What is Email Spoofing and How to Protect Yourself

Cybercriminals are creative when it comes to fooling you. They use different tactics into forcing you to specific actions. Hackers will try different techniques in making you click links, download malicious software, or share sensitive information. One example is email spoofing.

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What is Email Spoofing?

Email spoofing is the forging of emails to fool recipients. The aim is to make it appear that the email is from a source other than the actual origin. Spoofed emails often pretend that they are from reputable sources. You are more likely to open and read emails from trusted sources.

Hackers spoof emails by changing the data in the email header. They change the source email address and IP address. The email header is a piece of information that comes with each email. It contains information such as the FROM, TO, and DATE headers. It also includes the source’s IP address and subject.

Here’s an example:

What is Email Spoofing - Headers

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How are Emails Spoofed?

Surprisingly, it is easy to spoof emails. You need a Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) Server and mailing software. An SMTP server is a server that can send an email. Most web hosting plans offer an SMTP server. You can even install a local SMTP server on your computer.

Hackers then use ratware programs. A ratware program is a unique software that can change email header information. Hackers use this to send massive amounts of email to different recipients. Ratware programs make it easy to send thousands of malicious emails.

Cybercriminals get your email through different approaches. Some hack into databases such as the Equifax breach. Others crawl the Internet, such as social media accounts, to gather email addresses. People often share their emails willingly. Hackers take advantage of this behavior.

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Purpose of Email Spoofing

There are several purposes in spoofing emails. Cybercriminals want your information and your money. They may also want to wreck havoc to an organization.


Information is a modern commodity. Having the right information is an advantage to anyone. Hackers use your email, password, and other information to access your online accounts. Spoofed emails pretend to come from your bank, credit card company, or other even online shops. It will fool you into sharing your personal information. It will scare you, prey on your ignorance, or appeal to your emotion. The goal is to collect sensitive information. Your information can be used to steal your identity or gain access to your financial accounts.


Scamming is one of the oldest illegal tactics. Spoofed emails will pretend to come from organizations and other trusted sources. It will aim to fool you into entrusting your cash to the criminals. Lottery scams, charity scams, and investment scams are quite common. Criminals prey on your emotion and build the excitement. They will ask you to send money to claim your winnings, invest in some business, or donate to a non-existent charity.

Malicious Software

One of the more modern purposes of spoofed emails is to fool you into downloading malicious software. Emails will pretend to come from Microsoft, Apple, or other software company. It will ask you to download an “update” or “patch”. Some may even alarm you that your computer is at risk unless you install their software. The malicious software can do damaging things to your PC. It can collect information, control your computer, or even hold your machine for ransom.

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How to Protect Yourself?

Protecting yourself from email spoofing is quite easy. The combination of your efforts and the proper software will ensure safety in your inbox. Email servers and services already have protection in place. For example, the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) protects you from email spoofing. It checks the domain of the email sender and authenticates it for validity.

Here are a few steps you can do to protect yourself:

Use Spam Filter

Most email services come with from spam filters. Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook come with spam filters by default. They are typically good at catching spam emails. Some emails still go through the protection. Make sure that you diligently tag these emails as spam.


Additionally, do not just unblock emails from your spam folder. Scrutinize it including the source. Only unblock an email if you are sure of its origins and intention. Also, regularly empty your spam folder.

Browsing Habits

Protection starts with making sure that you have a healthy browsing habit. Do not click questionable links. Make sure that you are visiting legitimate websites. Do not download software from untrusted sources.


Moreover, it helps if you keep a clean inbox. Do not sign-up to unnecessary newsletters and mailing lists. Make sure that you do not click links in the email if you are not sure of its intent. Do not change information through the email unless you requested it. It is essential especially if you receive emails from your bank or credit card company. Visit their website or give them a call to confirm any account actions.

Update Everything

If you are using a webmail, you have no problems updating the system. However, the system install updates automatically, it is essential to make sure your local mail clients are the latest version. Additionally, operating systems have protections in place. It is often available through patches and updates. Regularly download and install system updates.

Install Real-time Protection

One of the best ways to protect you while browsing and use email is to install an excellent anti-malware protection. Software such as MalwareFox employs real-time protection. This layer of security will add a bit of peace of mind.

MalwareFox protects you while browsing. It prevents any malicious software from running on your computer. The security program can even protect you from new threats. It also helps block unnecessary ads and pop-ups. You can run a security scan in case you suspect that your machine is infected.

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Final Thoughts

Hackers are getting better and better at fooling users. Email spoofing evolves as technology changes. Email services already have protection in place. However, a little extra effort and good anti-malware protection prevent damage from spoofed emails.

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