Black Friday was very black for iCalendar users this year. Scammers figured out how to get around increasingly powerful email spam filters by exploiting a calendar feature Apple created for user convenience, resulting in countless spam invites advertising shopping deals.
The trick is pretty simple: When email comes in to the iOS or macOS Mail app it gets scanned for calendar invites prior to being spam filtered. The invite is automatically added to the Calendar app, resulting in a notification.
SEE: The best gifts for Apple users in 2016 (TechRepublic)
Prior to Apple's update the only solution was to move invites to a new calendar and then delete the calendar itself. Declining or deleting would let the sender know the message was received, likely resulting in more spam.
Apple takes action
The latest update to iCloud gives users a way to get rid of spam invites without having to use the workaround mentioned above. It adds a Report Junk button to all invites originating from people not on your contacts list, which instantly deletes the invite without sending a response, along with notifying Apple.
In a perfect world the update would have come along with an iOS and macOS update as well, but no such luck: You can only report junk iCalendar invites through the iCloud web interface. The BBC reports that Apple plans to release the same update on iOS and macOS soon, but no timeline was given.
Doing it is simple enough: Log into iCloud on the web and open the calendar app. Look for an offending invite and open it up. Look for the sender's name in the window that opens to accept the invite.
If the sender isn't in your contact list you should see a button right below their name to Report Junk. Click it and the invite disappears, along with a note telling you that the invitation was reported as junk.
Is it more than just an interface update?
The addition of a reporting feature is great, but it isn't a solution unless the way iOS and macOS process emails is changed. If the Mail app continues to scan messages for invitations before (or in spite of) filtering them out as spam the problem will continue. Users will be forced to do all the legwork for Apple in reporting each and every junk invitation—not exactly a solution.
I've reached out to Apple to see if the junk reporting feature is more than just a simple interface change. As of this writing they haven't responded. This article will be updated with any new information they provide.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Apple has released a patch to the iCloud calendar app that allows users to report junk calendar invites.
- The update is only available for the iCloud web client as of now, with a rollout on iOS and macOS planned for the near future.
- It's unclear whether the change is just at the interface level or whether Apple has changed the way its apps process mail to avoid future spam.
- The junk mail campaign: spamming and phishing with Trump (TechRepublic)
- Apple has a Calendar and Photos spam problem and it better fix it soon (ZDNet)
- Apple could lose billions on Progressive Web Apps, but it has no choice (TechRepublic)
- Phishing-as-a-service is making it easier than ever for hackers to steal your data (ZDNet)
- Think that email is private? Think again — then think some more (CBS News)
Brandon Vigliarolo has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.