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UBC Mathematics: MathNet FAQ [Email Spoofing]

UBC Mathematics: MathNet FAQ [Email Spoofing]

Question: Why do I get an Email accusing me of sending viruses/spam?
Author: Joseph Tam
Date: April 4, 2007

It is confusing when you get an Email, either as an automated mailout from anti-virus software or from someone you know, that accuses you of sending spam or a virus. However, most of these cases are baseless. It is more likely that you have been "spoofed". In less jargonmatic terms, someone has forged your Email address as the sender.

Email easily lend themselves to forgery -- it's very hard to check whether the sender is really who they claim to be (or even if they exists). Spammers and viruses frequently take advantage of this.

A dead giveaway that you have been spoofed is that the Email purported from you rarely contains your full name because there's no way to infer that from just your Email address. So for example, you'll get

	From: Jsmith <>
	From: Peter Jones <>
	From: jsmith
but almost never your full name
	From: John Q. Smith <>

To find the real source of the Email, the full header header of the offending Email must be inspected, and even then, must be carefully interpreted since some of the audit trail may also be faked. Bad Email usually traces back to a workstation taken over by a mail virus (infected computer) or spammer (i.e. "spambot"), or back to a real Email account stolen and used by someone else.

There's not much we can do about this -- the offenders are not under our administrative control and operate anonymously, sometimes outside the country. You can reply to complaints if you are the victim of spoofing by explaining the situation or sending them to this page. If it is an automated notice from an anti-virus scanner, you can Email the administrator(s) of that site to squelch their auto-reply messages, as their automated notices are rarely helpful. The IT staff can help if you need it.