DMARC, DKIM, and SPF: How to Ensure Compliance with Industry Standards
One of the most effective ways to enhance the security of your company’s email system is by implementing a trifecta of email authentication protocols: DMARC, DKIM, and SPF. These protocols work together to verify the authenticity of incoming emails, thereby reducing the risk of fraudulent emails and other security breaches.Read more
As technology advances and businesses rely more heavily on digital communication, organizations must prioritize email security as a critical component of their overall cybersecurity framework.
One of the most efficient methods to protect email communication is through the implementation of email authentication protocols such as DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance), DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail), and SPF (Sender Policy Framework) as these protocols confirm the authenticity of the sender and safeguard against a range of email-borne threats.
This post will furnish an extensive analysis of these protocols and explain how they can be employed to meet industry standards while preserving the security and integrity of an organization’s email communications.
How to Ensure your Business Complies with DMARC, DKIM, and SPF Industry Standards?
DMARC is an email authentication protocol designed to give email domain owners the ability to protect their domain from unauthorized use, also known as email spoofing. To achieve compliance with DMARC industry standards, organizations must first conduct an inventory of their domains and identify all the domains that they own or operate that are used to send emails so they can implement DMARC adequately. Furthermore, SPF and DKIM must be set up correctly and aligned for DMARC compliance.
Here is how you can ensure that your business becomes DMARC, DKIM, and SPF compliant:
Email Delivery Record Audit
Conducting an audit of your organization’s email delivery history will provide valuable insights into areas where increased email security is needed to improve delivery rates. By analyzing SPF and DKIM delivery records, you will be able to identify potential deficiencies and take appropriate measures to address them.
Additionally, identifying all third-party providers your business uses to send correspondence on your behalf is critical in achieving optimal delivery rates. Keeping a clean and limited list of providers will make it easier to manage, monitor their effectiveness, and ensure that the highest delivery rates are achieved.
Optimizing DKIM and Adding Providers
DKIM is an email authentication protocol used in conjunction with DMARC to enable an enterprise to take responsibility for the messages they send and verify them by email providers. The DKIM protocol allows the domain owner to digitally sign their email messages, confirming the message’s legitimacy for the recipient. To effectively implement DKIM, it is essential to adhere carefully to the signature criteria and to implement both the authentication and alignment mechanisms properly.
Like SPF, DKIM can be evaluated through authentication and alignment. An email message is considered to pass DKIM authentication when the d= domain correctly signs it in the DKIM header. Essentially, a DKIM signature is added to the header of outbound messages by the sender. The recipient then compares the included signature to a publicly available DKIM key to verify the message’s authenticity. If the signature is successfully decoded, the message is authenticated as being sent from the sender it claims to be from.
To ensure that your organization’s outbound emails are delivered as intended, it is essential to implement DKIM authentication properly. As a critical component of DMARC compliance, this mechanism helps to build customer trust in your brand and protects against malicious attacks that aim to deceive the public. By adequately implementing DKIM authentication, your business is on the right track to achieving DMARC compliance.
In addition to authentication, DKIM also includes evaluation criteria of alignment. A test that verifies that the organizational domain matches in several areas of the email. To pass DKIM alignment, the From: header, visible to the email recipient, must check the d= domain found in the DKIM header. By default, this match looks for a match between the primary domain, so messages that contain a subdomain will align. It is essential to ensure alignment to maintain the integrity of your email communication and to ensure that your messages are not being spoofed.
Optimizing SPF and Adding Providers
SPF is an email authentication protocol that enables domain owners to specify which mail servers are authorized to send emails on their behalf. It is a crucial component of DMARC compliance. To ensure optimal performance, it is recommended that businesses establish and maintain their SPF protocols before their outbound email base expands, allowing them to benefit from the protocol’s security features early on fully.
Adding third-party providers to a business’s email infrastructure could compromise the integrity of an SPF policy. To avoid this, keeping the SPF protocols consistent across all outbound domains and regularly reviewing and updating them as necessary is essential.
The SPF protocol is evaluated through two main criteria: authentication and alignment. An outbound email is considered to pass SPF authentication when sent from an IP address listed in the SPF policy for the domain specified in the “mail from” envelope. In other words, the IP address that sends the email must match the one listed in the domain SPF record.
When an email is received, the inbox server will perform tests to ensure that the message was sent from an IP address or third-party provider designated in your SPF record. Suppose you still need to publish an SPF record for all domains or subdomains that send emails on your behalf. In that case, it is essential to do so as soon as possible to ensure the security and integrity of your email communications.
In addition to authentication, SPF also includes the evaluation criteria of alignment. This involves inboxes checking whether the sending domain, as found in multiple parts of the message, matches. To achieve SPF alignment, the From: header, which is visible to the email recipient, must match the domain used for SPF authentication (e.g., the domain in the “mail from:” envelope).
By default, this match looks for a conflict between the primary domain, so messages that contain a subdomain will align. If you still need to implement SPF alignment, it is highly recommended to do so to ensure the security and integrity of your email communications.
DMARC, DKIM, and SPF are three crucial industry standards for ensuring the authenticity and security of email communications, which is why businesses need to focus on implementing these correctly.
Businesses and organizations must stay up-to-date with these standards and ensure that their email systems are correctly configured to ensure compliance. By implementing these standards, organizations can help to protect themselves and their customers, and improve email security and deliverability.