Email Spoofing

A guide to staying safe while using your emails

Email Spoofing

Email spoofing is a tactic to trick recipients into thinking that an email is from someone it is not. It’s achieved by forging the "From" address in an email to make it appear as if it came from a legitimate source, such as a trusted company or individual.

What is Email Spoofing?

The importance attached to email spoofing lies in its potential to deceive recipients and trick them into revealing sensitive information or taking harmful actions. Spoofed emails look like genuine messages from trusted sources, such as banks, government agencies, business partners, or your boss, which can make them look more convincing and influential.

This technique is quite common in phishing attacks, where the attacker tries to obtain personal information, login credentials, or financial details. In other cases, it may be a part of a spam campaign, where the attacker tries to get the recipient to click on a link or download an attachment.

Reasons for Email Spoofing

Identity theft is at the forefront of any spoofing activity. There are multiple reasons why a cybercriminal will engage in email spoofing:

  • Hide their actual identity
  • Impersonate a trusted individual or organization to elicit confidential information
  • Commit identity theft or spread malware
  • Damage the target organization or person’s reputation
  • Bypass spam filters and blocklists

How Does Email Spoofing Work? (With Examples)

Email spoofing typically works using a fake or forged email header. The attacker modifies the email header by changing the source IP address or by using a spoofing tool that allows them to create a fake email that appears to come from a trusted source. This process can be automated using software or scripts, which makes it easier for attackers to launch large-scale email spoofing attacks.

In addition to modifying the email headers, email spoofing may involve social engineering techniques. The attacker may use a subject line that is urgent or relevant to the recipient's interests, or they may impersonate a known individual or organization to extract sensitive information.

For example, an email from the CFO of your company requesting you to verify your details attached in a pdf within the mail can appear critical and trustworthy that you would not think twice. But when you download the attachment, the security has been breached. The file or link you click on contains malware. Such scenarios become hard to distinguish and thwart.

Another example is an email from your email service provider that might state that your account requires immediate action or it would be blocked. In a state of urgency, you would reply to the mail with the requested credentials. While responding, there is no chance for you to notice the mismatch in the email address of the sender (email header and reply section).

Know More:

Email Encryption

Encrypted Email

How to Protect From Email Spoofing?

It is essential for users to know how to identify a spoofed email in their inbox to protect themselves from the damage caused by email spoofing.

Identify a spoofed email

  • Check the sender's email address to see if it matches the expected sender before replying. Look for slight variations or misspellings in the sender or domain name (also known as domain spoofing).
  • Hover over links to see the destination URL before clicking, and do not download attachments unless you anticipate them and trust the sender.
  • Many spoofed emails contain poor spelling and grammar. And most importantly, if you receive an email from someone you know but the tone or language of the message is unusual or different from what you would expect from that person, it may be a sign that the email is not legit.

To tackle intelligent phishing scams, businesses must educate their employees and invest in a smart email security solution.

Prevent Email Spoofing

There are several steps businesses can take to prevent email spoofing:

  1. Monitor Email Activity: Monitoring email activity can help detect and prevent spoofing attacks. Organizations can use email monitoring tools to analyze traffic and identify suspicious patterns with the help of advanced technology.
  2. Implement Email Authentication Protocols: SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are email authentication protocols that help verify the authenticity of emails and detect spoofed emails. SPF (Sender Policy Framework) verifies the sending domain, DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) verifies the integrity of the email message, and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance) provides policy-based guidance on handling messages that fail SPF or DKIM checks.
  3. Use Anti-spam Filters: Anti-spam filters can help detect and block suspicious emails. These filters use algorithms to analyze email content, sender information, and other factors to determine whether an email is legitimate.
  4. Be Cautious with Links and Attachments: Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown senders or suspicious emails, as they may contain malware or phishing scams.

Spread Awareness

Upon spotting a spoofed email, report the incident to your email provider. Many email providers have mechanisms in place to notify suspicious emails.

It is equally crucial to inform the organization or individual whose identity was spoofed so that they can take appropriate measures to protect their reputation and prevent further incidents.