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IP address spoofing is a process that involves the creation of IP packets for the purpose of hiding the true identity of an email or file sender. While IP address spoofing does have some legitimate purposes, the process is more commonly employed as a means of harvesting personal information that makes it possible to use accounts and financial information without the permission of the owner. In general, spoofing is looked upon as unethical.
Address spoofing makes use of basic Internet protocol to accomplish the task. Essentially, IP provides the foundation for the transmission of all types of data across the Internet, allowing the data to terminate on various types of computer networking equipment, such as servers. The data is identified with a source address as well as the destination address, in a manner that is similar to the use of a delivery address and return address on a letter mailed through a postal system. Obscuring that source address and substituting a fake or spoofed address makes it difficult to trace the data back to the point of origin.
One of the more common applications of IP address spoofing is to send out emails that appear to be from companies or organizations that the receiver knows and trusts. Generally, the spoofed transmission will be in the form of an email. The email will often inform the recipient that his or her account with the organization has been breached, and it is necessary to log into the account using a link provided in the email. Upon clicking on the link, the recipient is taken to what appears to be an official looking page that may even include the logo of the organization, and asked to enter his or her login credentials.
As a result of the IP address spoofing approach, it is possible to collect login information that can then be used by the originator of the spoof. This may include the ability to break into and use email accounts. Often, the login information is associated with bank accounts or credit card accounts, which the originator will proceed to use for his or her own purposes. The spoofed victim normally does not realize what has happened until unauthorized credit card charges appear, or the bank account is drained.
Many companies make use of enhanced access systems that require the customer to enter more data than simply a user name and password. In addition, most businesses and banks warn their clients to never click on a link contained in an email that purports to be from a business. When companies send out legitimate emails regarding customer matters, they normally instruct the client to open up a browser window and go to the business web site as the client would normally do. This approach effectively circumvents the possibility of falling for an IP address spoofing scheme and revealing confidential information to an unknown source.