What Is Email Spoofing and How Does It Work?

Email spoofing occurs when a scammer spoofs the ‘From’ address of an email to make it appear as though it was sent by someone else, usually a known contact such as a high-level executive or a trusted outside vendor.

This form of spoofing is widely employed in phishing and spam campaigns to boost the open rate and efficacy of harmful communications. Many email assaults have embedded links that lead to phishing sites that steal recipients’ vital information or login credentials.

Others utilize malware-infected files or social engineering to deceive well-researched targets in spear-phishing and business email compromise (BEC) assaults.

Although lookalike domains and domain spoofing are common in these crimes, display name spoofing is the most common kind of identity deception in email-based impersonation schemes, accounting for two-thirds of all attacks.

Fraudsters impersonating an employee in emails sent to payroll and demanding a change in direct deposit information before the following pay period, or appearing as a senior executive requesting revenue information on workers are two common examples. They increasingly include fraudsters posing as reputable third-party providers.

We’ll go through how email spoofing works, the consequences, how to protect yourself from these assaults, and more in this blog post.

How Does Email Spoofing Work?

All a fraudster needs to fake an email is to set up or hack an SMTP server. They can then change the ‘From,’ ‘Reply-To,’ and ‘Return-Path’ email addresses to make their phishing emails appear to be genuine communications from the person or company they’re impersonating.

The lack of an authentication method for email addresses in SMTP—the Simple Message Transfer Protocol used by email servers to transmit, receive, or route outbound emails—allows for this identity fraud.

Phishing attacks made through cloud email accounts are considerably less likely to be caught and banned than those launched from a lookalike site due to their ubiquity and the massive number of emails disseminated by these and other email platforms.

Impact of Email Spoofing

Nearly $1 billion in corporate losses were caused by fraudulent emails that appeared to come from a reputable, trustworthy source. Moreover, customers may be hesitant to do business with you if they get emails that look to originate from your firm but contain dangerous links or simply lack credibility. If customers fall for a fraud mimicking your firm or one of its leaders, the harm to your brand’s image and professional ties throughout the industry may be devastating.

Detecting Spoofed Emails

Employees who are able to recognize a faked email are less likely to open harmful links or put firm information at risk. Employees can benefit from phishing awareness training by recognizing important traits to watch out for, such as:

While the display name may appear to be real at first glance, a discrepancy between it and the email ‘From’ address might indicate fraud.

There’s a significant probability it’s a faked email if the ‘To’ address doesn’t match the sender address or the domain it claims to be from.

Unsolicited communications, demands for information, or instructions to open an attachment should be looked at with skepticism, even if the email appears to come from a recognized and trustworthy source.

Protection Against Spoofing Attacks

The best defense against counterfeit emails targeted at your company is to keep them from ever reaching your employees. The vast majority of incoming emails containing dangerous links or attachments will be detected and blocked by traditional email security safeguards, including those included in cloud-based email systems.

Because fraudsters are always looking for new ways to get around your defenses, you’ll want your employees to be a knowledgeable last line of defense in case they open even a single spoofed email that hasn’t been blocked and has yet to be identified and removed by automated phishing response technologies. HumanFirewall can act as that email security solution for your team and company.

The Email Authentication Way

Standard email authentication systems can safeguard businesses and workers from having their email spoofing in attacks against customers and the wider public.

Organizations can use the SPF (Sender Policy Framework) to designate IP addresses that can send emails on their behalf. During an SPF check, receiving servers examine the DNS records associated with your sending domain to determine if the IP address used to send the email is listed in the SPF record.

DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) generates a public and private key pair using asymmetric encryption, with the public key published in a DNS record. It operates by attaching a digital signature to each outgoing email message that is tied to a certain domain name. When receiving servers receive an email with this signature in the header, they look for the TXT record of the sender’s domain public key in DNS. The receiving server will be able to detect whether the email was sent from that domain by using the public key.

DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) is an email authentication standard that serves as a policy layer for SPF and DKIM, assisting email receiving systems in recognizing when an email is not coming from a company’s approved domains and instructing email receiving systems on how to safely dispose of unauthorized email.

By automating the entire process of deploying DMARC across large email ecosystems spanning thousands of domains, automated DMARC deployment tools like EmailAuth enable enterprises to speed up the often cumbersome and costly process of implementing DMARC across large emailing ecosystems spanning thousands of domains. Our technology also assists in the security of defensive domains and the early detection of assaults via lookalike domains and cloud platforms, allowing for quick repair with takedown vendors.

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