DMARC: Help Protect Your Brand Against Email Fraud

It is a well-known fact that in order to commit fraud, cyber criminals impersonate trusted contacts. 70% of all email fraud is directly sent from a domain name that does not fit the one in the email header.

This approach is based on the fact that email clients do not immediately verify if the domain from which they appear to come, actually comes from individual messages.

There is, however, a way for emails that claim to come from your domain to be independently checked.

This approach is called Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance-DMARC, and it protects your brand from spammers forging email addresses that appear to come from your domain even though they are not from your validated Outbound SMTP server.

Types Of Domain Name Abuse

The most common definition of domain abuse means domains registered for phishing, malware, botnets, and spam-advertised domains. These practices (email phishing) are generally known as illegal or at least dangerous in most countries and jurisdictions. However, it is important to remember that many Internet stakeholders consider other forms of domain abuse to be just as abusive and illegal in some cases. Common examples include intellectual property infringement, copyright violations, and certain types of highly offensive content display.

Email Spoofing

Email spoofing is a tactic that is used to trick users into believing that a message comes from a person or individual they either know or can trust, in spam and phishing attacks. The sender forges email headers in spoofing attacks so that the fake sender address, which most users take at face value, is displayed by client apps. 

They are more likely to trust it if it is a name they acknowledge. So they can click on malicious links, open attachments to malware, send personal information, and even wire corporate funds.

Owing to the way email systems are designed, email spoofing is possible.

The client application assigns a sender address to outgoing messages; outgoing email servers have no way of knowing if the sender address is valid or spoofed.

In order to detect and filter spoofed messages, recipient servers and antimalware applications will help. Not every email provider, unfortunately, has security protocols in place. Still, users can review email headers packaged with every message to determine whether the sender address is forged.

Domain Spoofing

A common type of phishing, domain spoofing, occurs when an intruder seems to use the domain name of a company to impersonate a company or one of its employees.

This can be achieved by sending emails that appear legitimate with fake domain names, or by setting up websites that read as right with slightly altered characters.

In order to effectively mimic the styling and branding of a legitimate company or corporation, a spoof website or email will typically use logos or some other kind of specific graphic design. Users are generally allowed to enter financial details or other personal information, believing they are sent to the right location.

Business Email Compromise (BEC)

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is an exploit in which an attacker gains access to a business email account and mimics the identity of the owner in order to defraud the business and its workers, clients, or partners. An attacker would also build an account with an email address nearly identical to one on the corporate network, depending on the alleged trust between the victim and their email. BEC is sometimes described as a “man-in-the-email attack”.

Phishing Scams

In order to trick recipients into sharing their financial and personal details or installing malware, phishing scams send emails that imitate trustworthy institutions such as banks, online services, and credit card companies. The targets may also be led to malicious websites that are legitimate sites where they are required to enter login credentials and other personal data that can be used by attackers to commit identity theft.

With domain spoofing and lookalike emails designed to defraud consumers, user phishing impersonates your brand. Consumers lose faith when your brand is used. You could be looking at blocked mail and low results in email marketing campaigns by not defending your email-sending domains.

Must-know Email Security Standards To Protect Businesses From Domain Vulnerability

Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

This verifies whether a particular IP is allowed to send mail from a specified domain. SPF can lead to false positives, and the receiving server still needs to do the work of verifying and validating the email sender for an SPF record.

DKIM (Domain Key Integrated Mail)

A pair of cryptographic keys used to sign outgoing messages and validate incoming messages are used in this process. However, since DKIM is only used to sign unique pieces of a message, it is possible to forward the message without breaking the signature’s validity. This is a tactic known as a “replay attack.”

DMARC (Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance)

This method gives a sender the option to let the recipient know if their email is SPF or DKIM safe, and what actions to take when dealing with unsuccessful mail. It is not yet commonly used by DMARC.

7 Reasons Why DMARC Can Help Protect Your Brand

70 percent of the world’s inboxes have DMARC allowed and the most security-forward brands have embraced it (i.e. Facebook, Apple, JPMorgan, Chase, and PayPal). As per a recent survey, 1.89 million DMARC compliant policies implemented to defend domains by the end of 2019. 

The only solution that allows Internet-scale email security is DMARC, which prohibits fraudulent use of legitimate emails for brands. 

DMARC enables you to authenticate all legitimate email messages and sources for your email-sending domains, including your company-owned and third-party domains.

DMARC is built to fit into the current inbound email authentication mechanism of your company and lets email recipients decide if a message “aligns” with what the receiver knows about the sender.

DMARC helps you to post an explicit policy instructing mailbox providers about what to do with unauthorized email messages. These messages can either be sent to a junk folder or rejected outright, protecting unsuspecting recipients from exposure to attacks.

DMARC sends daily updates to you, the domain owner, about how your mail domains are being used and how their authentication records are viewed by ISPs. This domain-level data can help you identify risks to your clients, and it can help you discover legitimate senders that you are not aware of. For example, if the domains are often used by other teams/departments.

How to Implement DMARC?

A third-party implementation provider is the best way to implement DMARC. For low-volume email users interested in protecting a single domain, vendors such as ProgIST offer ideal reporting services.

You would need to use an enterprise-level authentication service if your company has several domains sending a high number of emails on a regular basis.

If you wish to implement DMARC manually, you need to access your Domain Name Server (DNS) and publish a text like the following:

v=DMARC1; p=quarantine; pct=100;

rua=mailto:yourmail@yourdomain.com

This tells email clients that receive your messages the following:

  • DMARC (v=DMARC1) is used
  • Messages that fail DMARC are treated as spam (p=quarantine)
  • 100 percent of your messages should be treated in this way (pct=100)
  • The address that the reports must be sent back to (rua=yourmail@yourdomain.com)

You must publish your SPF record and your DKIM record as well in your outbound SMTP service for this code to function. You then need to make sure that your emails have a DKIM signature matching the one in the DKIM record.

Conclusion

Without email, life, as we understand it, will not be feasible, but its ease and ubiquity is also a breeding ground for cyberattacks that spoof brand domains. DMARC email security is a tool that helps businesses secure their goods online and helps make the web a safer place. It ensures that the emails received by the consumers, staff, or prospects of a brand are genuine, all while maintaining the credibility of a brand. The more brands use DMARC, the more secure every email user is from the threats concealed in spoofed emails.

ProDMARC by PROGIST is an email validation protocol based on two SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM authentication protocols that are internationally recognized (DomainKeys Identified Mail). Get in touch with us to avail of our full range of cyber security solutions.