Spoofing is one of the most universal kinds of attacks today. Fraudsters just love to take over names and email addresses on an email network (for example, Hotmail, Gmail) to send out thousands of fake emails that appear as if they were sent from someone you know – like the CEO or an executive at another company in your industry.
Don’t let identity thieves spoof your email address. Learn how to protect yourself from email spoofing and why you should care about this serious information security threat. Let’s get into it!
Spoofing emails: What are they?
Spoofing email is not a new thing but also doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. In some cases, the advancement of technology actually helps the fraudsters cheat. There are many reasons an email can be considered to be spoofed. The most common scenario is when an attacker hijacks a genuine server and uses it to send spoofed emails. The most common method to send emails is by exploiting a vulnerable SMTP server. Once they have compromised the SMTP server they can send spoofed emails to anyone.
Spoofing is a serious problem and one that’s only getting worse. The implications of spoofing can be far-reaching and damaging to big brands, but the recent flood of phishing has already been causing panic among users. By providing a guide on how to avoid email spoofing, you’re helping your users (and yourself) get rid of this menace, and setting up best practices for those on your tech support list.
What is an Email Spoofing Attack?
An email spoofing attack is a cybercrime where a malicious actor forges an email header’s ‘From’ address so that it appears to be coming from someone else, usually a known or trusted entity. So, unless you observe an email header more closely, you aren’t likely to catch it if it’s a spoofed email.
It’s a popular trick used by cyber actors for spamming and phishing. These emails generally carry malicious links or attachments that can trick you into submitting sensitive details. They can also manipulate you into downloading malware and viruses.
How do Hackers Spoof Email?
If your answer to ‘am I being spoofed’ is affirmative, then you must know how threat actors trick you. This way, you’ll be more careful the next time.
A spoofing attack is possible by faking email syntax by deploying multiple methods of varying complexity. Here are some of the methods:
Spoofing Via Display Name
In this, only the email sender’s display name is forged by creating a new email account with the same name as the contact they’re imitating. However, the displayed sender’s email address will be different.
These emails aren’t labeled as spam because they look legitimate.
Spoofing Via Legitimate Domains
In this method, bad actors use a trusted email address in the ‘From’ header (for example- [email protected]). In this case, both display name and email address will show forged details.
Hackers don’t hijack an internal network; instead, they exploit the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) to manually specify ‘To’ and ‘From’ addresses.
Spoofing Via Lookalike Domains
If a domain is protected, it isn’t possible to spoof domains. That’s why spoofers have to create a lookalike domain. For example, using 0 (zero) instead of O (the 15th letter of the English alphabet). Say, instead of www.amazon.com, they can create www.amaz0n.com.
The trick works as most recipients don’t notice such minor spelling alterations.
Why Does My Email Keep Getting Spoofed?
Email spoofing is common if you don’t use SPF, DKIM, and DMARC protocols meant for email authentication. Also, inactive email accounts are more prone to this cybercrime as these are easy targets. So, if you’re someone who doesn’t use their account regularly, there’s a higher possibility of getting under hackers’ radar.
What are the Signs of Email Spoofing?
You must be wary if:
- you’re seeing emails in your ‘sent box’ that aren’t sent by you.
- you’re receiving replies to emails not initiated by you.
- your password has changed, and it’s not done by you.
- people are receiving fraudulent emails in your name.
How can spoofed emails harm you?
Do you remember the last time you clicked a link in an email that said it was from a company you trusted? You probably found yourself on a website you had never visited before because the sender instructed you to click on a link. How did you know that this new address wasn’t a nefarious attempt to spy on your personal data? The answer is simple: Legitimate businesses will never ask for private information like usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers via email.
However, if a fraudulent source forges your address to send such malicious messages to your customers, rest assured that it will harm your business. The credibility and reputation that you have worked so hard to build will suffer the blows of such attacks, and your clients will hesitate before opening your legitimate marketing emails.
How to stop continuous spoofing emails from being sent from my email address?
Make email authentication protocols a part of your email suite!
- SPF: One of the basics of email authentication that will help you avoid spoofing emails is SPF. While configuring it is effortless, maintaining it is a challenge. There is often a risk of exceeding the 10 DNS lookup limit, which results in emails failing authentication despite proven authenticity. We offer you a quick solution to bypass this issue with our dynamic SPF flattening tool. Create an SPF record today for free, with our SPF record generator.
- DKIM: DKIM is a method to sign all outgoing messages to help prevent email spoofing. Spoofing is the unauthorized use of email by forging a domain name or address. By using DKIM, outbound mail will get authenticated with a digital signature that lets mail servers know that it actually came from you.
- DMARC: DMARC is an email authentication standard for organizations to help protect them from spoofing and phishing attacks that use email to trick the recipient into taking some action. DMARC works as a layer on top of SPF and DKIM to help email receivers recognize when an email isn’t coming from a company’s approved domains, and provide instructions on safely disposing of unauthorized email.
If you want to start building up your defenses against spoofing, we recommend you take a trial of our DMARC report analyzer. It will help you in onboarding the protocols at the fastest market speed, staying abreast of errors, and monitoring your domains easily on a multi-purpose DMARC dashboard.