Understanding Email Headers

Discussion in 'Noob Central' started by gspot, Oct 11, 2011.

  1. gspot

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    Apr 8, 2011
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    Email headers are that part of your email that contain the date, the subject, the information about who sent the email and to whom it was sent. Often you will be asked to provide “full headers” to a mailing organization, particularly if you are reporting spam, or a problem with email. That is so that you can help them to identify exactly who sent you the spam, and how they did it. Someone who is skilled at reading headers can usually see through even the most crafty attempt to falsify that information. Here is how to find those headers - it’s easy once you know how!

    The mail header is the information that travels with every email, containing details about the sender, route and receiver. Think of the email header as a flight ticket - it can tell you who booked it (who sent the email), the departure information (when the email was sent), the route (from where it was sent and how it arrived to you) and arrival details (identity of receiver and when it was received). If you were to book a flight ticket using a false identity, you would quickly be stopped (hopefully!) by the authorities, and you’d never make it to your destination. Now imagine that same falsifying process being used for email - the result is often the same! In fact, that is one of the primary ways that spam is identified: falsified email headers!

    Email applications usually display only the portions of the email header that are useful to their users. An entire email header actually contains code and data that help email applications to identify, sort and deliver email. Email programs also use information contained in the headers to filter and block certain senders, such as known spammers; this is one reason that, for businesses, using an ESP (Email Service Provider) with a good reputation and close relationships with ISPs (Internet Service Providers) helps to ensure that your email headers are up to snuff, and can be identified as belonging to legitimate email.

    Here is an example of a full email header. Where the receiver, Jane, might only see:

    From: [email protected]
    To: [email protected]
    Subect: Test
    Date: Wed, 6 Apr 2011 12:56

    ..the actual (full) headers will look something like this (feel free to skip to the bottom of this full header to get to the instructions!):

    MIME-Version: 1.0
    Sender: [email protected]
    Received: by with HTTP; Tue, 12 Apr 2011 13:47:56 -0700 (PDT)
    Date: Tue, 12 Apr 2011 15:47:56 -0500
    Delivered-To: [email protected]
    X-webmail-Sender-Auth: FqZkpw1fGE6dtbSQwTfXYdKPim8
    Message-ID: <
    [email protected]>
    Subject: Test
    From: Susan
    To: Jane
    Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary=000e0cd2e042896a6e04a0bece9b
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
    Delivered-To: [email protected]
    Received: by with SMTP id x4cs47732wfg;
    Wed, 6 Apr 2011 12:56:15 -0700 (PDT)
    Received: by with SMTP id az2mr36649vdc.143.1302119774760;
    Wed, 06 Apr 2011 12:56:14 -0700 (PDT)
    Received: from smtp-verifiedoptin-03.aweber.com (smtp-verifiedoptin-03.aweber.com
    []) by mx.example.com with ESMTP id b10si1078199vdw.100.2011.; Wed, 06 Apr 2011 12:56:14 -0700 (PDT)
    Received-SPF: pass (
    example.com: domain of [email protected] 03.aweber.com designates as permitted sender) client-ip=;
    Authentication-Results: mx.example.com; spf=pass (example.com: domain of [email protected]r.com designates as permitted sender) [email protected]n-03.aweber.com; dkim=pass [email protected]
    DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha1; d=aweber.com; s=dkim_s1024; c=relaxed/simple; q=dns/txt; [email protected]
    aweber.com; t=1302119772; h=Sender:Subject:Date:From:List-Unsubscribe:To:Content-type;
    Received: (webmail 26125 invoked by uid 0); 6 Apr 2011 19:56:12 -0000
    Message-ID: <[email protected]>
    Content-type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1
    Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
    To: “Jane”
    From: “Susan”
    Sender: [email protected]
    X-Loop: [email protected]
    X-Mailer: AWeber 4.0
    X-Subscription: Subscribed on 03/30/2009, via email, by, from [email protected]
    X-Verification: Verified by
    X_Id: 304836:04-06-2011-15-22-46:[email protected]/304836
    Date: Wed, 6 Apr 2011 15:56:12 -0400
    List-Unsubscribe: , >

    • Log in to your Gmail account.
    • Open the message you want to view headers for.
    • Click the Down arrow next to the Reply button, located at the top right of the message pane.
    • Select Show Original.

    • Log in to your Hotmail account.
    • Select Inbox from the left-side menu.
    • Right-click the message you want to view headers for and select View Message Source.

    • Log in to your AOL account.
    • Open the message you want to view headers for.
    • In the Action menu, select View Message Source.

    • Log in to your Yahoo mail account.
    • Select the message you want to view headers for.
    • Click the Actions dropdown and select View Full Header.

    • Log in to your Excite account.
    • Open the message you want to view headers for.
    • Click the View Full Headers icon, located to the right of the From line.

    • Open Outlook.
    • Open a message.
    • On the Message tab, located in the Options group, click the Dialog Box Launcher icon.
    • In the Message Options dialog box, the headers will appear in the Internet Headers box.

    For older versions of Outlook:
    • Open Outlook.
    • Open the message you want to view headers for.
    • Click the View menu and select Options.

    • Open Outlook Express.
    • From your Inbox, find the message you want to view headers for.
    • Right-click the message and select Properties.
    • Open the Details tab in the Dialogue Box.

    • Open Mozilla.
    • Click on the message you want to view headers for.
    • Click the View menu and select Message Source.

    • Open Apple Mail.
    • Click on the message you want to view headers for.
    • Go to the View menu.
    • Select Message, then Long Headers.

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