With the rise of cyber threats and phishing attacks, securing email communications has become more important than ever. Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) is a key technology in safeguarding your email reputation and ensuring that only authorized senders can use your domain to send emails. In this article, we explore DMARC’s role in email security.

What is DMARC?

DMARC is an email authentication protocol that enhances the security of email communications. It enables email senders to instruct email receivers on how to handle unauthenticated messages, providing a framework for domain owners to protect their domain from being used for phishing attacks and email fraud.

DMARC builds on two existing email authentication mechanisms, namely SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), to provide a comprehensive and standardised approach to email authentication.

If an email successfully passes both DKIM and SPF, it is deemed authentic. If an email fails either DKIM or SPF, DMARC instructs receiving mail servers on how to handle it based on the DMARC policy.

What does DMARC do?

Imagine you’re sending a letter, and you want to make sure it arrives at the right place without someone pretending to be you. That’s where DMARC comes in.

  • Authentication: DMARC utilises the authentication methods of SPF and DKIM to ensure that incoming emails are legitimate and have not been tampered with during transit.
  • Reporting: DMARC enables domain owners to receive detailed reports on the handling of their emails by recipients. These reports provide insights into the authentication results, helping domain owners identify and address potential issues.
  • Policy Enforcement: DMARC allows domain owners to set policies for handling unauthenticated emails, providing instructions to email receivers on how to handle messages that fail authentication. This helps prevent phishing attacks and protects the domain’s reputation.

What is a DMARC Service?

Refractiv has partnered with dmarcian, an expert in analysing DMARC reports, to assist organisations in overseeing and implementing their DMARC policy. Our DMARC service includes all the tasks necessary to configure, publish, and sustain a DMARC policy. Additionally, it handles the collection and analysis of DMARC reports received from email receivers, streamlining the entire process for enhanced efficiency and effectiveness.

You can imagine the DMARC service from Refractiv as your personal detective. Our team can tell you if there’s anything suspicious going on with your emails and help you take action to keep your domain safe.

Dmarcian dashboard example

What is the difference between DKIM and DMARC?

While both DKIM and DMARC contribute to email authentication, they serve different purposes:

  • DKIM adds a digital signature to outgoing emails, allowing the recipient to verify that the message has not been altered in transit and that it indeed originated from the claimed sender domain.
  • DMARC builds on SPF and DKIM, adding a layer of policy and reporting. It enables domain owners to specify how email receivers should handle messages that fail authentication and provides detailed reports on the authentication results.

In essence, DKIM provides a method for signing emails, while DMARC sets policies for how to handle those signed emails.

 

What is a DMARC violation?

A DMARC violation occurs when an email fails to authenticate using both SPF and DKIM, and the DMARC policy for that domain instructs receiving mail servers to reject or quarantine the email. This effectively prevents unauthorised senders from utilizing the domain to impersonate the legitimate sender.

 

Is DMARC really necessary?

Absolutely. DMARC is an important component of email security, especially in today’s age where phishing attacks and email fraud are widespread. Without DMARC, cybercriminals can easily impersonate legitimate domains, leading to various malicious activities such as phishing, spoofing, and the distribution of malware. DMARC adds an extra layer of protection by allowing domain owners to specify how unauthorised emails should be handled and by providing valuable insights through reporting.

 

What happens without DMARC?

Without DMARC, email communications are more vulnerable to various threats:

  1. Phishing Attacks: Cybercriminals can easily impersonate legitimate domains, tricking recipients into divulging sensitive information or downloading malicious content.
  2. Brand Impersonation: Legitimate brands can be impersonated, damaging the brand’s reputation and eroding trust among customers.
  3. Email Fraud: Without authentication mechanisms like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, there is a higher risk of email fraud, where unauthorized parties can send emails on behalf of a domain.
  4. Delivery Issues: Without DMARC, legitimate emails may be marked as spam or rejected by email receivers, leading to delivery issues and potential business disruptions.

 

Email fraud stats

 

Does Gmail use DMARC?

Gmail supports DMARC and encourages all domain owners to implement it. Gmail will reject emails that fail DMARC authentication if the policy is set to “reject.” This proactive approach by Gmail contributes to a more secure email environment for both senders and recipients.

 

Summary

Implementing DMARC is highly recommended for all organisations that engage in email communication. It provides an additional layer of security against phishing attacks and helps protect your brand reputation. Implementing DMARC can also improve email deliverability, as receiving mail servers are more likely to deliver emails from domains with a DMARC record in place.

If you are looking to enhance your company’s email security, the Refractiv team can help you with a managed service to make sure that DMARC is working for you. We will work with you to add the necessary domain records to make sure that no important emails are blocked and that the setup is completed correctly. Get in touch with us or visit this page to learn more about our DMARC service.