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What are email message headers?  

Most mail readers (email client like: MS Outlook, Eudora, etc.) are not configured to display the header (unless you do it yourself, manually) because it contains information for computer to computer routing. The information that you usually get to see from a normal email message header are; Subject, Date, From, Reply, To

If you are using MS Outlook Express and you want to take a look at the FULL message headers:


>highlight the message >right click  >properties  >detail and for other email program like; Eudora Select Tools, Options, and Fonts & Display to Show all headers.

Most email programs have some form of settings that allow you to display the "header".

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Every time
an e-mail moves through a different mail server, a new
Received header line is added to the beginning of the message headers list. It means that as you read the Received headers from top to bottom, you are moving closer to the computer or person that sent you the email.

If the header shows more than one Received, there is the possibility that the sender have added one or more false Received header to fool and redirect the recipient to another location or to prevent them from finding the true sender.


<This part refers to the name of the computer which should be ignored because it can be easily falsified.

( [])

<This is the reverse-DNS lookup of the sender IP address and cannot be faked

by (8.9.3/8.9.3)

<This is the host that added the Received line and cannot be faked.

Example of a typical email message header

Received: from ( [])
by (8.9.3/8.9.3) with ESMTP id VAA18813 for <>; Thu, 25 Jul 2002 21:26:31 +0800 (FRT)

from ipop2 ( [])
by (8.11.1/8.11.1) with ESMTP id g6PDRXP08394
for <>; Thu, 25 Jul 2002 21:27:33 +0800 (FRT)

from oemcomputer ( [])
by (iPlanet Messaging Server 5.1 HotFix 0.6 (built Apr 26 2002)) with SMTP id <>
for; Thu, 25 Jul 2002 21:27:28 +0800

Date: Thu, 25 Jul 2002 21:29:05 +0800
From: Timonthy <>
Subject: Re: Software need to purchase
To: sirABC - Software Corporation









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<> Message-id: <000a01c233df$40378860$39616acb@oemcomputer>
MIME-version: 1.0

X-MIMEOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V5.50.4133.2400
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.50.4133.2400
Content-type: multipart/alternative;

X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-priority: Normal
X-UIDL: ec647c00efac25694d4e79d9046a56bc
Status: U

Basically, email consist of:

(1) The envelope
(2) headers
(3) Message body

(1) Envelope
rfc 821 specifies the contents and interpretation of the envelope--used by the MTAs for delivery specified by these two SMTP commands (MAIL From:and RCPT To:)

MAIL From:<>
RCPT To:<>

(2) headers are used by the user agent and each header field contains a name, followed by a colon, followed by the field value. User Agent? A program (ie: Eudora) or editor that let users create, edit, compose, store and send mails to a mail server, polls a mail server for mails, download and display mails, as well as using POP3 to talk to mail servers.

Received: by (4.1/SMI-4.1)
id AA01301; Tue, 21 May 98 11:37:22 MST

Message-Id: <>
From: (Mable Merliney)
X-Phone: +0 202 671 2761
X-Mailer: Mail Userís Shell (9.1.0 12/02/98)
Subject: testing

Headers beginning with an X- are user-defined fields and RFC 822 specifies the format and interpretation of the header fields.

(3) Message body is the content of the message from the sender to the recipient and transferred using the DATA command--the headers are sent first, followed by a blank line, followed by the body. Each line transferred using the DATA command must be less than 1000 bytes.

The user agent takes what the sender specify as a body, adds some headers and passes the result to the MTA The MTA adds a few headers, adds the envelope and sends the result to another MTA--Message Transfer Agent (MTA) the exchange of mail using TCP/IP is performed by MTA that defines how email messages are transmitted between two users.