Google fixed a glitch that turned Gmail messages from users into spam by sending them repeatedly to intended recipients.
Google downplayed the flaw by contending that the bug affected less than 2.5 percent of its user base, which adds up to a significant number in light of the fact that there are about 160 million Gmail accounts around the world, according to a comScore statistic cited by The Wall Street Journal. All in all, that "could still mean that over 4 million people have been turned into spammers by a bug in their Web e-mail system," wrote Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for security firm Sophos, in a blog post Friday.
Affected users were able to access Google Mail, but were treated to error messages and other buggy behavior from Gmail that repeatedly sent messages to people on their contact lists. The repeated messages resulted in many of the Gmail users being added to spam lists after they inadvertently sent messages to spammers.
"The problem with Google Mail should be resolved," Google said in an Apps Status Dashboard update. "We apologize for the inconvenience and thank-you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better."
Google was swamped with complaints Thursday in their Composing and Sending Messages section of Google's help forum from angry users embarrassed at how their e-mail accounts were spewing repeating messages to their friends, family and coworkers, even when they deleting the messages from their in-boxes.
One person who posted on the forum, described as a Google employee and calling himself MrEvan, reassured users that the company was working on a fix.
"Sincere apologies for the inconvenience -- this was an isolated issue, but obviously has caused some uncomfortable situations. I wish this could have been avoided, but I wanted you to know that the engineers have sorted out the problem!" he wrote.
Now Google claims to have repaired the error, which first came to light Wednesday, although users continued to complain about the Gmail flaws into Friday.
Meanwhile, the spam glitch comes on the heels of a new Google calling service that merged Google Voice and Gmail, enabling users to make free VoIP calls anywhere in the U.S. and Canada while requiring a minimal charge for other international calls. Google did not specify whether the recent addition of Google Voice to Gmail was related to the e-mail sending flaw.