Spoofing an email address is far easier than most people realise, and among the main reasons why phishing campaigns have become a prevalent problem in the cyberthreat landscape of today.

Organisations and enterprises have been coming under attack from dedicated email campaigns for many years. From mass mailers that shut down systems, to more pointed attacks designed for criminal activity, emails have been used as a way to deliver damaging consequences for companies. As mailbox providers developed more enhanced spam filters to ensure unwanted emails never reach recipients, hackers and other cybercriminals have been forced to design ever more ingenious methods of aiming malicious messages at their targets.

From emails that redirect recipients to impersonated sign-in sites to steal credentials, to those containing clickable links containing ransomware downloads, there are several different cybercrime strategies deployed via mail. Spear phishing is a finely honed tactic that threat operators are constantly refining. This sophisticated type of attack is cleverly researched using publicly available company information combined with stolen Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to make emails that are so authentic, they can fool their victims.

How hackers spoof email accounts

What could look more authentic than an email that appears to originate from a sender you know? Without too much trouble, it is perfectly possible for a hacker to impersonate or “spoof” an email address to trick their intended target.

The necessary tools to spoof an email address are not hard to come by. All a hacker requires is a Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) server and the appropriate mailing software to use with it.

Any reliable web host can provide an SMTP server and hackers can also install an SMTP on a system they already own.

The mailing software is just as simple to use. The PHP Mailer for example is a readily available is a popular open source PHP library that sends emails using PHP code from a web server. The mailing software is incredibly easy to get to grips with, simple to install, and comes complete with a user-friendly web interface.

With ease, hackers can open PHP mailer and compose their content (including any malicious links) before adding their victim’s information in the “to” address and putting the email details they want to impersonate in the “from” address. This could be a company employee, a trusted supplier or even an international organisation. With these fields complete, all the hacker needs to do is hit “send”.

When the email arrives in the victim’s inbox, it will look like it came from the email address typed by the hacker.

The only problem for the hacker lies in if the recipient replies to the malicious message, as this will be sent to the owner of the real email address and the spoofing will be revealed. However, for the most part, this is not a circumstance that cybercriminals are concerned with. They usually just want the email to reach their target and fool them into downloading malicious software via a clickable link or handing over their credentials after being sent to a phishing site.

Spoofed emails and the consequences for your company

Spoofed emails are typically used in two different ways. The first use involves an organisation being spoofed by hackers to send targets malicious emails. This form of attack can be damaging to a company’s reputation, particularly when the victims are clients and customers. The second use can be far more destructive for businesses and involves cybercriminals contacting company personnel with spoofed emails.

The results of this can be catastrophic, ranging from malware entering a corporate network to personnel fooled into parting with company funds or confidential data.

A recent report identified that over 92% of spam emails include malware attachments, and cybersecurity experts state that spam is increasingly becoming a successful attack method for hackers seeking access to a computer network. A malware attack can be both disruptive and costly for companies hit.

Following such an attack, the business will need to allocate valuable resources to recover and secure any customer and employee data that has been compromised. They will also need to pay for forensic services, along with legal fees to satisfy both regulatory authorities and impacted customers.

If fault lies with the company for the incident, it may also face expensive fines and penalties. The enterprise will also need to act following the attack to restore security and prevent future attacks; this may involve additional costs for increased cybersecurity.

Spoofed phishing emails can be a highly effective strategy. The probability of a user clicking on a link and downloading malware will increase by 12% if they believe it originates from a trusted and legitimate source. These links can also trick targets into parting with company login credentials or payment details.

Finally, spoofed emails can impact how effectively a business operates. A constant stream of irrelevant emails that require filtering can tie up your employees with pointless timewasting. To block these messages can cost companies too, with updates to spam filters adding up to thousands over a year. This means that both time and money that should be spent business operations is being wasted.

Powerful anti-spoofing protection from Galaxkey

At Galaxkey, we understand that while there are many different options available for firms to work with, email still accounts for the majority of company communications across the globe and must always be secure. That is why we have developed a secure platform with multiple features offering our users total email protection.

Our digital sign feature offers email recipients complete confidence that communications received originate from a verified sender and that any content including attachments has not been tampered with. This offers complete protection from spoofing tactics and means employees can work without the disruption of constantly questioning the integrity of data and its source for better business efficiency.

Our state-of-the-art solution for secure emails also delivers a range of other useful features, including end-to-end encryption, and email classification that ensure confidential data is labelled and managed effectively, and only accessible by authorised personnel.

Defend your enterprise against the threat of spoof emails today and contact us for a free trial of our secure platform.