Terry Zink's Cyber Security Blog

Discussing Internet security in (mostly) plain English

Not one of my better moments

Not one of my better moments

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Today was not a great day.  A little humbling, if you will.

I was asked to participate in a conference call with a customer who was checking out our services because I knew our technology better than the account representative for this customer.  Fair enough, I thought.  I know our services like the back of my hand.

During the meeting the customer was pointing out a flaw in our technology.  To illustrate their point they sent themselves an email that should have hit one of our sender authentication rules but instead the message sailed right on through.  Earlier in the day, this customer had forwarded the email along with a bunch of other emails to our account representative who forwarded them on to me.

Now, let me explain something.  As a spam analyst, we have to look at email headers all the time.  We can't do this in Outlook easily.  Microsoft Outlook makes it difficult to do this, you have to right-click on the message and go down to message options in order to view the headers.  Then you have to copy and paste them into Notepad because it's impossible to see them in the tiny popup window that appears.  This tedious process makes it difficult for us to process spam.  So, instead we used to use Thunderbird (press Ctrl + U to view the message source) and later on we built a custom application for viewing mail.  I wasn't involved in development, but it's a nice app.

Anyways, viewing headers of an email in Outlook is not intuitive.  Viewing the headers of attached messages is fricking impossible.  Or, at least it seemed that way while I was in the meeting.  During the conference call, I asked to see the message and our representative said the message was one of the attached ones that was forwarded to me.  I went to the email and saw the attached message.  I double-clicked on it and had to open another attached message.  Oh, there's the message in question!  Now, how do I view these headers?  I clicked on the little Office 2007 button in the corner and saw nothing to view headers.  There was nothing in the ribbon to view the headers.  How do I view them?  I needed them but I couldn't figure out how to do it!  

I feared asking how to view the headers, I didn't want to look like an incompetent dope on the call in front of the customer.  Here's how the situation went in my head:

My Brain: Don't ask how to view the headers!  Don't ask how to view the headers!

Me: Uh, how do I view the headers in this message?

My Brain: That's it, I'm out of here.  (Sound of person descending a set of stairs... door opening... car driving away).

Now, if that wasn't bad enough, when the account rep told me how to do it, I couldn't figure that out either.  The options that were supposed to be there on the side (what Options tab?  What drop-down box?) simply weren't there.  Gee, I bet that inspires confidence in the company.  I had to bite the bullet and ask the account rep to copy and paste the headers and forward them into an email to me where I could view them.  Locating those headers using Outlook was like searching for the Holy Grail.  But at least Indiana Jones found the Grail.

Sigh... a very humbling experience.  
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  • Don't worry, you are not alone, I ran into this problem many times !

    Here is the simplest solution for Outlook 2007 :

    Open any message

    Right-click on the Quick Access Toolbar (top left)/Customize Quick Access Toolbar...

    In "Choose commands from:", select "All commands"

    Select "Message options..." and click "Add >>"

    Click OK.

    Et voilà! Now you have a new button to access the message headers for any message, even attached ones !

  • Thanks, Greeny!  That works!

    When I got it set up, I played the Final Fantasy victory music in my head.

  • You know, when you prove yourself an expert in spam with a blog like this, you're allowed to have a few "brain fart" moments. ;)

    David

  • The nice thing about Office (and Vista) is that the Help and searching functions actually work.  I had to use Help to find this feature not that long ago.

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