- The e-mail is spam and the sender doesn’t want to be subjected to anti-spam laws
- The e-mail constitutes a violation of some other law (for example, it is threatening or harassing)
- The e-mail contains a virus or Trojan and the sender believes you are more likely to open it if it appears to be from someone you know
- The e-mail requests information that you might be willing to give to the person the sender is pretending to be (for example, a sender might pose as your company’s system administrator and ask for your network password), as part of a “social engineering” attack
- The sender is attempting to cause trouble for someone by pretending to be that person (for example, to make it look as though a political rival or personal enemy said something he/she didn’t in an e-mail message)
Note: “Phishing” – the practice of attempting to obtain users’ credit card or online banking information, often incorporates e-mail spoofing. For example, a “phisher” may send e-mail that looks as if it comes from the bank’s or credit card’s administrative department, asking the user to log onto a Web page (which purports to be the bank’s or credit card company’s site but really is set up by the “phisher”) and enter passwords, account numbers, and other personal information.
Whatever the motivation, the objective of spoofed mail is to hide the real identity of the sender. This can be done because the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) does not require authentication (unlike some other, more secure protocols). A sender can use a fictitious return address or a valid address that belongs to someone else.
Receiving mail from spoofed addresses ranges from annoying to dangerous (if you’re taken in by a “phisher”). Having your own address spoofed can be even worse. If a spammer uses your address as the return address, you may suddenly find yourself inundated with angry complaints from recipients or even have your address added to “spammer” lists that results in your mail being banned from many servers.
How Spoofing Works
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