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Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?

Richard Bridge 02 Sep 11 - 11:51 AM
Jack Campin 02 Sep 11 - 12:07 PM
Richard Bridge 02 Sep 11 - 12:12 PM
treewind 02 Sep 11 - 12:17 PM
IvanB 02 Sep 11 - 12:23 PM
Greg F. 02 Sep 11 - 12:25 PM
Richard Bridge 02 Sep 11 - 12:31 PM
Jack Campin 02 Sep 11 - 01:14 PM
Paul Burke 02 Sep 11 - 01:21 PM
Richard Bridge 02 Sep 11 - 02:12 PM
Richard Bridge 02 Sep 11 - 02:35 PM
Acme 02 Sep 11 - 06:39 PM
Janet Elizabeth 04 Sep 11 - 08:04 PM
Richard Bridge 05 Sep 11 - 01:44 AM
pavane 05 Sep 11 - 01:47 PM
Richard Bridge 05 Sep 11 - 01:57 PM
Cretzon 05 Sep 11 - 03:40 PM
Richard Bridge 05 Sep 11 - 07:44 PM
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Subject: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 11:51 AM

I have just been telephoned by a sales person from a company called Shergroup. She started by explaining that I had recently opened an email from them, and was then about to try to sell me something.

I was surprised as I had not authorised the sending of a read receipt (I use Outlook as my mail client), and said so.

She explained that they had a system that could tell if I opened an email - and seemed rather surprised when I said that she had just guaranteed that I would delete unread any other emails from them (indeed I might put them on the blocked list at my ISP).

My first thought is how to stop this happening.

My second thought is that it is or may be an offence, in the UK, under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

What does the team think?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 12:07 PM

It's only possible if you have set up your email system to do it automatically and the email you have received has a request for acknowledgement in the header. This can be done but most mail systems aren't configured like that by default.

I suspect she was lying.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 12:12 PM

No, mine is configured to ask before sending any receipts. So how did she know I had opened their email? They are not nice people, bailiffs and debt enforcers...


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: treewind
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 12:17 PM

If you receive an HTML email it's easy for the email to notify the sender. The standard technique is for the email to fetch a 1 pixel transparent GIF file (completely invisible) from their web server. The server will know when the GIF is fetched, and furthermore if they have your email on a database with a unique id, the gif will have been fetched with a URL like this:

http://www.nastyspammer.com/1pixel.gif?id=1287623450129

Where "1287623450129" is your unique id which the server will log and thus they will know who has opened the email.

Getting your mailer not to display embedded images or even not to display any HTML message is an effective but drastic protection against that particular method.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: IvanB
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 12:23 PM

I'm with Jack, I figure she was lying. Since, as you say, they are not nice people, I would imagine their calling tactic would be to imply they knew you'd opened the email. What have they to lose? A denial from you? On to the next call.

I have my email set up to recover nothing but message subject lines unless the sender is in my address book. Then I can decide for myself if I want to retrieve the unknowns from the server.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Greg F.
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 12:25 PM

Another good argument for using the "plain text" option for e-mail.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 12:31 PM

This appears to be the system used - or a variant of it.

http://www.msgtag.com/home/

Now, how do I stop the fuckers from doing it?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 01:14 PM

I use Eudora for email. Its settings panel includes an option (under "Fonts & Display") to choose "Automatically download HTML graphics". I keep it turned off. I wouldn't have been hit by the MSGTAG stunt.

Eudora is old but still works on both Windows and the Mac.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 01:21 PM

Use a mail client such as Thunderbird rather than web mail readers or the pathetic Outlook.

Thunderbird does not display remote content without asking you. If you receive a message so formatted from a trusted source, you can temporarily switch settings to display it. You can also set it up to ask you before sending message receipts.

Pre- screen your mail with Mailwasher so that the spammers don't even get as far as your mail client.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 02:12 PM

I did try Thunderbird briefly, but I can't read pst files from Outlook in it so accessing old emails would be a PIA, and I remember that something else about it was a nuisance - but can't remember what.

It's not spam that bothers me.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 02:35 PM

Incidentally from this little lot http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/outlook-help/how-outlook-helps-to-protect-your-computer-from-viruses-HA001101870.aspx?CTT=1&or and a browse through the security settings I don't see how msgtag does it by using html to get your computer to download a picture: it looks to me as if that is blocked by the default security settings.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Acme
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 06:39 PM

I agree with Paul, use Thunderbird and don't let it automatically open the image files. That'll keep the email from reporting home when it fetches the image.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Janet Elizabeth
Date: 04 Sep 11 - 08:04 PM

You say the lady was from Shergroup, Richard, but she may not have been. Back on the technical side, it's always worth checking the registration of suspect web sites using whois.net for global or US sites and nominet.org.uk to check UK web sites.. Checking shergroup shows:
the owners of shergroup.co.uk are Shergroup Ltd ... CM77 8YG
the owners of shergroup.com are Shergroup Ltd ... CM77 8YG
whereas the owners of shergroup.net are apparently twocows.com;the true owners may be hiding for some reason, or maybe Twocows bought the domain so they can sell it to Shergroup if they want it.
Hope this helps.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 05 Sep 11 - 01:44 AM

From Firetrust Internet security: -

"any email that you open with MW is opened in text only mode, and cannot transmit any data, run any program or anything like that, so MSGTAG cannot work in MWpro, however if you download the email to your email client, it'll work like normal.

Benign, (another of our programs) strips out any code from the email however, so you can download the email to your email program and MSGTAG wont work in the email.

Details here:

http://www.firetrust.com/products/benign/support/frequently-asked-questions#how-do-i-block-msgtag-read-receipts"


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: pavane
Date: 05 Sep 11 - 01:47 PM

My email goes to a forwarding address, which just sends it on to me. When I look at it, it will not be using the email address which the sender will be checking - will that help?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 05 Sep 11 - 01:57 PM

I think not, if the sender is running msgtag as it will be your computer that runs the html and fetches the blank gif - but I am not really an expert on this.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Cretzon
Date: 05 Sep 11 - 03:40 PM

Guest Josepp is right Richard. Somebody somewhere has given them that information.
Mike


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Subject: RE: Tech: Senders tell if I have opened an email?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 05 Sep 11 - 07:44 PM

Oh yes - but that does not explain how they knew I had opened an email. MSGTAG does that.


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