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Email Spoofing and How to protect your online identity

Wednesday, 30 April 2008, 10:23 | Internet | 11 Comments | Read 1634 Times
by Vaibhav Pandey

Recently one of my friend got a mail from his bank, asking him to update his account information. He clicked on the link to fill out the information, and just a few days later, his bank account was emptied. Does this story sound familiar to you? This is called Spoofing / Phishing. In this post, i will explain you the process as to how this works and how you can ensure that you don’t end up revealing your online identity to phishers.

Spoofing Websites enact as Original Websites

[Image Source: Flickr]

Email spoofing definition as obtained from the Wikipedia goes like this

E-mail spoofing is a term used to describe fraudulent email activity in which the sender address and other parts of the email header are altered to appear as though the email originated from a different source. E-mail spoofing is a technique commonly used for spam e-mail and phishing to hide the origin of an e-mail message. By changing certain properties of the e-mail, such as the From, Return-Path and Reply-To fields (which can be found in the message header), ill-intentioned users can make the e-mail appear to be from someone other than the actual sender. It is often associated with website spoofing which mimics an actual, well-known website but are run by another party either with fraudulent intentions or as a means of criticism of the organization’s activities. The result is that, although the e-mail appears to come from the email indicated in the “From” field (found in the email headers) it actually comes from another e-mail address, probably the same one indicated in the “Reply To” field; if the initial e-mail is replied to, the delivery will be sent to the “Reply To” e-mail, that is, to the spammer’s email.

Earlier, i had written a post from an educational perspective teaching the readers how to spoof a Yahoo Mail user. Today lets discuss another form of Spoofing and how it works. The example scenario is the same which my friend faced ( wish he had read my blogpost on phishing earlier :( )

The figure below, has a snapshot (click on the image to enlarge) of the mail sent to me by the phisher pretending to be from a leading Indian Bank, AXIS Bank. The email also contains a link which should be clicked to carry out the needful.

How Email Spoofing can phish your bank details.

This URL might look to be safe from the look of it, as it has all the key features we have always been taught to check: Check for the domain ( in this case, the domain of the bank; axisbank.co.in), check for https.

However, what we usually tend to forget that what we are seeing on the screen is not the actual URL but the text to be shown to the user. The actual URL will be revealed only once you click this link or hover your mouse on it.

Once the user clicks on the link, he is taken to the site which is an exact replica of his bank’s site; thereby not giving a single slice of doubt to the user.

You must see that the Fake Website looks like an exact replica of the Original Axis Bank Website

Whenever you click on a URL from a email or any other page and land onto a site pretending to be your bank site, the first thing to do should be to check the URL of the landing page again. Look for the domain again; Does it look like your bank’s domain? (www.axisbank.com) Does it have an important security ingredient https on the logon page ? If not, beware, chances are that you are getting spoofed.

Below are the steps from my earlier post on Phishing, which describes the steps to follow to stay away from Phishing Scams.

  • Always go through the URL of the website. A closer look at the URL can certainly give you clues about the fraudulent websites.
  • Never reply to emails asking for your bank account number, internet user details etc. Remember NO BANK asks you for such information. If they do, CHANGE YOUR BANK.
  • The old saying “When in doubt, talk”, holds true here as well. If you are in a doubt about the email/website, just take the phone and call up the call center of the service to get an explanation on your doubt.
  • Forward spam that is phishing for information to spam@uce.gov and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the phishing email. Most organizations have information on their websites about where to report problems.
  • Don’t open email attachments sent to you by strangers. Email attachments can have programs which can affect your computers once opened.
  • Always follow steps to a healthy PC. You can read my previous post 4 steps to a Healthy PC to learn more on this.

You can also, check this link for more information.

Related Posts: Spoofing a Yahoo User.

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Cheers

Vaibhav



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