Email is a vital tool for the lifeblood of business communication all around the world. It’s so essential to the everyday running of organizations big and small, that many would agree it’s just as essential a service as electricity or water.
But its importance is exactly what makes email vulnerable from a cybersecurity perspective. The cyberattacks happening every day repeatedly remind us that email systems are the easiest route into your business for cybercriminals. All it takes is a single employee to fall victim to a socially-engineered scam, click on an infected link or download a malicious attachment, and your entire operation could grind to a halt.
Ultimately, we’re dealing with a question of trust. How do you know that an email is really from a trusted party? How do you know that it’s really from your bank or your business partner? How do you know that someone logging into the email system is really an authorized member of staff?
This is where email authentication comes in. At its most fundamental level, authentication works on a whitelisting system. That is, it checks a set of presented credentials – which might be individual people, applications, or services, and only allows them to proceed with whatever access or service has been requested once these credentials have been verified.
Email isn’t automatically authenticated
This concept has its roots in the credit card industry. This industry introduced digital verification of identity using electronic card readers at point-of-sale terminals, which enable the retailer to check in real-time, whether a particular payment card is legitimate, and has sufficient funds to cover the transaction before payment is taken. So, both the card and its potential use are authenticated before the transaction can proceed.
Of course the digital era, and in particular the rise of the internet and cloud computing, has enabled authentication to massively branch out from these financial services roots, with authentication services used across a huge range of online services and applications. Unified login products are now available, giving organizations a single centralized means of authenticating and managing how individuals log into their systems.
But what about the emails your business is sending, and having a way to authenticate them? Contrary to what you might think, email is not authenticated automatically , meaning the basic questions of trust outlined above are not guaranteed. In short, the emails you receive from businesses without the right email security protocols in place could be fake.
DMARC is essential for stopping phishing attacks and BEC
It’s so easy for cybercriminals to take advantage of this lack of in-built email authentication to impersonate your business and phish your employees (business email compromise), your customers (phishing scams), and anyone else in your supply chain. They’ll use any excuse to impersonate your brand, leverage your reputation, and get money, credentials, data, and more. Meanwhile, your reputation is sometimes irreparably damaged. With new threats from more sophisticated cyberattacks happening every day, businesses need to be certain that the sender of the email is actually the person who has supposedly sent it.
Thankfully, this is now possible through DMARC, a protocol that detects and prevents email spoofing and enables organizations to essentially build a whitelist of verified, legitimate email senders. In effect his means that it prevents anyone from impersonating your email domain, making it impossible for hackers to send fake emails to your clients; it also blocks malicious emails from your inbox.
In brief, DMARC works by verifying if an email was sent from an authorized IP address, and also if the email has been signed by the same domain it was sent from, or from a domain that is authorized to send on behalf of that domain. These two factors are combined to authenticate emails and to set rules about how receiving servers should treat emails if they fail the authentication checks.
How DMARC works
Implementing DMARC doesn’t just benefit business security
Implementing DMARC at p=reject doesn’t just make your organization more secure. Because you’re actively telling receiving domains that your emails are authentic, DMARC is also known to make your email deliverability rates shoot up. Plus, it improves where emails land in the inbox, because again receivers can tell the emails coming from your domain are safe and legitimate.
Plus, there’s now BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification). This new protocol allows businesses to attach their trademarked logos to the DMARC-authenticated emails they send, helping to stand out in the inbox and meaning recipients immediately see your brand straight away. This has been found to increase open rates, purchase likelihood, brand recall, and more.
DMARC is easier to set up and monitor than you think
In the past, setting up DMARC would have been a lengthy, costly and frustrating process, as without the right tools and expertise the protocol is complex to implement. But now, Red Sift’s DMARC product OnDMARC enables firms to set up DMARC and run it on a self-service basis, making its protection much more widely accessible for any size of business.
OnDMARC offers step-by-step guidance, making it easy for anyone in your business to implement it – you don’t need a background in IT. Best of all, OnDMARC customers get to p=reject in an average 4-8 weeks, not months.
To find out more about how OnDMARC works, and start your free trial, visit our website.