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Cyren Security Blog

The micro-guide to spam terminology: false positives, false negatives, and true stuff

Definition False Positive:   A legitimate email was wrongly identified as spam  False Negative:  A spam email was not identified as spam (i.e.: spam got through)  True Positive:     A spam email was correctly identified as spam True Negative :  A legitimate email was not identified as spam

Perhaps the information presented above is 100% familiar to you. If you were woken in the middle of the night and told about an annoying false positive you would immediately realize that your spam filter had been a bit over-eager.

For many though, spam terminology is a teensy bit confusing. This probably has a lot to do with the naming convention: When spam is detected this is “positive” – But spam is a not a very positive thing. And of course legitimate email is “true negative”. Very intuitive…

Therefore in the interests of greater global understanding we present the above info-drawing-thingy.

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