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Can a sent email be modified?

Posted on 2011-09-26
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Last Modified: 2012-05-12
A former business partner is claiming that he sent our firm an email message over a year ago.  While we most likely received email messages from him on that date, we never received the information he claims was in the original email.  He has forwarded the email message to us.  However, we understand that it is fairly easy to modify a forwarded message.  If we had access to his laptop and email, is there a way to authenticate the email message in his sent box?  How easy is it to modify the body of an email message in the sent box?
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Question by:beabea
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by:Deepu Chowdary
ID: 36601536
If you have access to his laptop and email you can see the emails in sent box surely.
You can Modify the body of an email message easily and can forward it to other person, but as you know that it is not possible to save the changes made to email in sent box.
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by:anjos
ID: 36601611
I'd say it's rather easy to modify the tme on the laptop and resend the mail BUT the mail server would have the current date AND you'd we receiving the mail unless he has the mailserver diconnected from the net.

All and all i'd say it's pretty safe to assume if the mail is in the sent box and he's using an email server not on the laptop your can assume it hasn't been modified.
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by:Alan Hardisty
ID: 36601614
Email is not a guaranteed form of communication and despite the person sending an email - they cannot guarantee that the recipient received it, unless they ask for a delivery and read receipt, and they get them both.

In terms of modifying a sent email - you can't easily amend anything that is sent - but you could possibly forge a sent email by adjusting the system date / time and sending an email to the relevant recipient, then changing the date / time back again, but it depends on the type / configuration of the email account.

The only way you could prove delivery your end is to revert to a backup of the mailstore from the night in question and then check the message transaction logs, or anti-spam logs.

Either way - I can claim I have sent out a million important emails containing time sensitive info in them, but if they don't arrive, then it's tough.  They will have control over the sending of an email and how it leaves their server, but beyond that, they have absolutely no control and it could have been deleted as spam by anti-spam software, delivered to the Junk Mail folder and been overlooked, then emptied, or accidentally deleted.  As to what happened to it - you will probably never know.
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Assisted Solution

by:Hendrik Wiese
Hendrik Wiese earned 20 total points
ID: 36601628
Ask him to send you the email as an Item attachement, as soon as you receive the email do the following:

Assuming that you are using office 2010
1. Double Click to open the email
2. Click on FIle then Options
3. Inspect the Internet Header for the following:
3.1 Time it was sent.
3.2 Which server received the email
3.3 This would show you the exact delivery path etc.

Hope this helps!!!
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Author Comment

by:beabea
ID: 36601871
anjos:  He's not using an email server.  So, if the sent email only resides on his laptop, would it be possible to modify the content?
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Alan Hardisty earned 30 total points
ID: 36601954
If it is just a laptop and no Exchange Server is involved, then it would be incredibly easy to forge an email as being sent, but not to modify a sent email.
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Author Comment

by:beabea
ID: 36602003
Okay.  So, the email could have been forged in the method that you mentioned above.  Since an exchange serveris not involved, are there other ways that this could have been done?  Can these actions be traced on the laptop?

Thanks for all your help!!!
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by:Alan Hardisty
ID: 36602017
Probably not traceable on the laptop unless it was done recently and the logs show the time / date jumping forward / backwards in the current logs on the laptop.

Other than that - can't think of a way to prove it has happened.
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Author Closing Comment

by:beabea
ID: 36602081
Thanks for all of your responses!
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