Most likely, you have been a victim of email fraud at some point in your life. Email spoofing is a problem that affects everyone, not just the wealthy.
This article will explain everything you need about email spoofing. It explains what it is and what to do to stop it.
Use a secure email provider
- Choose a secure email service provider. ProtonMail is well-known and available for free.
- Register to receive your personalized mailbox.
- Encrypted emails can be sent to non-ProtonMail recipients .
- You can report any phishing email that you receive. Once they are flagged, it will be easier to avoid similar scams for others.
What is email spoofing?
Email spoofing refers to the practice of sending spam emails using as a fake sender address. The recipient is tricked into believing that the email was sent by someone they trust or know. It is usually a phishing attack tool that aims to steal your funds, take control of your online accounts and send malware.
It is easy to create and detect spoof email messages. But, targeted and more malicious email messages can pose significant security threats and cause serious problems.
Email spoofing: Reasons
Email spoofing is quite common. The criminal usually has an ulterior motive, such as stealing private information of a company. These are some of the most common reasons for malicious activity.
- Phishing. Email spoofing is almost universally a gateway to phishing. To get someone to click on malicious links and provide sensitive information, it is common practice to pretend to be the recipient.
- Identity theft. Pretending that you are someone else can help a criminal collect more information on the victim (e.g. By asking for confidential information at financial or medical institutions.
- Spammers should avoid spam filters. Regular switching between email addresses can help you avoid being blacklisted.
- Anonymity. Sometimes, an email address can be used to hide the true identity of the sender.
Email spoofing: The dangers
Email spoofing can be extremely dangerous and destructive because it does not need to compromise any account . It bypasses security measures that many email providers have by default. This exploits the human factor. Especially because no one double-checks every email they receive. It’s also very easy for attackers, and doesn’t require much technical knowledge to do this on a basic level. It is possible to reconfigure every mail server to make it identical or nearly identical.
How can hackers fake your email address?
Forging email syntax is a way to spoof emails. There are many methods that can be used, each with varying levels of complexity. They differ also in the part of the email that the attacker will forge.
These are some of the variations you might encounter while surfing the internet.
Spoofing via display name
Display name spoofing refers to a form of email spoofing in which only a sender’s name is forgeried. This can be done by creating a new Gmail address with the same name of the contact you wish to impersonate. The mailto email address will be displayed differently. You’ve probably received emails from Jeff Bezos asking for money. This is spoofing via display names.
This email type will bypass any spoofing security countermeasures. Because it is legitimate, spam won’t be filtered out. This exploits user interfaces that were designed with simplicity in mind. Most modern email client apps don’t display metadata. Display name spoofing can be very effective thanks to the proliferation of smartphone email apps. They often only allow for one display name.
Spoofing via legitimate domains
Let’s say the attacker wants to believe higher. He may also use a trusted email address to target higher believability. From Header, such as “Customer Service Specialist” . This means that both the display name as well as the email address will contain misleading information.
The attack does not need to take over the target company’s account or compromise its internal network. It uses only compromised Simple Mail Transfer Protocol servers (SMTP), which allow connections without authentication and permit you to manually specify ” To ” and ” From ” addresses. Shodan.io can identify 6,000,000 SMTP server addresses, many of which are vulnerable. Moreover, an attacker can also set up a malicious SMTP Server.
This is a serious problem because many enterprise email domains don’t use any countermeasures to verify their users. There are still ways to protect your domain. We’ll get into more detail later.
Spoofing via lookalike domains
Let’s say that a domain is secured and domain spoofing cannot be done. The attacker will most likely set up a domain that looks similar to the protected domain. This type of attack involves the fraudster registering and using a domain similar to the impersonated domain. The change might be subtle enough to not be noticed by an inattentive user. This is effective because it’s possible to forget about the email header.
The attacker uses a similar domain to create a sense of authority. This bypasses spam check because it is a legitimate mailbox. This might be enough to get the victim to give their password and transfer some money or to send files. Email metadata investigation is the only way of confirming the authenticity of any message. It can be difficult to conduct this investigation on the move, especially with smaller smartphones screens.
How can I stop email spoofing?
It’s not possible to stop email spoofing. The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (the foundation for sending emails) doesn’t require authentication. This is the weakness of the technology. Email spoofing can be countered with additional measures. However, success rates will vary depending on how well your email service provider implements them.
Use additional checks to ensure trustworthiness of email providers
- Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
- DomainKeys Identified mail (DKIM).
- Authentication of messages using domain-based authentication
- Reporting & Conformance
- Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME)
These tools are automatic and can be used to discard spam messages.
You can prevent email spoofing as an ordinary user by choosing a secure provider and practicing good cybersecurity hygiene
- When registering on sites, you should use throwaway accounts. This will ensure that your private email address is not included in any shady mailing lists.
- Make sure your email password is secure and complex. Cybercriminals will find it much harder to hack into your account and send misleading emails to your contacts.
- Check the headers of emails, especially if someone requests to click on a link. Spoof emails can look identical to genuine ones, even if they are made by skilled attackers. Even if you are a regular user, they can appear indistinguishable.
How can you protect yourself against email spoofing?
