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Proofpoint, Inc.

Spam email still delivered to users

Situation With Proofpoint Essentials in use, users still receive spam messages.
  • Configuration changes to spam items
  • Configuration changes to spam filtering
  • Review filters and approved senders
  • Report as false negative

Proofpoint Essentials Spam scanning

Proofpoint Essentials is powered by Proofpoint’s MLX machine learning technology. This solution examines and filters millions of possible spam attributes in every email including message envelope headers and structure, email images, email sender reputation as well as unstructured content in the message body to prevent spam emails, attachment-based spam (including PDF and image-based spam), while automatically filtering and adapting to new spam attacks as they appear. However, there will be cases where mail, considered to be SPAM by the user, is delivered. These are often newsletters or “bulk-mail”.

However, spam email comes in many forms, and attackers do not stop changing their methodology, and will continue to send spam to try to by-pass filters. When spam email makes it past our filtering, this indicates that the message does not contain any markers in our current definition set. Please see below for the false negative reporting process.

Spam feature items to review

The spam features are located at Company Settings > Spam.

  1. Log into the Proofpoint Essentials user interface
  2. Search for the customer in the search bar
  3. Click Company Settings.
  4. Click Spam.

These are the settings to note:

  • Quarantine email suspected of being phish
  • Quarantine bulk email
  • Spam stamp & forward
  • Inbound domain spoofing protection

Quarantine email suspected of being phish

Proofpoint Essentials will mark suspected phishing messages with a phish tag. These may not score high enough for spam and may not get quarantined in some cases. However, if this feature is enabled, it will quarantine the message tagged as phish. In the Log Details, it will indicate a Phish tag has been applied

Quarantine bulk email

Bulk email (newsletters in most cases) is not considered spam in the traditional sense. These messages are opt in, meaning you had at one time opted in for them. Proofpoint Essentials will mark recognizable newsletters with a bulk tag, which can be seen in the Log Details. These types of messages may not score high for spam. However, setting this feature will quarantine messages tagged as bulk.

Spam stamp & forward

This Spam Stamp & Forward option tags a message as spam, but still forwards it to the mail server. By allowing this feature, this allows spam emails that are borderline spam to go through to the mail server. 

Support Recommendation

Support recommends not using this feature. If you do, make sure the tag is known across the company to ensure they know this message is possible spam.

False Negative Reports

Please note that delivered messages that users want to report as false negative may not be feasible. Support recommends turning off this feature, as most of these would likely be caught without it enabled.

Inbound domain spoofing protection

This feature is very straight forward. It is for domain scanning only. All your domains you list in your Domains tab will be scanned as part of this feature. If an inbound message with your domain in the SENDER or FROM field is in it, this feature would quarantine the message.

Support Recommendation

Support recommends this feature to be turned on for all users. If a customer is using an outside service that uses your domain, you can create a custom filter to allow this particular message through

Spam filter setting to review

From the same area in the Spam section in the user interface, you can find the Spam Sensitivity slider. The default Spam Sensitivity is set to 7. 

  • The lowest the slider can be set is: 2
  • The highest the slider can be set is: 22

Please note:

  • The lower the sensitivity is set, we quarantine more spam email.
  • The higher the sensitivity is set, we will deliver more messages that could be spam to the mail server.

Sensitivity Settings

Setting of 2: will block more spam email from going to the mail server

Setting of 22: will allow more spam email to mail server

Review filters and approved senders

When spam emails make it to the mail server, the first thing to check are the logs. Please ensure you are familiar with reviewing mail logs to review the details of the message.


If you are wanting help with support, please ensure you provide a permalink. Please check here to review how to get a permalink.

Triggering Filter

When you review the details of the message, the key item is if there is a Filtered: Allow entry as a Status. In the details, you can find what caused this by the Triggering Filter. This section is brief description of what the item is. Click on the actual item that triggered will open the direct filter in a new tab. It will either be an approved sender or an actual filter that allowed the message.

  • Approved Sender - The end-user or company entered the domain or email address into the Allow list.
  • Filter  - The end-user or company created a rule that meets the criteria to allow the message through.

Global versus End-user

When the triggering filter is clicked, it will open the tab directly to the appropriate window. It could be for the company level or the specific end-user.

In either case, the message was not spam scored properly, as the customer or end-user has indicated to let these messages pass without scoring. 

Report false negatives 

From the Log Details if a message came through as Category Clean, then a false negative report should be done on this, i.e. reporting as spam. Our current definition set does not have anything in place that matches anything in the message and it will score high enough and it will pass through our filtering. 

Please follow our standard false negative reporting process when opening a ticket. This is an effective method that helps you to help Proofpoint update spam definitions accordingly so we can block these or a similar iterations of these threats.