Email spoofing might not sound as dangerous as credit card fraud or hacking but is equally malicious. A study that was conducted in 2017 shows that almost 30,000 spoofing attempts happen each day.
In theory, Email Spoofing is a tactic that visually deceives you. It is similar to when people used to get a phone call or an email from themselves. This used to happen in the early days of spoofing, but today, this con-art has diversified.
Email Spoofing is essentially impersonating someone else to accomplish nefarious goals. Everyone on the internet is a potential victim of spoofing, whether it be the recipient or the company/person whose identity is being used.
A term that comes up a lot while talking about Email Spoofing is Phishing. It is a deceptive tactic used by cybercriminals to make people take an action that will be harmful for them, while impersonating someone else. They send the email as someone you trust, like your family, boss or email provider.
Goals of Phishing
Many cybercriminals use Phishing as a tactic so that they can get –
- Personal or Financial Information
- Get people to turn over proprietary information or intellectual property
- Scam people out of money through wire transfer
- Provide login details to a secured server and database
- Send a virus or a malicious link
A spoofed email is crafted to look exactly like the ones you are used to seeing. Due to human nature, phishing emails are hard to verify as they are impersonating trusted contacts. Thus, it is very necessary to double-check while exchanging sensitive information.
Mechanics of Email Spoofing
Contrary to what people think, email spoofing is not very hard to pull off. One can achieve great results with just a little knowledge of photo editing software. This means that if one can make an email header that is a great copy of another one. Then they can easily pretend to be another person or company.
This can easily be done with a bit of knowledge of SMTP server and basic email software. But spoofing is not limited to copying email headers. It also means that the person behind the spoofing attack also copies the email address, name and domain.
A lot of research goes into a spoof attack, as many times these attacks are directed at people who are either vulnerable or have high net worth. Sometimes they are both. Spoofing can also be used to gain access to vital and classified information, and thus, people who are at a senior level at a company can also be targets. With the burst of social media, such individuals can easily be identified through networks like LinkedIn and Facebook.
Why is it dangerous?
Even if you can successfully ward off a spoofing attempt, it does not mean that it is not a threat. Someone can pretend to be you and scam people out of information or money while you are doing nothing. This means that this is a very big deal for everyone. For the sake of their own identities and especially their loved ones, it is very important to have as many safeguards up as possible.
Be extra vigilant if you get a call from yourself or an email from yourself. Always double-check all the emails regarding sensitive information. At its core, Email Spoofing is a deception. It’s a way for a person to deceive you while using the identity of a different person. The worst part is that you can get entangled in a legal case without doing any harm. You will have to prove your alibi. In short, it is bad news for both the email recipient and the person they are trying to impersonate.
Spoofs are at best imitations of original email headers and people. Each company receives hundreds of emails where they are tried to be duped of many things. For example, if you receive an email from a bank claiming that you have won a certain amount or have to urgently safeguard your account from being hacked. We would advise you to check the email address and header. In most cases, the header might seem off or the email address will have a few extra characters.
One must double-check with the person or organization whether they have sent the email or not. In most cases, fraud is avoidable.
How to stop Email Spoofing?
As a person or a company, you must know how to separate these emails from the rest and what countermeasures to take. This is applicable especially if you have received a flurry of such emails and don’t know what to do. Here are a few things that you should be savvy with to safeguard yourself and learn how to stop email spoofing –
- SPF, DMARC, DKIM email security standards
- Conduct a cybersecurity training
- Email Header Data
- Email signing certificates
Here a few steps as to how one can stop email spoofing from your domain –
Secure your domain with SFP. DMARC and DKIM.
These might look like complicated terms but SPF is a sender policy framework, DMARC is domain-based message authentication, reporting and conformance and DKIM is domain keys identified mail.
Here is how and why they are important –
- SPF – this will outline all the IP addresses that have been approved to send an email for the specific domain.
- DKIM – This updates the DNS entry of the email domain to add a digital signature to the email. What this does is essentially establish trust by preventing spoofing mail from being sent as outgoing mail.
- DMARC – This is a policy protocol that uses both of the above-mentioned systems to provide info about your email’s domain.
Email Signing certificate
An email signing certificate, also known as a personal authentication certificate, is a tool that can help the recipients verify that the email is coming from the original certificate. It does two things,
- Verify the identity with the use of a unique signature
- Uses public-key encryption for the email server. This means that you get both data at rest and data in transit types of protection.
When you have a unique signature, you have an identity that is hard to replace and can instill a sense of trust into the recipients.
Provide Cyber Awareness Sessions
Your employees are your biggest strength and also your biggest asset. So, in a way, your company is as secure as they are willing to protect it. With the increase in cybercrimes, it is advisable that you update your security features from time to time. It is also advisable to keep your employees up to date to cybersecurity laws and anti-cyber-crime measures.
Some common warning signs are
- Poor language and grammar followed by non-existent punctuation
- Unexplained urgency – everything in a spoofing attempt is an urgent matter, your account will get closed, they need money right at that moment
- Mismatched name – email name and the name in the email are usually different
One must train and teach their employees to take a close look at the email header every time they send out an email. The email header will contain a significant amount of information about the email transmission. This might sound like a plain jane measure, but if you pay attention to this, you will be able to deflect at least 80-90% of the spoof attacks.
The email header will provide information like “what”, “who”, “where” and “how”. If you feel uncomfortable with the details, then it is a must that you check them yourself. It does not take a lot of investigation to reveal their true intent. As soon as you start probing their causes, you will notice that they have stopped replying entirely.
The Future of Email Spoofing
With the law being lax and banks and companies working in favor of the victims, the email spoofing industry is not going anywhere. They will simply focus their energy on people who are not technologically inclined. This means that email spoofing will thrive until there are technologically vulnerable people.
With the laws not being strict and punishment on the lenient side of the spectrum, there are no deterrents for stopping people from indulging in these scams. They rely on the fact that they might not get reprimanded for their actions, which is what makes them confident in going on with these scams for a long time.
The worst affected are the elderly as they, in most cases, do not have the technical know-how on how to not fall for these things. One must safeguard their money and their information at all costs.
With information being the most valuable commodity in today’s day and age, it is in your best interest to have a system in place that safeguards you from such nefarious activities. Make sure it also keeps you up to date on all the recent iterations of such cons.
At last, double-check everything if you have a doubt or a hunch, who knows it might just save you from being a victim in such scams.
Hopefully, these tips on how to stop email spoofing will safeguard you in the future.