What is Email Spoofing?
Email spoofing is a technique used by bad actors to send fraudulent emails that mimic a legitimate sender. Often, the sender’s email address and name are altered to give the impression that the email is from a legitimate source, maybe a coworker, or a reputable external organization.
The goal of email spoofing is often to trick the recipient into divulging sensitive information, such as passwords or financial information, or to distribute malicious links and spread malware. It is critical to be cautious when receiving emails from unknown or suspicious sources, and to verify the authenticity of the sender before responding or clicking on any links or attachments.
What Techniques Do Scammers Use When Email Spoofing?
As the digital ecosystem grows and evolves, email spoofing techniques have developed with it. Some of the more common techniques scammers use to spoof emails include:
Display Name Spoofing
In email spoofing, the sender’s name or display name can be easily manipulated to make it appear as if the email is coming from a legitimate sender by modifying the “From” field in the email header.
For example, a spammer might send an email with the display name “PayPal Support” and an email address that is not actually associated with PayPal. This can trick the recipient into thinking that the email is legitimate, and increases the chance that they will open it.
Domain Name Spoofing
Scammers often use domain names in email spoofing to make their messages appear as if the email is coming from a legitimate organization or brand.
For example, a scammer might use a domain name like “amaz0n.com” instead of “amazon.com” to send a fake email that appears to be from Amazon. The recipient may not notice the difference in the domain name and could be fooled into clicking on a malicious link or providing personal information.
Domain name spoofing also includes look-alike domains, where everything is spelt correctly and the domain appears to be from a trusted source, but is actually controlled by the attacker. For example, a scammer might register a domain like “paypal-support.com” to send emails that appear to be from PayPal’s support team.
To protect against domain name spoofing, users should be cautious of unsolicited emails and always double-check the sender’s email address and domain name. It’s best to avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources.
Additionally, organizations can implement email authentication protocols like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to prevent spoofing across their company and help ensure that emails are legitimate.
Email Server Manipulation
Email server manipulation involves using a compromised or fake email server to send the email, which can make it more difficult to trace the true source of the message. Email server manipulation can take multiple forms:
Using a proxy email server: A proxy email server is a server that sits between the sender and the recipient, acting as an intermediary. Cybercriminals can use a proxy email server to send spoofed emails, which can make it difficult to trace the true source of the email.
Using a compromised email server: Cybercriminals can also gain access to legitimate email servers and use them to send spoofed emails. By using a compromised email server, the email appears to be coming from a legitimate source, making it more difficult to identify it as a spoofed email.
Using a botnet: A botnet is a collection of connected devices that is controlled by malware. Cybercriminals can use a botnet to send out large-scale email spoofing attacks, making it difficult to trace the origin of an email.
To protect against email spoofing attacks that use compromised email servers, organizations can implement email security detection solutions, to identify and block spoofed email messages before they’re interacted with. Additionally, regular monitoring and auditing of email server logs can help detect and prevent unauthorized access to email servers.
How Common Is Email Spoofing?
Email spoofing is a common tactic used by cybercriminals and scammers. According to recent studies, it’s estimated that billions of phishing and spoofed emails are sent every day, with a large percentage of these being successful in tricking victims into revealing sensitive information or installing malware on their devices.
Email spoofing is also becoming increasingly sophisticated, making it difficult for individuals to distinguish between a genuine email and a fake one. This is why it’s important for organizations to be vigilant and to take the necessary steps to protect their company from email spoofing attacks.
Organizations can take initial measures to fend off email spoofing attacks, such as implementing email filtering and authentication technologies, providing security awareness training to employees, and using multi-factor authentication.
How To Identify Email Spoofing Attacks
Even with the best email filtering software, it’s important for individuals connected to your network (employees, vendors, partners) to be aware of email spoofing red flags, and know when to report a suspicious-looking email.
Here are some signs that can help you identify email spoofing attacks:
- Suspicious sender email address: The email address of the sender may appear to be from a legitimate source, but upon closer examination, you may notice small differences, inconsistencies, or typos.
- Urgent or emotion-driven language: The spoofed email may contain urgent or threatening language, or attempt to pull on your emotions,l asking you to take immediate action or provide sensitive information.
- Requests for personal information: The email may ask you to provide personal information such as passwords, credit card numbers, or social security numbers, all of which should never be communicated through an email.
- Typos and grammatical errors: Spoofed emails often contain typos and grammatical errors that are not present in genuine emails.
- Unusual attachments or links: The email may contain attachments that you were not expecting or that you do not recognize, or links that appear phishy when you hover over them.
- Requests to update or verify account information: The email may ask you to update or verify your account information, often through a link that takes you to a fake login page.
To protect yourself from email spoofing attacks, it’s important to be cautious and to verify the authenticity of emails before clicking on any links or providing any personal information. If you’re unsure, it’s best to verify the email by reaching out to the sender directly through a different channel, such as a phone call or a separate email. You can always report a suspected email spoofing attack to your internal IT department, who would much rather have over-cautious employees than end up dealing with the effects of a successful attack.
How Can I Prevent Email Spoofing Attacks From Successfully Targeting My Business?
Preventing successful email spoofing attacks from impacting your business network is a combined effort from employees and deployed detection technologies alike.
Here are some steps that you can take to prevent email spoofing attacks from successfully targeting your business:
- Implement email authentication protocols: Technologies such as SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) can help to authenticate the source of an email and prevent malicious emails from making it to the recipients inbox.
- Use encryption: Encrypting emails can prevent attackers from reading sensitive information if they are able to intercept an email.
- Provide security awareness training: Regular security awareness training for employees can help enable your workforce to identify email spoofing attacks, and know what to do when they’re suspicious of an email.
- Use multi-factor authentication: Requiring multiple forms of authentication for accessing accounts, the company’s network, or sensitive information can make it more difficult for attackers to gain access if they’ve obtained account information.
- Keep software and systems up-to-date: Regular software and system updates can help to address vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.
- Use a reputable email hosting service: A reputable email hosting service will provide additional security measures to protect against email spoofing and other types of cyberattacks.
By implementing these measures, you can help to reduce the risk of email spoofing attacks and protect your business from the financial, and reputational consequences of these attacks.
Start Protect Your Network From Email Spoofing Attacks Today
A trusted email security and brand protection vendor that can easily fit into your cybersecurity protection processes and can help ease the headache of preventing your organization from falling victim to email spoofing.
Start with a good email security solution such as Proofpoint Email Protection that allows for multilayered detection techniques to identify and block malicious emails targeting employees. This email solution should offer features such as malware detection, use of malicious IPs, and impersonated domains.
In addition to email security, organizations need to also implement proactive phishing and scam protection to take down phishing sites and scam content that is duping their employees. Just blocking emails from reaching an unsuspecting user is not enough as there are many channels an attacker can communicate with their phishing victim such as social media or even text messages. In addition, email security is not a catch-all and can oftentimes fail to detect sophisticated attacker email techniques. Therefore, bolstering your email security with a zero-touch phishing detection and takedown helps you remove fraudulent websites before a user falls victim.