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Some e-mails will add you to some sort of botnet the moment you read the mail (I'm not actually sure if this is a botnet, but I receive spam mails from regular people all the time. So I assume it is). But it's sometimes hard to tell which e-mails are legitimate and which aren't. Hotmail offers an option to look at the e-mail source, from which I can easily make up if it's legitimate. But I'm wondering if you're safe when only reading the source?

As a clarification, the "source" is the plain text e-mail. I'm using hotmail in Waterfox 12.

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Source? Like the person who sent it to you? umm.... – Not Kyle stop stalking me May 22 '12 at 18:55
@Kyle I literally translated it from the dutch "berichtbron" to "source", meaning the plain text e-mail. – Simon Verbeke May 22 '12 at 18:57
Anyone mind explaining what's bad about this question? – Simon Verbeke May 22 '12 at 19:02
That would be a big difference... also it's only plain text if the email is actually plain text. It could also be html or rich text... Either way it's not going to tell you anything other then if the links point to the wrong location. For example I could link to Keep in mind if there is a script embedded in the email are you going to know what it's meant to do? – Not Kyle stop stalking me May 22 '12 at 19:06
Nothing, it was bad when it sounded like you were asking, "is it okay to look at who sent me an email." You are missing a bit though like your browser, mail client, OS... all this matters as certain browsers, mail clients, and OS's have different levels of security. What's okay to view in thunderbird on Ubuntu may not be okay to view on XP with Outlook 03. – Not Kyle stop stalking me May 22 '12 at 19:08
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Unless there are serious issues with both your browser and the site you are viewing the e-mail on, you have nothing to worry about if all you do is look at headers, and the body of the e-mail.

Malware is not magic. It can't just stick itself into your computer because you are looking at something that a trusted party (the e-mail provider) put together.

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Only less than a half of it was put together by a trusted party; the body and some headers come from the email sender. While this usually isn't a problem, there have been cases when a browser tried to render a plain text file as an image, or such. – grawity May 22 '12 at 19:16
If some third party was able to break a browser's rendering in that way, there is a serious problem, and this e-mail header issues is the least of it. – soandos May 22 '12 at 19:24

Yes, it is totally safe. Nothing can happen when viewing the source because it is output in raw form and not interpreted by the client.

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