My mother often sends me screenshots of emails and text messages without explanation. I know it’s her way of asking if whatever she’s sent me is spam or real. 99% of the time it’s a spam message.
At work the Cyber Security department often sends out trick emails to test the userbase on their knowledge of rejecting spam. If one clicks a link in the fake spam email, we’re taken to a website with the link “youregonnalovetraining.com” or something like that, and our supervisor is notified. This hasn’t tripped me up in a couple of years.
This morning I received notification that my payment for our Amazon Prime membership had been rejected. Since my husband and I had just had a conversation about our membership, I had to take a few extra beats to determine if the message was real or not. It wasn’t, however, my use of Apple devices makes that rather hard to determine for the average user.
On my iPhone, at first sight it looks like this message did come from Amazon. “Undisclosed-recipients” should be a clue that something is amiss, because logically something about my credit card would come directly to me, not to a bunch of people. However, because Apple likes to hide things, you have to tap the arrow to the right of the “From” field, then expand it and try to open a contact card to see the actual address.
In MacOS the behavior is much like that in iOS. However, Apple is kind enough to show the “From” email address on the first click instead of just burying it in a contact card.
We have a webmail interface on our hosting server for our personal domain, and it gives the opportunity to get to the information by clicking “Headers”, but will standard users know what the means?
And finally, going in full blown geek mode, I often use the application Alpine on my personal Linux server to triage my email throughout the day. Hearkening back to the old school terminal (green screen) days, Alpine gives me a pure text view of my email.
Unsurprisingly, Alpine gives me the information right up front, just like email did 20, 30, hell, 40 years ago. There’s no GUI (Graphical User Interface) magic trying to hide pertinent information to make it look pretty.
I don’t have my accounts set up in the ways of Microsoft Outlook to see how this would have been handled in that arena. However, looking through similar emails on my work provided Windows 10 laptop with Microsoft Outlook, the “From” would have appeared much like it does in Alpine. That’s a good thing, and something Microsoft gets right.
If you ever receive an email and you’re not sure of its validity, tap or click around until you can see the actual address of the sender. That will generally give you a clue as to the authenticity. “Headers” can give you all sorts of information. Unfortunately, this is where Apple products fail the most, with their insistence of hiding as many technical details as possible.
Sometimes the technical details is where the dirt is at.