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What is Spoofing?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Spoofing is, generally, the act of one person pretending to be someone else, usually in an effort to scam someone or otherwise commit either fraudulent or fairly malicious acts. The word “spoof” is often used in entertainment to mean a type of media that uses imitation to parody another program or work of entertainment. In the sense that it is used in security and fraud, however, spoofing is used because a person is using imitation to appear to be another person or service and gain sensitive information or otherwise maintain an advantage over the unwitting victim.

Different types of spoofing include those involving caller ID, email, and uniform resource locators (URLs). Caller ID spoofing involves the use of a computer program to create an incorrect identity and phone number that appears on a caller ID. The development of caller ID allowed people to readily see who was calling without having to answer the phone. Caller ID spoofing allows a person to make a phone call appear as though it is coming from someone or somewhere else. Programs for caller ID spoofing allow a user to enter any name and phone number he or she wants and have that come up on the display of the receiving person’s caller ID.

Email spoofing is the act of sending an email that shows an incorrect and inaccurate “From:” line. This means that someone receiving an email may believe it has come from a person or service he or she knows, when really the email may originate from somewhere else. These types of email spoofs are often used as part of a “phishing” scheme that also typically involves some time of URL spoofing as well.

URL spoofing is when a fraudulent, often malicious, website is set up that appears to be a different, legitimate website to obtain sensitive information. The false websites can sometimes be used to install viruses or Trojans into a user’s computer, but more often are used to receive information from a user. These types of spoofing can be used to launch a more elaborate attack.

For example, an attacker could send a spoof email requesting immediate action from a person to ensure the security of his or her bank account. The person then follows a link in the email that leads to a spoof URL that appears to be the legitimate website for the bank, but is not. Once at the spoofed URL, the user may then type in his username and password to access to his account, at which time the website has recorded the private information, and will then often report an error and redirect the user back to the legitimate bank website. The user has now provided the attacker with his username and password, which the attacker can then use for malicious purposes, such as identity theft and bank fraud.

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Discussion Comments

By anon926252 — On Jan 17, 2014

We all have this instinct of going online to search for a particular phone number. That number may have appeared in our inboxes and we would like to know who the person is behind the number.

By anon342820 — On Jul 24, 2013

My line is connected to a prime internet broad band and also online calling. It displays 899887789 and so on with random numbers of two digits to 10 or more digits, every three to four seconds and stops with 80 incoming IDs. The line is full of hum and 50 hz noise. Internet connections are interrupted.

If the line splitter is placed near to my PC, it functions generally well when it is placed near a wall socket. The phone is located near the wall socket for the telephone and the PC at a distance of 6 meters. What remedial measures can I take? Is this due to mischief of the telephone staff who were not given any bribes when they installed the lines?

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