employee can cause to a company…
Beware of whom you send you email to, choose you DL wisely and please please please think for a min before hitting the Replay-To-All.
Note: A much better was it to replay to all while putting the DL in the bcc field… this way if someone do use Replay-To-All he needs to specifically enter the DL name again