Best email forensics techniques and tools


In today’s digital age, email communication has become integral to personal and professional interactions. However, with the widespread use of emails, there has also been a rise in fraudulent activities, cybercrimes, and the misuse of this medium. Email forensics is crucial in investigating such incidents, uncovering evidence, and attributing actions to specific individuals or entities. This article delves into the methodologies and tools employed in email forensics, shedding light on the intricacies of this investigative process.

Email forensics encompasses the meticulous examination of email content and metadata to ascertain critical details such as the sender’s identity, recipient information, timestamps of transmission, and the underlying intent behind the communication. This forensic analysis aids in tracing the origin of emails, identifying potential threats, and gathering evidence for legal proceedings.

Key Approaches in Email Forensics

  • Header Analysis: One of the fundamental techniques in email forensics involves scrutinizing the metadata embedded within email headers. These headers contain vital information about the Email’s path and origin, including the sender’s identity. However, perpetrators may attempt to spoof or manipulate these headers to conceal their identity, necessitating a thorough correlation and analysis process.
  • Bait Tactics: In bait tactic investigations, emails containing embedded elements such as image sources or Java applets are strategically crafted and sent to suspects. Upon interaction with these elements, log entries are generated, enabling investigators to trace the IP addresses associated with the sender or recipient, even in cases involving proxy servers.
  • Server Investigation: This approach examines copies of delivered emails and server logs to trace the message’s source. Email servers often retain copies of emails post-delivery, facilitating retrospective analysis. Moreover, SMTP servers may store additional data, such as credit card information, aiding in identifying email account owners.
  • Network Device Investigation: In scenarios where server logs are unavailable or insufficient, investigators analyze logs maintained by network devices like routers and firewalls. Although more complex, this method can yield valuable insights into the source of email communications.
  • Software Embedded Identifiers: Email clients may embed information about the sender’s system, such as PST file names or MAC addresses, within the message. By scrutinizing these details, investigators can glean valuable clues about the sender’s environment and potentially link them to specific devices or users.
  • Sender Mailer Fingerprints: Examination of email header fields, such as “Received” and “X-Mailer,” enables the identification of software utilized by both the email server and the client. This information aids investigators in devising effective strategies and understanding the technological landscape associated with email communication.

Tools for Email Forensics

Several specialized tools have been developed to facilitate the intricate process of email forensics, offering features tailored to investigative requirements. Here are some prominent examples:

  • MiTec Mail Viewer: This versatile viewer supports multiple email formats, including Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail, and Mozilla Thunderbird. It enables users to inspect email messages, extract attachments, and perform comprehensive searches, enhancing the efficiency of forensic analysis.
  • OST and PST Viewer: Developed by Nucleus Technologies, these tools enable users to view OST and PST files without needing an MS Exchange server connection. They provide a structured display of email data, including messages, contacts, and calendars, facilitating detailed examination and extraction of relevant information.
  • eMailTrackerPro: Designed for IP address analysis, eMailTrackerPro assists in tracing the geographical location of email senders. By analyzing email headers, this tool identifies the originating IP address, empowering investigators to track down potential perpetrators and assess the legitimacy of email communications.
  • EmailTracer: Developed by the Resource Centre for Cyber Forensics (RCCF) in India, EmailTracer is tailored to the needs of law enforcement agencies. It offers specialized functionalities for cyber forensic analysis, aiding in investigating email-based offenses and identifying malicious actors.


Email forensics constitutes a critical component of digital investigations, enabling authorities to unravel complex cybercrimes, authenticate evidence, and hold perpetrators accountable. By leveraging sophisticated techniques and specialized tools, forensic analysts can dissect email communications, unraveling layers of digital footprints to unveil the truth concealed within electronic messages. As technology evolves and cyber threats proliferate, the role of email forensics continues to be indispensable in upholding digital security and combating online misconduct.

Key Takeaways:

  • Email forensics involves analyzing email content and metadata to uncover evidence and trace the origin of communications.
  • Header analysis, bait tactics, and server investigation are utilized to investigate email-based offenses.
  • Specialized tools like MiTec Mail Viewer, OST and PST Viewer, eMailTrackerPro, and EmailTracer aid forensic analysts in conducting comprehensive investigations.
  • Email forensics plays a crucial role in combating cybercrimes, ensuring digital security, and upholding the integrity of electronic communications.