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Is My Outlook 2007 a SpamBot?   Print 
Written by Aaron Brigatti  
Friday, 24 April 2009

Well I had a feeling something funny was going on with Outlook 2007, as occassionally when I did a send/receive (without any mails pending to be sent), I noticed that the process would actually be triggering mails waiting in a mystery queue. This was noted by the "sending x of y" appearing in the status bar.

I didn't really think much of it, but I started become more paronoid when in my spam box, I saw spirts of spam mail appearing to be sent from my own personal e-mail account.  This could only really mean one thing, either someone was setting up accounts to "impersonate" my address - something which has long been an issue / risk, or it was actually being sent my from account.  I think it's more of the former in this case, but I also feel Outlook 2007 was being targetted to become a SpamBot - a machine taken over to send spam or come under the control of spammers. 

I don't think mine is, as there is no virus or trojans found on my computer - but I found some interesting flaws with Outlook 2007.  It appears that the spammers are exploiting a bug within Outlook (rather than using my computer!), where they set up a “acknowledge of read” flag to the mail...the one that allows the sender of an e-mail to determine whether a recipient has opened or read the mail.  This normally activates a read/not read acknowledgement back to the recipient. 

The bug relates to the “x-confirm-reading-to header” field, which then somehow triggers the spam that “appears” to originate from me when I use Outlook to clean-out the Junk e-mail box. Effectively turns my account into a "spambot" type of machine, as the response is meant to trigger an e-mail to all of the previous senders of an e-mail...i.e. for every piece of spam sent to that account with that header filled in.  Not entirely sure if this is definitely the case for me, but it could appear to be a reason - why a couple of my friends reported receiving spam mail from my personal address sent to them - i.e. possibly leveraging my address book.  Grrr!!

Anyway, I’ve tried a few workarounds to see whether it works, including putting “Sender: not read” in a filter to put these e-mails into a separate (new) Junk see if I can start seeing the trails of emails before they go out - and also making all junk "read" before I delete them!  Fingers crossed this solves the problem initially at least - as the bug remains open and probably will be exploited more often now by spammers.

A few sites to reference on the same "feature":


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