Men with a mask holing a phone over a 3d graphic of an email alert- email spoofing and hacking

Being aware of email spoofing is crucial for office workers and IT managers to avoid potential dangers. By disguising an incoming message as coming from someone else’s email address — usually, yours – hackers can easily infiltrate your systems or steal sensitive information. Understanding the prevalence and implications of this type of cyberattack is key to protecting your data and preventing unauthorized access to your network.

In this blog post, I’ll explain what it means to “spoof” an email address, how easy it is for malicious actors to pull off successfully, and the steps you can take today to reduce its impact on your organization.

What is Email Spoofing and How Does it Work

Email spoofing refers to the practice of disguising the origin of an email message. It involves forging the header information of the email message to make it appear as if it were sent from a different source. This type of cybercrime is often used to trick recipients into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware.

Cybercriminals may use various spoofing techniques here are examples of five such techniques:

In some cases, cybercriminals may also use social engineering tactics to make the email appear legitimate and increase the chances of a successful attack. Email spoofing is a serious concern for individuals and organizations alike, as it can result in data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage. To protect themselves from email spoofing attacks, users are advised to be vigilant when opening unsolicited emails and to use email authentication technologies such as Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM).

The Risk Level of Email Spoofing

The risk level of email spoofing is high, as attackers can use this technique to trick recipients into providing sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and financial data. Email security measures like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC can be implemented to prevent email spoofing, but they are not foolproof. It is crucial to train employees on how to spot and report suspicious emails to minimize the risk of a spoofing attack.

Let’s take a look at this example:

One of our customers received this email:

Hi Internet User,

I am a hacker, and I have successfully gained access to your operating system. I also have full access to your account. I’ve been watching you for a few months now. The fact is that your computer has been infected with malware through an adult site that you visited. If you are not familiar with this, I will explain.

Trojan Virus gives me full access and control over a computer or other device. This means that I can see everything on your screen, turn on the camera and microphone, but you do not know about it.

I also have access to all our contacts and all your correspondence.

Why did your antivirus not detect malware?

Answer: The malware I used is driver-based, I update its signatures every 4 hours. Hence our antivirus is unable to detect its presence.

I made a video showing how you satisfy yourself in the left half of the screen, and the right half shows the video you were watching at the time.

with one mouse click, I can send this video to all your emails and contacts on your social networks. I can also make public all your e-mail correspondence and chat history on the messengers that you use.

If you don’t want this to happen, transfer $1690 in Bitcoin equivalent to my Bitcoin address (if you do not know how to do this, just search “buy bitcoin” on Google). My Bitcoin address (BTC Wallet) is: 13fRV6chMyEKVjmRXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

After confirming your payment, I will delete the video immediately, and that’s it. You will never hear from me again. I will give you 50 hours (more than 2 days) to pay. I will get a notice, when you open this email, and the timer will start. Filing a complaint somewhere does not make sense because this email cannot be tracked like my Bitcoin address. I never make any mistakes.

If 1 find that you have shared this message with someone else, the video will be immediately distributed.

In this case, the cybercriminal not only spoofed the email address but additionally tried to manipulate the victim into paying ransom in order to stop the cybercriminal from publishing personal/confidential content.

But was there any real threat with this specific message?

Let’s quickly analyze it,

Based on this we can safely assume this was not a technical attack that exposed some vulnerability but simply a psychological attack where Cybercriminal tries to off-balance the user and place himself as a guide that will guide the victim to a happy ending. Which of course is paying the money.

Sadly, if the victim decides to pay, it will not end there, instead, they will be faced with a much stronger push and more demands to pay. The push will only stop once the victim refuses to pay and stops communicating with the cybercriminals.

As you can see failure to address email spoofing can lead to disastrous consequences, including financial losses and reputational damage. As such, it is imperative that businesses prioritize email security to protect themselves and their customers from falling victim to email spoofing.

What to Do if You Receive an Email From a Suspicious Address?

It’s common to receive emails from unknown or suspicious sources. These emails may contain malware or phishing scams that could compromise the security of your computer or personal information. If you receive an email from a suspicious address, the best thing to do is to avoid opening any links or downloading any attachments no matter how tempting this might be. It’s also important not to reply to the email or provide any personal information. Instead, mark the email as spam or move it to your junk folder. Always be cautious and vigilant when it comes to suspicious emails, as they could potentially cause harm or damage to your digital life.

How to Protect Your Email from Spoofers

With the rise of cybercrime, it is more important than ever to protect your email from spoofers, who disguise themselves as legitimate entities to gain access to sensitive information. The good news is that there are several steps you can take to fortify your email security. First and foremost, use a strong and unique password for your email account- no pet names or birthdays! Enable multi-factor authentication and use reputable antivirus software to scan for malicious content. Be wary of unsolicited emails and attachments, especially those from unknown senders. Finally, keep your software and applications updated to the latest versions to prevent vulnerabilities.

By implementing these precautions, you can safeguard your email and maintain the privacy of your personal and professional communications. On the system administration level, it is always a good idea to use SPF, DMARC and DKIM

Let’s first explain what each of the security protocols does:

Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an email authentication method designed to prevent spammers from sending emails on behalf of your domain. In other words, it verifies that an email claimed to come from a specific domain comes from an IP address authorized by that domain’s administrators.

Here’s how it works:

SPF allows email senders to specify which email servers are authorized to send emails for their domain. This can help prevent unauthorized use of a domain in “From” addresses, which is often used in phishing and email spam.

DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is an email authentication method that allows the recipient to check that the email was indeed sent by the domain it claims to have been sent from and that it wasn’t modified during transport.

The way DKIM works is by using cryptographic technology. Here’s a simplified explanation:

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) is an email protocol that uses SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) to determine the authenticity of an email message. DMARC enables the owner of a domain to publish policies on how an email from its domain should be handled if it fails SPF or DKIM tests.

Here’s a high-level overview of how DMARC works:

Tips for Identifying Spoofed Emails

As the prevalence of email continues to soar, so does the threat of malicious emails. One of the most common types of these malicious emails is a spoofed email, which appears to come from a legitimate source but actually originates from a different one. Fortunately, there are several tips that you can use to identify spoofed emails and protect yourself from potential harm.

What You Can Do if Your Email Address is Compromised

Unfortunately, even the most careful individuals can fall victim to email compromises. If you suspect that your email address has been compromised, there are several steps you can take to regain control and protect yourself.

By taking these steps, you can regain control of your email and keep your personal information safe.

Learning how to protect oneself from email spoofing is essential to maintain the security of one’s data. While no system is foolproof, there are basic steps that everyone can take to minimize the risk level of an attack. By creating strong passwords and limiting access to your accounts, you can reduce your odds of having your identity stolen or compromising information being revealed about you. Keeping track of where your email appears online, such as in social media posts, can also help prevent fraudulent emails from impersonating you or gaining unwanted access to sensitive information. Finally, learning how to recognize a spoofed email and understanding what action you should take when you receive one is equally important. Armed with this knowledge, we can all take proactive steps towards increasing our online safety and avoiding potentially damaging emails sent to our names.

However, if you need a helping hand, simply send us a message at [email protected] or call us on 0800 389 6798. Our IT support services for businesses include everything from cyber security, cloud computing, and IT compliance to IT infrastructure support, and more. We love working with our IT support clients and using our IT knowledge and experience to make their lives easier. We take care of the tech stuff so you can focus on what you do best. You can contact us by clicking here.

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