Follow the email
By KOIN Technical Guru Robert McMillen
If the movie “All The President’s Men” were made today that’s exactly what Deep Throat would have said instead of “Follow the money”. Email is a great indicator of what someone has been up to.
Recently in the news we have heard and read about the TV reporter in Philadelphia who is facing jail time for not only reading his co-anchor’s email but also using it to destroy her professional life. Years ago I was hired to restore email that was thought to be unrecoverable by the crooked Enron executives. They used it to manipulate the electricity grid that ended up causing huge spikes in electricity rates and rolling blackouts in California.
Although privacy laws have begun to catch up with the fast pace of technology, they have done little to stop the hoards of junk email we call SPAM that show up in our email boxes each day. The laws are also behind the times when dealing with mail “spoofing”. Spoofing is the art of sending an email that pretends to be from someone else. Spammers use it to try to mask the location from which they sent the email to make it appear legitimate. If you see an email from a customer or a colleague, you’re more likely to open it than if you saw it came from someone you didn’t know. The result may be as harmless yet offensive as an ad for an unsavory product they want you to buy, or as harmful as a virus that causes thousands of emails to spew out from your computer that goes on to infect and email other people from your address book.
Fast forward to the Democratic convention going on this week and it could add up to fraud. Both political parties are accusing the other of sending spoofed emails that pretend to be from the opposite party. Of course these emails could be sent by fanatics of the candidates themselves without any knowledge of either official party. But then again, they might just know about it after all.
Email tracing is on the rise by law enforcement officials, and also by private detectives that use it to track down corporate espionage and spousal infidelity. But now you too can be an email detective. Using a few simple steps you can find out if the person you allegedly received an email from really was from the person who sent it.
If you get your email from a web browser based service like AOL, Hotmail, or Gmail, you only need to click the option to view the headers or source information. You will then see not only the display name but also the hidden address where it really came from in brackets like this
. If you use Microsoft Outlook or other full version email product you can also see the IP Address it came from by clicking the Tools and then Options menu inside the email. You can also see the path the email may have traveled on its way to you.
Next take the domain name of the source and open a command prompt and ping it like this: If the hidden email address came from firstname.lastname@example.org then type “ping example.com” and you will see an IP address. Pinging comes from the navy where a submarine would send out a sonar sound wave and the response back would be a ping. You will send out a data request to a domain name or IP address and it would respond back in a similar way if the address is alive. The command prompt can be found by clicking on your start menu and choosing All Programs from your Windows computer.
Now that you have the real source you can take the IP information and go to http://arin.net. Arin is the organization that distributes the IP addresses for the whole world. Type in the IP in the “Who Is” box and it will tell you the internet provider and the country of origin. You can then send your email source headers to the email@example.com address that comes up to complain about the junk mail. They will then investigate whether or not the sender is a spammer and hopefully shut them down. You just made a difference!
If you want to further drill down to the area that sent you the email then go to http://whatismyipaddress.com/staticpages/index.php/lookup-ip and input the IP address. The results will show you the offending customer’s email city of origin. Investigators then take this information to court to get a judge in that jurisdiction to have the internet provider release the customer’s address where the email was sent from. Then an arrest is made and we find out who really is behind those nefarious emails. Is it the Democrats or the Republicans trying to illegally influence an election, or just a teenage loner trying to get attention? Either way just remember to “follow the email”.
I am very excited to be joining the Koin News Team by helping viewers with their technology questions. Each week I will be answering your questions in this column about computer problems you’re experiencing, or if you have any questions related to technology. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me all about it. Technology can be fun and exciting, but also scary and frustrating. I promise to hold your hand by answering your questions truthfully and without wearing the plaid salesman suit waiting with a big bill to pay at the end.