What is Email Spoofing? How to Protect Yourself Against It?
In an era where our lives are increasingly intertwined with the digital realm, email has emerged as an irreplaceable communication lifeline for both personal and professional use. However, with the increasing reliance on email, the threats associated with it have also evolved. One such threat is email spoofing. It is a tricky and significant threat to both individuals and organizations in the digital world. Surprisingly, 3.1 billion domain spoofing emails are sent per day.
Continue reading to understand what email spoofing is and how to protect yourself and your organization from falling victim to this malicious tactic.
What is email spoofing?
It is a fraudulent practice where the sender alters their email address, making it appear as if it’s from a trusted source. For instance, a scammer might send an email that looks like it’s from a bank to trick the receiver into revealing personal and bank information. This practice is commonly used for phishing or spreading malware, deceiving recipients into thinking the email is legitimate and potentially leading to scams or security breaches.
What is the history of email spoofing?
The term “spoofing” originated in the 1970s to describe phone fraud, where callers would disguise their caller ID to make it appear as if they were calling from a legitimate source. By the 1980s, it expanded to computer security, where scammers falsify data to gain unauthorized access to a system or network. In the 1990s, with the widespread use of email, email spoofing emerged and has become a persistent cybercrime threat since then.
How does email spoofing work?
In email spoofing, the sender manipulates different fields within an email to appear as someone else. This could include tampering with:
- Mail from
- Reply to
A spoofed email’s sender manipulates these fields to display false information, making it seem like the email is from a trusted source when it’s not. For example, a scammer could send an email that looks like it’s from “[email protected]” but is actually from a different source, asking for sensitive information. When received, email programs rely on these fields, which make the fake email appear genuine and trick the recipient into thinking it’s from the impersonated source.
How can email spoofing be dangerous?
Email spoofing poses a significant threat, enabling a range of criminal and malicious activities. In order to protect yourself against email spoofing, it’s essential to understand why attackers employ this technique and how dangerous it can be.
Email spoofing offers a significant advantage to senders by allowing them to hide their true identity. This is especially effective when the recipient trusts the email’s purported sender.
Trust can be built by using the name of a familiar individual or company, like a friend, business partner, or social contact. Moreover, credibility can be earned by impersonating the identity of a respected figure in the business community, particularly someone associated with a reputable company or organization. By doing this, spoofers can trick recipients into believing the email is legitimate. This increases the chances that the recipient will open the email and act upon its contents, allowing spoofers to gather data and use it to carry out various malicious activities without fear of immediate detection.
2.Avoiding a spam blacklist
Many email providers and spam filters maintain lists of known spam senders. Cyber-criminals can bypass these filters by spoofing the email address of a trusted individual or company, increasing the chances that their fraudulent emails will reach the recipient’s inbox.
3.Defaming the assumed sender
Email spoofing can damage the reputation of the assumed sender. When recipients receive emails that appear to come from a trusted source but contain harmful content or requests, they may consider the real sender as untrustworthy or with malicious intent. Sometimes, a forged email may imply that the sender or their company is susceptible to security breaches, infected by malware, or otherwise infiltrated by hackers. This can result in a loss of trust and reputation of the sender, which can negatively impact their business or social standing.
4.Intending for personal damage
Email spoofing is a tactic often used to harm people. Cyber-criminals use fake emails to get into someone’s computer, steal their business contacts, and even access their social media accounts. They can use this stolen information to hurt the person’s reputation, mess up their work, or break into their computer. They can also steal money or important bank info, causing big financial problems. Sometimes, they send harmful software through these fake emails, taking over the person’s computer and causing a lot of digital chaos.
How to protect yourself against email spoofing?
Here are some ways you can protect yourself or your organization against email spoofing:
There are some technical precautions you can take to prevent spoofing emails from infiltrating your system:
You can use a subdomain for email communication to enhance security since it makes spoofing attempts more challenging. For instance, instead of “@example.com,” opt for “@help.example.com.”
Ask your IT team to update your Domain Name System (DNS) by adding a sender policy framework and two mailbox exchange records. These records allow a trusted third party to send emails to your domain. After this setup, your mail server will forward messages from the third party to your own domain.
Use anti-malware software:
One fundamental step to protect against email spoofing is leveraging robust anti-malware software. This software analyses incoming emails for malicious content, including spoofed headers or malware-containing attachments. Upon identifying a sender or email as suspicious, it prevents the email from entering your inbox. It acts as a first line of defence against harmful emails, helping to prevent unauthorised access to your systems.
Use email signing certificates:
Email signing certificates play a crucial role in ensuring the integrity and authenticity of outgoing emails. It offers you the ability to encrypt emails, restricting access to the designated recipient. Additionally, these certificates digitally sign emails, allowing the recipient to verify the email’s authenticity and confirm it was indeed sent by you and not a spoofed address.
These certificates employ asymmetric encryption, where a public key encrypts the email before sending it to the recipient, who has a private key for decryption. This approach ensures secure transmission of both the message and any accompanying attachments.
Conduct reverse IP lookups:
To verify the authenticity of the sender’s email server, you can perform reverse IP lookups. This involves checking the sender’s IP address against an online reverse lookup tool to confirm that it matches the domain claimed in the email. If the IP address doesn’t match the one the email claims to have come from, you have just encountered potential email spoofing.
In addition to these technical precautions, you can take other steps to protect against email spoofing:
Provide cyber awareness training:
An unsuspecting employee may easily mistake a fraudulent email for a legitimate one, especially if they have not encountered email spoofing before. Even if they are familiar with spoofing, they might overlook new tactics. To counter this, you can implement continuous educational programs to empower your employees to detect and respond to modern spoofing techniques.
For best results, these training initiatives should be ongoing. You can regularly update the training content and methodologies to align with evolving spoofing tactics. Moreover, they should teach how to take appropriate actions after identifying a spoofing attempt.
Watch for unknown, odd, or spoofed email addresses:
The email addresses you usually encounter in your inbox are either familiar or predictable. Keep an eye on unfamiliar or strange addresses. If you receive an email from an address that looks suspicious, take a moment to authenticate its source before engaging with the message. After identifying a spoofed email address, remain cautious about it. Attackers may repeat the same tactics, making previously spoofed addresses more conspicuous and easier to detect.
Do not give out personal information:
Understand the importance of not disclosing personal or sensitive information via email. Legitimate organizations typically don’t request sensitive data via email. Therefore, you should verify requests for such information through alternative means before responding and encourage your employees to do the same.
Avoid strange attachments or unfamiliar links:
Be cautious when opening email attachments or clicking on links in emails from unverified or unfamiliar sources. You can typically identify the source of a link by right-clicking or long-tapping it. This technique can be particularly useful if you are suspicious about the link’s origin.
When it comes to attachments, analyse the email’s content, subject line, and file extension before opening. If you notice unusual typos or strange extensions on the attached file, it’s advisable to avoid them.
We hope this article helped you gain an in-depth understanding of email spoofing and its related aspects. With this knowledge, you can safeguard your personal information and finances, and maintain your organisation’s security.
If you have any queries or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below. We’ll be happy to help!