With the ever-expanding digital landscape, the scope for black hat hackers is exponentially growing. Cyberattacks are becoming so common these days that hackers stir and sweep off everything in organizations with the drop of a hat. Although they have numerous techniques for conspiracy, of all the options, to them, the most classic and go-to option is Phishing. Phishing attacks have become more frequent followed by subsequent data breaches and do you know where it all begins?
According to reports, more than 94% of the organizations faced impersonation or phishing attacks in 2022 and more than 75% of the cyber-attacks are initiated via emails.
Emails that we send and receive so often are of huge risk. How do you know a sender is genuine? How do you determine that the email you received with offers or confidential details is authentic? How do you build trust with your customers through emails when the spoofers are trying to impersonate with the same email address?
It’s just like the scene from Spider-Man’s No way home, where you see three spider man uniting and you do not know which one is the real one. They all look the same. EXACTLY SAME.
Spammers, scammers, and not to mention great spoofers always have their eyes on your inbox. They search for opportunities to make their way to your inbox and cause massive damage. And that’s when to counter these threats & attacks and maintain the authenticity of the legit emails, technical standards were introduced. These email message validation or email authentication protocols help to protect organizational assets, defend against email spoofing, and protect against phishing and spam attempts.
Email authentication is a process in which multiple methods or approaches are used to ensure the emails/ messages are genuine before they reach the recipient’s inboxes. These protocols verify the emails and ensure that the emails were not changed or manipulated during transit and convey the message to the mail servers for processing ahead or rejection based on the validation. Emails that do not pass this check will land in the spam file without reaching the recipient.
No matter how internet-savvy you are, you will fall prey to these scammers and spoofers at some point in time. When you have these email authentication protocols, it helps you get through the phishing attempts, making it hard for the spoofer to impersonate you.
Email spoofing is nothing but messages that look genuine but are not. Emails with a fake website and a forged login page to get their hands on your confidential account details, or a bogus landing page to get your credentials and sensitive data, where the message looks genuine, impersonating top brands and pretending to be organizations, are all attempts of email spoofing.
Ensures that the email sent is not altered in the transit
Makes no space for the spoofers to impersonate you
Improves email deliverability
Gets you successful delivery/failure results
When you don’t have your emails authenticated, your message will either land up in the spam folders or will be discarded from the server itself and rejected. The scenarios are the same if you have applied one or more authentical protocols and one of them fails. So, it’s better to have multiple authentication standards incorporated, and continually monitor them to leave no stone unturned and to make sure the emails land up in the right inboxes and you receive genuine ones.
The organization or the business establishes a policy through which the emails from the specific domain are authenticated
The mail servers on the sender’s side are configured to implement the pre-defined policies and publish the rules
When a mail server receives an email, it verifies the message as per the established rules and policies.
The mail server that receives this message or the email, proceeds as per the results retrieved from the authentication to either successfully deliver it, flag it as spam, or even reject it.
To successfully authenticate the emails, the sender and the receiver should mutually define the policies and set the standards. These authentications convey a message of authenticity to the recipient and tell that it came from the originating source. This, in turn, builds trust and that’s the reason why enterprises or businesses of all levels should have authenticated emails for their organizations.
With the combination of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, your organization’s email records are safe from any kind of threats and attacks. Having just a single protocol implemented will not be sufficient as these protocols work best only when together.
To prevent sender address forgery or duplication, SPF open email authentication standard is used. This allows the sender to publish a list of the IP addresses through their DNS TXT record, that’s authorized to send on their behalf. Whichever path is used for sending the email address, SPF authenticates the particular domain. The same address is used to move the mail from one server to the other or reject it by bouncing it back to the same mail server. With this, it primarily detects spam messages or any kind of forgery, validates the email whether it is sent from an authorized server, and takes appropriate action to either send it further or reject it straight away.
In this, the recipient’s mail server checks for any alterations made to the email during the transit, and this is done by validating the encrypted signature dropped in the mail by the sending server while sending. So, for any email that’s received, DKIM helps to verify the signature of the server that sent it. It is fundamentally a digital ID or a digital signature to authenticate your emails. With these DKIM signatures, it ensures the receiving end that the email is from an authenticated source, and not from any spoofers.
DMARC is a security policy that’s built on top of other authentication protocols such as SPF and DKIM. It enables the domain owners to set policies on how unauthenticated messages should be approached. The policy can be configured in the DMARC DNS record, and you can select the options from ‘NONE’, ‘QUARANTINE’, and ‘REJECT’. The domain owners will also be able to know where the emails using their domain are sent from using the Reporting component of this protocol.
Though authentication helps to let the recipients know that you are unique, you should also ensure your emails land in the right inboxes, and DMARC is very significant to build the domain reputation. Having these email authentication trifecta – SPF, DKIM, and DMARC is essential for any organization, without which, all your important emails with confidential deals, minutes of the meetings, and invoices that should go to your clients might land up in the spam box or get rejected right away.
Besides these, it is not sufficient to just finalize something and implement it. You must have all the technicalities in place, a technically verified setup, and a technically-sound team with hands-on expertise who know to fix the nuts and bolts of it, to successfully get this done.
We have a team of cyber security experts, who can not only implement this email authentication trifecta but will also help you with recommendations and suggestions, that will enhance your organization’s cyber security strategy.
To know more, check out the other articles on the Importance of Identity Security in 2022 and why it’s important to replace your legacy identities with our Modern IAM solutions
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