DMARC: Everything You Need To Know About DMARC As An Email Marketer

If you are looking to take your email marketing to the next level then you need to be able to stand out from the pack. You need to appear real and genuine. And to do that, you need an extra layer of security and brand recognition, DMARC helps you to achieve that.

Table Of Contents

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What is DMARC?
How does DMARC work?
What is a DMARC record?
What does DMARC domain alignment mean?
What are DMARC p=policies?
What is a DMARC report?
How is DMARC related to SPF, DKIM, or other standards?
How to reduce the impact of spoofing with DMARC
Do I need DMARC?

What is DMARC?

DMARC means Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance. This is a marketing tool that you can use to protect your company’s email domain. Any organization can use it for the same purpose. It also ensures that people can verify whether an email message is from your company.

DMARC also makes it possible for an organization to create a policy that shows how it wants to verify email that claims to come from its domain. The policy will also tell receiving mail servers on how to check emails and handle messages that fail the test.

The need to verify email messages is very important. It helps prevent people from using a domain without the owner’s permission. This may include phishing scams, email spoofing, and other related cybercrimes. It also ensures that both the receivers and email senders are not deceived by such messages.

DMARC shows domain owners how to:

  • Publish how they verify email messages.
  • What to do with emails that fail the authentication check.
  • How to report actions it takes on emails that disguises to come from its domain.

When a company or an organization adopts DMARC, it will:

  • Provide the company with reliable authentication report.
  • Reduce the rate of successful phishing.
  • Allow receivers to determine whether an email is from your domain or not.

How does DMARC Work?

DMARC works on a simple but effective principle. It uses both the DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) and SPF (Sender Policy Framework) to show whether a message is genuine or not. It also uses the Domain Name System (DNS) for the same purpose.

This is how DMARC carries out validation of each email:

1. A domain administrator issues a list of instructions that contains information on how to know a real or fake message. It also explains what receiving mail servers should do if a mail fails the check. The domain’s DNS records contain the DMARC policy and other necessary information.

2. When an incoming email reaches the mail server, the server will use the DNS to go through the DMARC policy. This will allow it to check the identity of the domain name in the “From” header.

The server will go through the message to check three important factors:

  • Does the DKIM signature of the message pass the validation check?
  • Is the message from IP addresses that the domain of the sending SPF records allows to send messages?
  • Do the message’s headers show the right domain alignment

3. With the information it gets from the check, the server will use the DMARC policy of the domain sending the message to decide what to do. It may reject the message, accept it, or flag it.

4. After making the right decision, the receiving server will send the result of its findings to the owner of the sending domain.

When a company adds a DMARC record to its DNS record, the DMARC will allow the company to know those who use its domain to send email messages. Thus, the company can use the information to know the actual place the message originated from, not where it claims to come from.

If you are a domain owner, such information can help you know the type of messages that come out from your domain. You will also know those using your domain to send messages without your permission. This will prevent people from sending unwanted messages to your customers. Your customers will only receive emails from your company and not from dubious people trying to cheat them.

It also allows your customers to know that emails from your company are not from people they don’t know. This will protect your company from spoofing and phishing attacks that can ruin your reputation or destroy your company. That is the level of security DMARC offers your brand.

What is a DMARC record?

A DMARC record is a record of DMARC rules. The record tells email receivers whenever a company sets up a domain for DMARC. If that is the case, the record contains several pieces of information that includes the policy that the domain owner will want to use. Other information you can find in the record includes the record of Domain Name Service (DNS) entry and your company policy.

It also informs Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Microsoft, Gmail, Yahoo! and others if a particular domain can use DMARC. DMARC record contains information that controls how people use your domain. That’s one of the ways that a company can prevent people from using their domain name without their permission.

The system stores DMARC records as a TXT record as “_dmarc.” Before you install a DMARC record, you must first install DKIM and SPF records.

Some of the common tags in DMARC TXT records are:

Tag name Required Purpose

  • v required Protocol version.
  • pct optional percentage of message that will undergo filtering.
  • rf optional forensic information reports
  • rua optional It reports the URI of aggregate reports
  • p required policy for domain
  • adkim optional alignment mode for DKIM
  • aspf optional alignment mode for SPF

The tags show different ways to use the DMARC record. 

What does DMARC domain alignment mean?

Domain alignment is another important part of DMARC. This is a concept in DMARC that shows how to verify that a message is from someone who claims to send the message and not someone else. It focuses on the “From” header of the message to show the real sender of a message.

DMARC uses SPF and DKIM to verify the identity of the sender. There is a challenge in using these standards. SPF and DKIM don’t make it compulsory that the user identity and “From” header for both standards should match.

The alignment handles this problem. It ensures that the domains match completely or partially under a simple setup.

The DMARC domain alignment means that the domain that creates the signature and the “From” header should match. This is necessary for validation.

  • For DKIM signature, the DKIM d=domain and the “From” domain of the message must match.
  • For SPF signature, the Return-Path domain and the “From” domain of the message must match.
    DMARC alignment can take two different forms: relaxed or strict. In the relaxed alignment, the base domains must match with each other while the sub-domains may be different.

