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This page was last updated: 4/3/2012 11:54:00 AM

I've been receiving a flood of "delivery failure" messages implying that I sent a message that I did not send.

Q6: I've been receiving a flood of "delivery failure" or "bounce" messages implying that I sent a message that I did not send. Is this spam? Is my computer infected? Has someone "hijacked" my email address or "hacked into" my email account? Why am I seeing these messages, and what should I do?

A: The simple answer to the first three questions: No.
No one has hijacked your email address, or hacked into your email account, and these messages are not considered spam. These messages are what is known as backscatter.

Keep in mind that 99% of virus or spam email messages on the Internet today forge the sending address!  For example, when a spammer sends out a large number of spam messages forging the "From:" address using your email address, backscatter is the resulting flood of messages that comes back to you for any messages that were undeliverable. The original message was forged using your email address as the sending address, and when a forged message is undeliverable (i.e. it "bounces"), the bounce message goes back to you! These messages are called backscatter.

These backscatter messages do not imply that there is something wrong with your email account or your computer. The original message, as well as all of the bounce messages that you receive, both originated outside of the CWSL network. There is not much we can do to prevent you from seeing these backscatter messages which originate from someone else's network. They are not technically spam, so our anti-spam appliance does not block them. They do not contain a virus, so our anti-virus software does not block them. They are an unfortunate side-effect of a spammer using your email address to forge spam messages.

What should you do?  Just delete the messages. They will go away after a day or so. There is no need to report these messages to Information Technology HelpDesk, as there is really nothing we can do about them. These backscatter messages typically come from many different sources. Again, this is a common occurrence on the Internet and there is no need to report these messages to us.

For further reading on the issue of email backscatter, here is a more detailed explanation:


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