Everyone knows we’re being spied on when we’re using our Macs or Windows PCs online. If it’s not the Russians or Chinese or government spooks it’s the next door neighbor’s kid hacking you from their basement.
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could hack back? You can’t. At least, not too easily, but I came across an interesting email app that helps you track exactly where an email message came from; geographically speaking.
The app is called MailSpy and while it doesn’t spy on your neighbor’s email or your significant other’s email or your kids email, it does what I’ve never seen done in a Mac email utility. It displays the geographic origin of an email message. Just drag and drop the message onto MailSpy and it displays both the email’s IP address and the location where the IP address supposedly is assigned. On a map, even.
It’s pretty cool. When it works. Just grab an email message and drop it onto MailSpy to get the IP address and popup map.
What you get– when it works– is a map of the IP addresses location. While that’s more interesting than it is useful, it might give you an idea of where someone might be located when they send you that inheritance message from Nigeria.
Oh, yeah. The first is with standard IP addresses which are not always located where they are assigned. For example, I help manage more than a few servers in Atlanta, GA so you would expect the IP addresses– which come from an IP address database, of which there are many– to be located in Atlanta. They are not. Nearby, yes. But not anywhere near the server locations.
The second issue has to do with how email messages are formed, which means MailSpy has trouble tracking down messages that come from webmail services instead of standard email servers. Not all webmail works exactly the same way so some messages just don’t contain the appropriate IP address to track.
Another minor issue is this. MailSpy works with Apple’s Mac Mail app. Just grab a message and drop it onto MailSpy. But there’s no guarantee it will work with other email apps. Also, there’s a limitation on how many email messages can be analyzed at once. Usually, it’s one at a time, but you could jump through a few hoops, export messages to .eml files and analyze message content that way, but that’s getting you to the point of diminishing returns rather quickly.
Otherwise, MailSpy is one of those interesting apps with few competitors (I’ve never seen another that did the drag and drop thing) and even though it’s not perfect 100-percent of the time, it can capture a message’s IP address and give you a rough location as to the origin.