TOURBUS: Tuesday, December 10, 1996
DRIVER: Bob Rankin
Who Can Read Your E-mail?

Think about e-mail just like you would sending a postcard. There's no envelope, so your message could be read by any postal clerk along the way. When you send e-mail, there is a possibility that it could be read by "cyber postal clerks" on the sending or receiving end, or somewhere in the middle.

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Granted, most postal clerks and sysops are far too busy to look at every piece of mail that passes by, and they probably wouldn't want to read your love letters anyway, but it's something you should be aware of - especially if you send any "sensitive" data over e-mail.

Encryption: The E-Mail Envelope

If you've got to send e-mail that contains personal or sensitive information, encryption is one way to put your message in a tamper proof envelope.

PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) is a program that will encrypt (scramble) your e-mail messages so that nobody except the intended recipients can read them. PGP also lets you to create a digital signature to prove that it was really you who wrote an e-mail and that it has not been altered since you wrote it.

PGP is available for various operating systems and e-mail packages. For more information, visit with your web browser.

TIP: If you don't have Web access, send the command send usenet/news.answers/internet-services/access-via-email in the BODY of an e-mail message to to get my free "Accessing The Internet By E-Mail" guide.

Keeping Your E-mail Address Private

Ever wonder how the spammers get your e-mail address in the first place? Some of them harvest names from Internet mailing lists, and if the list owner has not taken precautions, anybody can retrieve the addresses of the recipients.

Send the command SET listname CONCEAL (where "listname" is the name of the mailing list) to the same address you used to subscribe, and LISTSERV will not reveal your address. If the list is not LISTSERV based, ask the list owner to conceal all the addresses. Most list management software allows the owner to do this.

NOTE: There's no need to do this for your TOURBUS subscription. All TOURBUS addresses are automatically hidden from public view, and nobody can get them except Patrick and yours truly. (And the LISTSERV admins at AOL, of course, but they're nice folks.)

Sending Anonymous E-mail

There may be some special cases where you want to send a message, but you'd prefer not to reveal your identity or return address. Spoofing your "From:" address is not rocket science with most e-mail software, but it's easily traceable in most cases, and of course nobody can reply to your message, either!

There are several "anonymizers" that you can use for true two-way anonymous conversations. You send your e-mail through an anonymizer, which strips out your identity, assigns you an anonymous id and forwards the message to the intended recipient. The recipient can communicate with you only by sending a reply through the anonymizer.

To get more information on anonymous e-mail, send a message to "" or "" and you'll get an automatic reply.

Verifying The Sender of an E-Mail

If you find yourself on the receiving end of a message that seems of dubious origins, you can do a little detective work of your own to detect a forged address.

Let's say you get a message from Mickey@Mouse.Com asking you to show up for lunch at the studio on Thursday at noon. Most e-mail programs have a feature called "Show Headers" that will display a bunch of gibberish at the top of your message that is usually hidden from view. The headers from your message will contain lines that look something like this:

Received: from by with SMTP id QAA20102 ...
Received: from by, with SMTP id NAA22487 ...
Date: 10 Dec 1996 13:23:54 -0800
From: "Mickey Mouse" 
When a message travels across the Net, each intermediate system adds a "Received:" line to the top of the message before forwarding it along. So to find the originating system, just scan down to find the last "Received:" line.

In this case, you can see that the message originated at (not the Magic Kingdom) and passed through before arriving at your system. If you have a life or death need to know the true sender of the message, contact and forward the header information. Those "SMTP id" thingies can help to identify which user actually sent the message.

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Announcing... a new TOURBUS Feature!
The Stupid Computer Joke of the Week (SCJOTW)

* BREAKFAST.COM Halted - Cereal Port Not Responding
* COFFEE.EXE Missing - Insert Cup and Press Any Key

Okay, that was TWO Stupid Computer Jokes. Sorry. See you Thursday! -- Bob

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