The strict form requires that the entire domain must match. The sending domain’s DMARC policy contains the two choices.

Either way, a match must take place before a DMARC user can know the source of an email. The alignment concept ensures that.

What are DMARC p= policies?

Domain owners can show how they want DMARC to treat any email that doesn’t pass its validation checks. There are three different policies to determine how to treat such emails. These are p= policies and include:

  • None: This is the first policy, p=none. This policy suggests that DMARC should treat the mail as it will treat any message that doesn’t have DMARC validation. This policy informs the email receivers to forward DMARC reports of emails that fail the check to some addresses. These addresses are in the DMARC record RUF or RUA tag.

Another name for the policy is the Monitoring only policy. This is because it provides information about the source of the email but doesn’t provide instruction on what to do next. They will only know the person or group behind the message but nothing else about the message.
· Quarantine: The policy tells email receivers that they should put emails that fail DMARC checks in the receiver’s spam folder. They should also put messages that pass the check in the receiver’s primary inbox. Since many people don’t usually open their spam folders, the receivers may not see the message in their spam folder.

  • Reject: This is a very straightforward option. DMARC will reject the message on the spot if they fail the check. The email receivers will use the “on SMTP level” to reject the email.

This option offers a lot of benefits to organizations. It protects their customers from becoming victims of phishing. It also prevents scams and brand abuse as well as Ransomware and Malware attacks.

Employees can’t engage in spear phishing while the CEO cannot engage in fraud either. These are huge benefits an organization will derive from implementing DMARC.

What is a DMARC report?

DMARC report is another important feature of DMARC. The report gives domain owner information about email activity from their domain. The reports are in two different forms. These are:

  1. Forensic reports: Forensic reports are reports from messages that are already checked. These reports consist of copies of messages that are not authentic when DMARC checked whether the messages are from the right source or not. The system will put the reports in a full email message using the AFRF format. Forensic reports are useful for identifying bad websites and domains.
    2. Aggregate reports: These are documents that show data about messages that a particular domain seems to send out. The data in the report will include message disposition and authentication results. Humans cannot read this report, only machines can.

The reports help the domain owner ensure that email messages going out of their domain go through the authentication process. They also make sure that all the IPs sending emails are from the domain they claim to come from.

How is DMARC related to SPF, DKIM, or other standards?

DMARC is not the only standard you can use to authenticate email messages that claim to be from a domain name. Other standards include SPF and DKIM. All these standards work together to make it easy to review messages from a domain and uncover where they came from.

How are these standards related to each other?

  • DKIM: You need two things to verify whether an email is from your company’s domain or not. These are the digital signature and encryption key. DKIM has these two keys and use them for authentication. If an email message is from a fake source, DKIM will use both keys to identify such message and its original source. Because people use DKIM to know real or fake messages, it is able to prevent cyber criminals from deceiving people.
  • SPF: The SPF performs a different function. The SPF allows domain owners to choose the right IP addresses that can send email messages from a domain. This makes it impossible for people to send messages from an IP that the domain owner doesn’t allow to send such messages.

DMARC works as DKIM and SPF put together. Domain owners can use DMARC to show how they want the company to handle any email from a source that doesn’t pass an authentication test. It combines the use of SPF and DKIM to verify messages.

With this tool, a user doesn’t need to use SPF and DKIM as different services. They can use DMARC to do their job. It is time-saving and eliminates the need to handle different providers at a time.

How to Reduce the Impact of Spoofing with DMARC

Spoofing is a cheating act where someone sends a message or communicates with another person by pretending to be what or whom they are not. Although the receiver doesn’t know the sender, the sender will change the message to deceive the receiver. The receiver will believe that the message is from someone or an organization he or she knows. This makes it easy for the sender to deceive the receiver.

According to a report, spam emails increased by 4x in 2016. This shows that people around the world are falling into spoofing traps. It is one of the most effective ways that people deceive and defraud others. Companies can use DMARC to reduce cheating through messages and save people from internet fraudsters.

DMARC makes it possible for an organization to define how email receivers should handle emails that don’t pass DMARC check.

A DMARC policy may instruct an ISP on the best way to handle emails that don’t pass the DMARC checks, depending on the setting.

Email receivers can also check incoming messages whether they have valid DKIM and SPF records. They also want to know if the records correspond to the sending domain.

When the email receiver has checked the message, the receiver will know whether it complies with DMARC or not. When the email receiver has completed the authentication, they will handle the mail according to the result of the check. This means that email receivers no longer have to take all messages as legit. Those that fail the validation checks won’t get to the receiver.

Do I need DMARC?

If you have a business and you send email to customers whether transactional or subscription emails, it is important that you verify them. DMARC will make it easier for you to verify email messages that claims to be from your business or from you and prevent internet fraudsters from hijacking your business.

Cybercriminals aren’t showing any signs of stopping or slowing down, they continue to play dirty and have brought many businesses to ruin. DMARC gives you a chance to make your business foolproof to attacks of that nature.

When you install DMARC on your mail server, receiver mail servers may use the tool to know whether your domain sent a message or not. This is an important step that will not allow people to use your business name for nefarious activities.

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