Wonder what is going on with all these e-mails that you didn’t send yourself? Or those e-mails that look like it was sent by someone but really wasn’t?
Within these days of massive communication via e-mail, it comes to
be quite important for anyone to be familiar with the following two
terms: email “spamming” and email “spoofing”.
- Email spamming refers to sending email to
thousands and thousands of users – similar to a chain letter. Spamming
is often done deliberately to use network resources. Email spamming may
be combined with email spoofing, so that it is very difficult to
determine the actual originating email address of the sender. Some
email systems, including Microsoft Exchange, have the ability to
block incoming mail from a specific address. However, because these
individuals change their email addresses frequently, it is difficult to
prevent some spam from reaching your email inbox.
- Email spoofing refers to email that appears to
have originated from one source when it was actually sent from another
source. Individuals, who are sending “junk” email or “spam”, typically
want the email to appear to be from an email address that may not
exist. This way the email cannot be traced back to the originator.
There are many possible reasons why people send out emails spoofing
the return address: sometimes it is simply to cause confusion,
sometimes it is to discredit the person whose email address has been
spoofed: using their name to send a vile or insulting message.
Sometimes email spoofing is used for what is known as “phishing”,
which aims to trick the recipient into revealing passwords or other
information. For example, you get an email from what appears to be the
PayPal’s account verification department, or from your ISP, asking you
to go to a Web page and enter your password, or change it to one of
Dealing with a Spoofed Email
There is no way to prevent receiving spoofed emails.
If you get a message that is outrageously insulting, asks for something
highly confidential, or just plain doesn’t make any sense, then you may
want to find out if it is really from the person it says it’s from. You
can look at the Internet Headers information to see where the email
Remember that although your email address may have been
spoofed this does not mean that the spoofer has gained access to your
Internet Headers Information
An email collects information from each of the computers it passes
through on the way to the recipient, and this is stored in the email’s Internet Headers.
Tip: Internet Headers are best read from the bottom up, as they are added to as the email passes through the system.
Email-distributed viruses that use spoofing, such
the Klez or Sobig virus, take a random name from somewhere on the
infected person’s hard disk and mail themselves out as if they were
from that randomly chosen address. Recipients of these viruses are
therefore misled as to the address from which they were sent, and may
end up complaining to, or alerting the wrong person. As a result, users
of uninfected computers may be wrongly informed that they have, and
have been distributing a virus.
If you receive an alert that you’re sending
infected emails, first run a virus scan using a full-featured locally
installed anti-virus program (e.g. Norton Anti-Virus, McAfee, Nod32,
AVG, BitDefender, etc). If you are not infected, then you may want to
reply to the infection alert with this information:
“Your virus may have appeared to have been sent
by me, but I have scanned my system and I am not infected. A number of
email-distributed viruses fake, or spoof, the ‘From’ address using a
random address taken from the Outlook contacts list or from Web files
stored on the hard drive.”
But keep in mind that a virus alert message is
quite often auto generated and sent via an anti-virus server and so
replying to the original email may not elicit a response.
Alternatively, if you receive an email-distributed virus, look at the Internet Headers
information to see where the email actually originated from, before
firing off a complaint or virus alert to the person you assume sent it.