Why SPF doesn’t solve anything in regards of e-mail spoofing

If you ever thought that having an SPF record would effectively prevent anyone from spoofing a delivery of e-mail from your domain, you were terribly wrong. It wouldn’t. This whole “sender policy framework” is built on top of flawed ancient SMTP protocol that never was designed with slightest security in mind.

Majority of all e-mail clients will display value stored in “From” of e-mail header as a sender of your e-mail. That is exactly the “sender” that SPF doesn’t check. SPF is checking the “envelope sender” which is something entirely else, and sadly, almost never displayed anywhere in e-mail clients.

Basically, delivering an e-mail on behalf of anyone that would pass SPF is as easy as spoofing the From in the mail header and sending this from a mail server that has its own IP in its own SPF record.

This 3rd domain would be a part of “envelope sender” which is however not visible anywhere in the mail client (unless you open original source) and SPF check would check against this domain. The spoofed domain that would be visible in mail client wouldn’t be checked anywhere though and most of users would be easily tricked by this.

There are ways to make this harder to do, such as implementing DMARC policies or DKIM, but again, most of regular users would easily be tricked. Nobody cares if e-mail was digitally signed or not, unless you explicitly tell them to do that.

As of now there is only one working protection when it comes to e-mails and that is: DO NOT TRUST THEM. Whatever e-mail you received, from whoever, may be a fake. Even GPG signature could be a fake if someone steals the private key of victim somehow. So yes, if someone is asking you for money in e-mail, or whatever else, better call them, or meet them in person. It can save you lot of troubles.




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