General Question

Kingkamandi's avatar

How can I determine who created a type of computer file, such as jpegs and .mov files?

Asked by Kingkamandi (149points) June 10th, 2010

I have received some anonymous emails containing jpgs, tiffs and mov files. Is there any way to learn or figure out who made them? Is there a computer serial # or something that gets logged onto each file? If I have to contact the police, will they be able to tell me the name of the computer or anything besides the ip address of the email’s sender?

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6 Answers

anartist's avatar

Yes. Examine the email source code and trace the path it took and where it really came from.
The files do not have serial #s. If they are photos they may have EXIF info but that won’t be much use. The computer or router does have an IP address number.
If you use Google it is easy—on the drop down next to ‘reply’ select ‘show original’
Don’t open the files.

Tracing IP addresses

jerv's avatar

Unfortunately, the IP address will likely be the most useful bit of information you’ll get.

You might get the make/model of the camera from EXIF tags, but not a unique serial number; cameras do not have anything like a car’s VIN, so tracking it to a specific camera is impossible.

Computers generally lack a serial number as well, especially if it is a custom-built one. And if the original OS has been wiped (as is common in Linux boxes) then it really doesn’t matter. Plus, while Windows installs have a serial number (possibly a fake one), Linux installs do not. Its all moot though since none of that info gets into a graphic/video file or an email header .

Network cards (including the integrated chips on motherboards with built-in Ethernet) have a unique MAC address, but again, that information is generally not passed along (it usually stops at the router) and it is possible to spoof a MAC anyways.

Of course, tracing the IP may result in getting stonewalled at their ISPs server, and odds are that they won’t give up any info about their customers to someone outside of law enforcement. And while the police may be able to get that info, it’s unlikely that they will share it with you.

Remember, this is reality, not CSI.

anartist's avatar

@jerv true, only law enforcement can get customer info as says in article I linked to.

jerv's avatar

@anartist Yeah, but not everybody follows links and/or reads all the way to the bottom, so I felt like spelling it out.

anartist's avatar

@jerv I did once follow a suspicious“Citibank” email all the way to a phone bank in a Chinese financial institution. I was very pleased with myself and sent all that info to Citibank.

robmandu's avatar

Just fyi: every single bit of the email header info is entirely spoofable.

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