You should stop and take stock of yourself if you receive ransom threats in an email. It is easy to spoof email addresses. Panicking plays into the hands of the attackers. examine the email header to verify IP addresses, DMARC, DKIM validations, and to determine if the attacker is responsible. This will confirm if the email was sent from your account. There is nothing to be concerned about if the validation fails. If you are certain that the email came from your inbox, it is important to take every precaution to ensure your identity and email security.
Email spoofing can be identified
It’s easy to spot email spoofing, as it happens. You only need to see the full email header . It includes all essential components for every email: From to , To Date, Subject. It will also contain metadata about how and from where the email was sent. It will likely contain metadata about how the email was routed to you and where it came from.
This will depend on which service you are using. It is only possible to check the data on a computer. To check Gmail, click the three vertical dots near the reply button. Then select ” Show Original” in a drop-down menu. This list will show you other services you might be using.
Here’s an example I sent myself of a bogus email pretending to be billionaire. The email filter caught the spam message and it was removed from my primary mailbox. It was found in my spam folder. It looks very real, despite the big yellow warning.
Imagine if I had chosen a domain with less visibility and fewer verification methods. There are still many things you can verify. You can check the original by going to “Show Original”. SPF is marked as SOFTFAIL and DMARC as FAIL. This should be enough to flag the email as fake. Some domains fail to keep their SP records current, resulting in invalid validation.
You can go further down the rabbit hole by looking at the code. You’ll notice that Received from,, Received–SPF domains don’t match the IP addresses. This is an obvious example of email spoofing. This is not a legitimate email if the IP addresses aren’t compatible and SPF validation fails. You can also check if the Return Path matches the sender’s address.
Examples of email spoofing in the real world
Seagate employees were emailed several years ago by an impersonating their CEO asking for their W-2 forms. Many employees thought it was an internal business email. Unbeknownst to them they were leaking their annual wages.
Snapchat, a multimedia messaging company, was also affected by email fraud. A worker of the company leaked his colleague’s payroll information . The CEO wrote to an unidentified worker. The email used seemed to be legitimate so the worker accepted the request.
What is the difference between a hacked account and one that has been spoofed?
To spoof your email, the hacker does not need to take control of your account. A hacked account can mean that the attacker has full access to your email . The hacker will send emails from your mailbox. Your account will not be affected by spoofing. Although it appears that the email is from you, it actually comes from another account.
What should you do if your email is being spoofed or altered?
If someone has sent spam through your email, there isn’t much you can do. Your real account is secure – but remember to change your password every now and again to avoid hacking.
What’s the purpose of email spoofing and why?
Email spoofing is usually used to convince people to trust an email and open files, or to send personal data to the sender.
What are the different types of spoofing?
There are three main types of email spoofing: spoofing using a display name, spoofing through legitimate domains and spoofing with lookalike domains.
Security threats from spam emails
Spam email is annoying enough. But some spam emails can pose a threat to your digital security. Spam messages can contain malware, viruses, and other cyberthreats. Here are some to be on the lookout for.
Trojan horses disguise themselves as legitimate programs. Trojan horses can trick you into believing that you are able to verify the legitimacy of an email.
They can be hidden in free software downloads, or sent as an email attachment from someone you know.
The trojan will install malicious code, usually spyware or viruses, when you open the email. This is designed to cause problems on your computer.
This could allow an attacker access your computer and lock you out. These trojans can be prevented by installing anti-malware software.
Avoid clicking on popup messages to prevent trojan horses. Consider running an antivirus scan if you see a lot pop-ups.
Zombies can also be found in email attachments. These malware can turn your computer into an email server, sending spam to other computers. Your computer may not be able to detect that it is being compromised. It may slow down or drain rapidly. Your computer could be sending spam waves or attacking websites.
Avoid opening attachments and clicking links in spam emails to avoid becoming zombies
Vishing and phishing
Phishing emails can mimic legitimate messages from financial companies and other businesses. Spam Phishing email will ask for you to visit a fake or spoofed website in order to verify your password or re-enter credit card numbers. This is a scam to steal your personal information.
Vishers will attempt to get you to call them by phone in order to obtain your personal information. Reputable businesses will not send such requests via email or telephone.
To avoid phishing scams, do a Google search for the company.
Vishers: If you don’t know the number, leave a message on voicemail. You should only answer calls from your local area, no matter how far away they are.
Lottery frauds and false offers
Cyber thieves sometimes resort to old-fashioned scams that may seem legit, but are fake offers. These scams play on your good nature or desires: You have won a lot or someone urgently requires your assistance.
You have not won the lottery or been on a cruise around all of the world. You haven’t been offered $10 million by a foreign ruler in return for your bank account number.
To avoid scams and false offers, look for urgency phrases like “Immediate” and “Act Now” in emails’ titles. For more information, refer to the Delete emails section.
How to Stay Spam Free
There is currently no “do-not email” list that can be used to block spam. You’ll need to manage spam yourself until there is one.
There are many tools that can help you accomplish this. Many email programs have spam filters that can be used to identify and isolate spam. Many internet service providers filter spam so that it doesn’t reach your computer. It is a smart idea to install anti-virus security software which can remove viruses that might already be on your computer.
If spam does manage to get past these filters, click Delete.