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Chapter 6. E-mail Security (Communicatin... > Security Issues with E-mail Systems

Security Issues with E-mail Systems

E-mail is a reasonably secure medium to use for communications. It certainly isn’t infallible, but the average user with nonsensitive information can be confident that things are getting to the recipient and not being read by anyone else. Let’s look at some of the weaknesses in the e-mail system and see what you can do to avoid them or prevent their affecting you.

Spoofing

Spoofing means someone gets you to believe that a piece of e-mail was sent from someone other than the actual sender. Often this is done as a joke, such as sending you mail that appears to come from president@ whitehouse.gov or getting you to respond by making you think the sender is known or nonthreatening. The address set for the reply isn’t necessarily the one that shows in the “From” line. The technique for doing this is relatively simple and will not be covered here, but the good news is that it’s easy to detect the correct sender. The e-mail headers contain the correct information about where the message originated (see Figure 6-2) and the entire path it traveled. Even if someone is savvy enough to alter the headers at their location, you can easily see (if you know what to look for) that the message was faked. The lesson here is that you cannot always trust that your e-mail is coming from the person you see in the “From” line. If a message is asking for personal information, passwords, or anything sensitive, tell them you would rather not discuss it by e-mail, and ask them for a phone number or postal address. Real companies with legitimate business will usually do this happily; scammers and crooks will not.


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