False positives happen when email filters misjudge genuine emails and mark them as spam or malicious. On the other hand, false negatives are illegitimate and spam emails that pass through these filters without getting detected. Both are problematic for legitimate senders and recipients. Because of false positives, important emails don’t land in the recipients’ inboxes and impact communications. Whereas, due to false negatives, recipients end up getting tricked into downloading malware-infected files, sharing sensitive details, transferring money, etc.


Why False Positives and False Negatives Occur?

Email filtering tools are not 100% accurate and consistent, as they are based on algorithms driven by criteria and rules to evaluate the content, headers, attachments, senders, and reputation of incoming emails. So, sometimes, they can be too strict or too lenient, depending upon the configurations and algorithms. 

What’s even more bothering is that threat actors are becoming sophisticated with their techniques and are able to create emails that look genuine and, hence, bypass spam filtering. A large chunk of the credit for generating these sophisticated phishing emails goes to AI tools


Spam Filters

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How to Prevent False Positives and False Negatives?

Fortunately, there are practical steps you can take to prevent false positives and negatives. By optimizing your email filters and adopting secure email-sending practices, you can significantly reduce the risks of these issues. Here are a few strategies you can implement:

  • Opt for reliable and reputable email filtering tools that offer the best possible accuracy, efficiency, flexibility, and customization.
  • Regularly review the settings and adjust them as required. 
  • Keep the email filtering tools and all devices using which you access your emails well updated. 
  • Create an allowlist and blocklist of senders and domains you trust or mistrust, respectively. 
  • Use encryption, multi-factor authentication, and set up a strong password that you must change every 3-6 months.


How to Handle False Positives and Negatives?

Even with the best prevention measures, false positives and negatives can occur. To manage them effectively:


Check Your Spam Folder

Regularly review your spam folder for any legitimate emails that were mistakenly marked as spam. Mark these emails as ‘not spam,’ or move them to your inbox.


False Positives


Review Your Inbox

Carefully examine your inbox for any spam emails that were not caught by your filter. Mark these emails as spam or delete them.


Communicate with Senders and Recipients

If you suspect a false positive or false negative, notify the sender or recipient and ask them to resend or confirm the message.


Report Issues

Report any false positives or false negatives to your email filtering service or software provider. Provide feedback to help them improve their system.


Periodic Review

Regularly review your email filtering performance and results. Look for patterns or anomalies that might indicate a problem.

By following these steps, you can handle false positives and negatives efficiently and help improve the accuracy of your email filtering system.




Does DMARC Prevent False Positives and Negatives?

DMARC itself is not designed to prevent false positives and negatives directly but to enhance the overall email authentication process by building on SPF and DKIM. However, implementing DMARC correctly can significantly improve email security by reducing the likelihood of both false positives and false negatives, ensuring that emails are properly authenticated. Contact us to get started with DMARC.

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