How Do You Find Email Metadata? (…and What is Metadata, Anyways?)

what is metadata

Metadata is a type of organized reference data that aid in the sorting and identification of attributes of the data it describes. Meta is a prefix that means “an underlying definition or description.”

Metadata implies data about data. Thus, email metadata refers to information or data about your emails. Your email metadata can be found in the header of an email.

4 Reasons Why Metadata Email Headers Are Important

1. Protect mail from phishing

An email header is a fragment of code that contains the information needed to authenticate an email message. Avoiding phishing attempts is as simple as checking the authentication results before clicking on links in a message. The protocols used by email service providers (ESPs) protect your email account and personal information from phishing and spam emails.

2. Protect from spam

By sending test emails and checking their headers, you can figure out what email security to add to keep communications from ending up in the spam bin. The header contains numerous fields that help ESPs distinguish between spam and legitimate emails. The header information is analyzed by ESPs to assess whether the message is legitimate and should be delivered to the intended recipient.

3. Know where an email came from

You’ll find multiple IP addresses when browsing through a header (four groups of numbers from 0 to 255 separated by dots). The IP address of the sender or the relay server is represented by these addresses. To read a header, start at the bottom and work your way up. The oldest information will be displayed at the bottom of a header. As a result, the IP address between two brackets (“[” and “]”) at the oldest “Received:” represents the sender’s IP address. If the user isn’t sending emails using a proxy, this is most likely the IP address that his or her computer was using at the time the email was sent.

4. Detect scammers

When evaluating whether or not a sender is attempting to defraud you, you have one important advantage: scammers rarely try to mask their IP addresses since they know that most people don’t read email headers. Simply enter the scammer’s address into a blacklist checker once you have it.

How to Find the Email Metadata Headers in a Message

The email headers can be found in a variety of ways, depending on your email application.


  • Open the message
  • Locate the 3 dots on the top-right of the message
  • Select Show original.

iCloud Mail:

  • Select the gear icon
  • Select Show Long Headers from the drop-down menu

If you’re using the Mac Mail application to access iCloud Mail, take these steps:

  • Click View after selecting the message you want to see in the email header
  • Go to Message -> Raw Source to find the email header

Microsoft Outlook 2010/2013/2016:

  • Open the message and select File from the File menu
  • Select Properties from the Info tab
  • In the Internet headers box, the header information will be displayed.

Yahoo Mail:

  • Open the message
  • At the top-right of the message, click the arrow pointing down next to Reply
  • Select the option to display the original


  • Select the message.
  • Select Show source from the More menu.

Exactly What is Metadata?

The metadata in the email header can provide a wealth of information. The header of your email contains information such as the sender’s address, receiver’s address, subject, and date. An email header also contains technical information such as the Return-Path, Reply-To Field, and Message-ID. Email headers are specific pieces of data that include critical information for mail delivery.

It is recommended that you read the header attentively each time to look for anything suspicious. Each email header is unique, and some metadata is not required.

Here are a few metadata tags you should pay attention to:

From: The sender’s information is contained in this field.

To: This displays the recipient’s name and email address, as well as any email addresses in the CC (carbon copy) and BCC (blind carbon copy) boxes.

Subject: This refers to the title or topic that the sender specifies in the subject line.

Return Path: The return path is a mandatory field that contains the email address to which the system responds. If no reply-to address is specified, it will be used as the address for recipients to respond to.

Reply-To: This is an optional field that contains the address to which recipients should respond.

Envelope-To: This line indicates that an email was sent to the address shown.

Received: This indicates that the recipient’s email address is real and cannot be falsified. It also displays all of the addresses that the email travelled through on its way from one computer to the next.

DomainKeys and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM): These assist email providers in identifying and authenticating emails by connecting the domain name to the email.

Message-ID: Here is the message ID is a unique identifier of letters and numbers.

MIME version: Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) is an internet standard that enhances the format and functionality of email messages. MIME allows films, pictures, and other files to be attached to an email.

Content-type: This field indicates whether the email was written in plain text or HTML. When you have an image or video, it will also appear.

Message body: The major material of an email is displayed in this field.

Email headers are typically used to see who sent and received a message, where the message travelled through a server, and what issues may have prevented the message from reaching its intended destination.

Due to the email’s routing information being stored in the header, you get to see which servers, ISPs, and email platforms the message has passed through. You can quickly determine whether the email communication was secure and whether it arrived at its intended recipient without faults or changes.

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