Gmail is one of the popular and widely utilized web-based email applications used across the globe. With the increasing number of users opting for this email application, the cases of cybercrime associated with Gmail have also been increased tremendously. Hence, there arises a need for Gmail email forensic analysis. Though different techniques can be utilized by the investigating officers to analyze the Gmail mailbox forensically. Here, we will disclose the best ever solution to perform analysis of Gmail emails in a hassle-free way.
The term email forensics refers to a scientific method of collecting legal evidence by examining the source and content of electronic mails, which can then be used as proof in the court of law. However, it should be noted that Gmail is not different from other web-based email programs. Thus, almost the same techniques can be used for the study of forensic analysis of Gmail artifact as well as other email applications.
There are different ways to perform forensic analysis of different email applications, including Gmail. This includes Email Header Forensics, Bait Tactics, Gmail Server Investigation, Network Device Investigation, etc. However, to perform an in-depth investigation as to navigate every minute email data, it is recommended to avail automated email forensic software.
Follow the steps below to know email header details for the Gmail email message.
Note: The process to find headers of an email in Gmail account can be summarized in the below picture.
Description of each section of the Gmail Email Header are mentioned below:
Delivered-To: This line displays the delivered email address i.e. the destination or receiver’s email address.
Received: This line shows the time the message reached the server of Gmail i.e. the receiver’s /destination ID’s email provider.
X-Received: This line displays the X-Received information. It contains the IP address of the name of server used to send email.
Return-Path: This line displays the Return-Path and shows the address from which the message was sent. Technically it can be said that it contains the address recorded by Mail / Message Delivery Agent (MDA) from MailFrom SMTP command. But the problem is that this information can be spoofed easily by an expert criminal. Hence, it is not considered reliable and taken into account until examined by professional analyzers during Gmail email forensics.
Received: This line in the header shows that the message was received from the sender’s email provider by a Gmail server on a particular date and time i.e. received date and time.
Received-SPF: The line displays Received-SPF, which represents the type of email service used for sending the email message. It also includes an ID that can be utilized to analyze logs from transmitting mail server. This helps in examining the legitimacy of the email whether it was sent from the same service or not. Moreover, if the ID is not available, then there are chances of an email message being spoofed.
From, To, Subject, Date: These lines display date and time when the email was composed, senders email address, destination email ID, and subject respectively. All information displayed here are entered by the sender except the date and time which the email application has been composed.
Message ID: The Message ID is displayed here. It is a globally unique string assigned to a particular email by the sender’s email provider for the identification of an email message. This distinct ID can be used to track the specific email on initiated email server which consist of email logs information.
MIME-Version: It displays the Multi-Purpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) message format, which plays a significant role in the examination of emails. Several information and evidences can be extracted for further investigation. Here, in this case, the MIME version of the mail is 1.0.
Content-Type: It displays the Content-Type, which stores information of MIME Header fields. It describes multiple aspects of the body of the message including signatures.
X-Mailer: It displays the X-Mailer header information. It identifies the software handling the email at the client side or sender’s side. The information about the client PC of the sender can then be used by the investigating officers to devise an effective plan to reach the culprit.
While implementing the Gmail email forensic analysis, once the scattered data are achieved. The collected information can be correlated so as to make the collected data useful for the study of forensic analysis of the Gmail artifact. Correlating the gathered information is an important step that forms the basis of an email forensics study. This is because the gathered Gmail email header information yields the entire documents and citations. Nevertheless, the collection is the first step in the investigation process but their correlation is indeed necessary. The yielded records such as date, subject, recipient, sender, IP address, etc. should be interrelated because without interrelation exact information cannot be attained.
MailXaminer is one of the trustworthy yet reliable Email Forensic Tool to easily analyze the Gmail email data during the digital forensic investigation. It is 100% error-free software which can be instantly installed on the system for email analysis. The software provides various options to perform the forensic analysis of Gmail artefact in an efficient manner.
MailXaminer provides an option for forensic analysis of Gmail artefact in different preview modes. This includes “Mail, Hex, Properties, Message Header, MIME, Email Hop, HTML, RTF and Attachments.” Each view offer different information corresponding to the email message. With these different views help the forensic experts to find and extract the hidden information from the Gmail data smartly.
The software facilitates an amazing search option which helps the investigating officers to instantly fetch the results out of the bulk Gmail emails.
This includes General Search, Proximity Search, Regular Expression, Stem Search, Fuzzy Search and Wildcard Search. While availing any of these search operations, one can also make the best use of logical operators like “AND, OR and NOT”.
Using analytics feature, one can track the frequency of words or emails which are connected between each email user. This will help the investigating officers to efficiently find the relationship between the users. The various options fall under analytics option includes Word Cloud, Timeline Analysis, Link Analysis and Entity Analysis.
MailXaminer tool provides the geolocation image mapping functionality to locate the exact location from where the image was taken. It will extract the longitude, latitude and altitude values from the image containing GeoTag within it and automatically provide the exact location.
This blog elaborates on the different procedures which are used to perform Gmail email forensic analysis. However, to navigate the evidence smartly and also to make it admissible in the court of law, it is suggested to opt third-party software. For that, MailXaminer is the best solution, which allows performing in-depth email analysis while maintaining high standards of forensic integrity.