A Basic Guide to Email Authentication for Legal Professionals

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A Basic Guide to Email Authentication for Legal Professionals
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Individual legal professionals and law firms are becoming one of the favorite targets for cybercriminals. The incidence of cyber attacks targeting UK law firms rose by 36% in the last year. Chaucer, a specialty reinsurance group, reported a total of 166 cyber breaches for the 2021/22 period. This figure surged to 226 for the 2022/23 period as of September 30th, 2023.

These sharply increasing numbers are being driven by the fact that law practitioners store highly sensitive and confidential data without much security in place. Hackers steal, intercept, or encrypt important information in exchange for money. Sometimes, they also sell the data to competitors or on the dark web for further exploitation. 

In fact, in one of the recent incidents, a law firm got fooled into paying half a million dollars to email scammers!

And what’s worse is that these incidents are getting more common now than ever, underlining the dire need for legal professionals to protect their email channels and domains. So, let’s see how you can start with it. 

Image sourced from linkedin.com

What Does Email Authentication Mean and How Does it Impact You As a Sender? 

Email authentication is a set of techniques and protocols designed to verify the legitimacy of an email message, ensuring that the sender is who they claim to be and that the message has not been tampered with during transit. It helps prevent phishing attacks, email spoofing, and other forms of email fraud.

Imagine it as a secret code that only you and your friends know. If someone sends you a message claiming to be your friend, you can check the code to make sure it’s really them.

There are three primary email authentication protocols- SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. Collectively, they offer:

Introducing SPF, DKIM, and DMARC For Legal Professionals

Email-based menaces can be controlled by verifying senders’ authenticity and mentioning which all people are actually allowed to send emails on your behalf. This is done using these protocols-

SPF

SPF allows the domain owner to specify which servers are authorized to send emails on behalf of that domain. When an email is received, the recipient’s email server checks this SPF record to verify if the message is coming from an approved server. 

If the sending source is legitimate, the email lands in the primary inbox; otherwise, it gets placed in the spam folder or bounces back to the sender. 

DKIM

DomainKeys Identified Mail is an email authentication method that adds a digital signature to an email message. This signature is created using a private key associated with the sending domain. The recipient’s email server can then use the public key published in the domain’s DNS records to verify the email’s authenticity.

DMARC

With DMARC, domain owners can specify how their emails should be authenticated using SPF and DKIM and what actions should be taken if authentication fails. These actions include marking an email as spam or rejecting it altogether. 

Additionally, DMARC allows domain owners to receive feedback reports that provide insights into how their domain is being used for email, helping them monitor and improve email security.

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