Saturday, 26 February 2011

Report scam emails

An interesting news report from The BBC - http://goo.gl/jIepk - which tells us that we can now forward emails which are suspected of being a scam attempt to the National Fraud Authority. (See their website at http://www.actionfraud.org.uk)

You can forward e-mails to email@actionfraud.org.uk for analysis, or complete an online form to report the fraud attempt. They say that emails received by Action Fraud will be forwarded to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, which is run by the City of London Police, for collation and analysis. They won't get back in touch with you though, as that would be too big a task.

On the face of it this appears to be an excellent initiative by the government and police to reduce the amount of attempted scams and frauds by email. The number of these has been growing exponentially in recent years, with the increase in use of the internet. Email fraud is said to be the second biggest foreign currency earner in Nigeria (after oil)!

It remains the case that no matter how good a tool this reporting system may be, it is still bolting the stable door after the horse has gone. A far better solution could be implemented easily and quickly if governments would agree to bring in something called "Reverse DNS Lookup" for all email systems.

Reverse DNS Lookup takes the domain name that your email says it has come from, (such as @domain-name.com), and looks up the corresponding "IP Address" that belongs to that domain name. All computers on the internet have a unique IP Address and there is a simple system which matches domain names to their dedicated IP Address.

An email server running Reverse DNS Lookup would check the domain name, that an email claims to have come from, against the IP Address of the sending email server. If these match then we can be more confident that the email is genuine. By implementing this system we could decimate scam, spam and unsolicited emails overnight.

The current system that we have allows scammers to simply "spoof" the domain name or IP Address that they appear to have sent the email from. This enables them to easily hide the true origin of the email.

The problem with Reverse DNS Lookup is that the email server sending the email has to be correctly configured - and most are not. This is why action is required at the highest level, whereby notice must be given by the world's major governments of a date on which Reverse DNS Lookup will become compulsory.

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© Michael Donkin 2011