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Chapter 16. Outlook Security and Privacy > Secrets of the Office Masters: Track...

Secrets of the Office Masters: Tracking Down the Source of Spam

These days, spam comes from every part of the globe. As often as not, the details you see when you open the message are forged. It's trivially easy to fake a return address—you can enter any name and address you want, and every link in the chain of e-mail servers that leads to your computer will dutifully maintain the fiction that your e-mail message comes from that name and address. (The same is true, for that matter, of most modern viruses, which forge the return address to divert attention from the computer that's the actual source of the infection.)

The only way to track down the true source of an e-mail message is to look at the message headers. These are the technical details at the top of the message, normally hidden from view, that document the path a message takes over the Internet. Although some parts of a message header can be forged, the crucial details that show which servers it passed through before reaching your mailbox are usually accurate. And if you learn how to decode a message header you can often trace a message back to its source.


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