Cybercriminals often make use of email-based attack campaigns to target all kinds of organizations. They use mail servers, choking spam, and scam emails loaded with malicious software developed to interrupt business procedures.
Despite being generally aware of some methods to spotting spoofed emails, many professionals still fail to detect these dedicated attacks in the form of phishing emails. So, it is vital to learn how to clearly tell if an email has been spoofed in order to shield and safeguard yourself.
Four Signs That Indicate A Cybercriminal Has Access To Your Email
1. Your password has been altered - This is one of the most commonly experienced scenarios of a spoofed email; you are unable to sign in to your account. To resolve this login issue, commence the email password recovery procedure.
2. Unusual inbox activity - Not all attackers will entirely lock you out. Many times, they merely want to control your account and use it to send spam. So in this scenario, how can you tell if your email has been spoofed? Check your inbox folder to see if there is any unusual activity or messages you don’t remember sending, especially bulk emails to your connections. It’s probable that an attacker will have deleted any of the messages sent to cover their tracks or if something was sent without your knowledge.
3. You are receiving unexpected emails - An attacker may be attempting to know which banks, shopping sites, and other services you interact with or use on a daily basis through your emails. When this happens, how will you know that a cybercriminal spoofed your email? Keep a watch on unexpected emails, like password reset emails that you don’t recall requesting or someone sending emails under your name. Beware of suspicious emails that claim to be from your bank and ask for confidential details such as PIN codes or passwords.
4. IP addresses not matching up - Many email services offer the IP addresses from where your account has been accessed. If you come across IP addresses that are not matching up, it’s likely that someone is tampering with your email account.
How To Identify A Spoofed Email
There are two significant ways to tell if an email has been spoofed.
- Reviewing the Email Header - The Email Header can indicate whether or not a cybercriminal spoofed your email. The email header comprises components like From, To, Date, Subject, sender’s email, and the sender's address. So if you suspect spoofing, check the email's full header to review the validity of the email address.
How you view the entire email header varies depending on your email services. For example, with Gmail services, open the email and then click three vertical dots that appear next to the reply arrow; then select the show original option.
- Checking the Email's Content - To know if your email has been hacked or spoofed, examine the email content. If you are not sure, consider contacting the sender to confirm the authenticity. One can find certain hints in the email content that indicate if your email has been compromised. For example, you can review the subject line, hover over links, identify the email’s tone, spelling, or grammar errors. Be careful when you get a request for personal details and check the contact details in official emails.
What Do You Do If Your Email Is Spoofed or Hacked?
1. Change your password - If you suspect unofficial access to your inbox, change your password right away. Create a new and unique password. If you have entirely lost access to the email account, attempt the recovery process, or contact customer services.
2. Reach out to your email contacts immediately - If colleagues, friends, or family members in your contacts list let you know that they received an email with strange content from you, this could be an indication that someone is using your inbox to send phishing or spam emails. The best option is to reach out to them quickly and inform them about the complete scenario.
3. Change your security question - Look into security preferences from your email provider or that are explicit to your device. This could include changing your security questions or remotely wiping email accounts if they are lost or being stolen.
4. Enable multi-factor authentication - If you aren't already opted into multi-factor authentication, now is the time to switch it on. Most email providers enable the choice for a second login step, which requires you to offer added “factors” before access to the account is approved. Multi-factor authentication is one of the most helpful methods for preventing security attacks.
5. Scan your computer for malware and viruses - It’s possible for attackers to gain access through viruses and malware on your device. Use antivirus scan and anti-spam software tools to check for spyware and other categories of malware. Make sure your browsers and applications are updated. Get rid of any third-party extensions that you no longer require or use. Also, start backing up your documents, files, and programs regularly.
6. Alter any other accounts with the same password - As your email is utilized to secure other accounts, it’s imperative to find out if any of them were affected. If affected, alter any other account with the same password and even update the email address.
By now, you must have a fairly clear idea about how to tell if an email has been spoofed. However, dealing with a hacked email account or receiving fake emails from friends is a big annoyance. Taking adequate safety measures and protecting your account can assist in preventing or mitigating an attack.
Being aware of what type of suspicious activities to look out for can help you to tell if an email address is spam. To stay safeguarded against phishing attempts and to know more about how to stop email spoofing, subscribe to a spam filter service or use a spoof email checker tool.
Originally published at Hackernoon