Email spoofing involves sending emails using false sender addresses. Attackers often use email address spoofing in socially engineered phishing attacks hoping to deceive their victims into believing an email is legitimate by pretending that it came from a trusted source.
If the attacker is able to trick their victims into clicking on a malicious link within the email, they can steal their login credentials, financial information, or corporate data. Phishing attacks involving email spoofing may also infect victims’ computers with malware or, in cases like Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams, try to trick the victims into initiating a transfer of funds. Variants of phishing such as spear phishing or whaling may be carefully tailored to specific individuals within the company and tend to have a higher success rate.
DMARC stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance and is an email authentication protocol. DMARC gives email domain owners the ability to protect their domain from unauthorised use. DMARC empowers an organisation to assert the authenticity of their legitimate email, leaving the illegitimate email easily identifiable as spam, thereby improving email security.
Anti-spam tools may prevent spam emails from getting into inboxes, but it cannot stop someone from impersonating your domain and sending malicious emails as if they are from your business. DMARC tools can be used alongside anti-spam tools.
Domain impersonation is also known as phishing. It is when an unauthorised party gets access to your domain, and can send and receive email as if it is from your organisation. By impersonating your domain, they can get access to sensitive data and possibly solicit funds by sending fraudulent invoices, which contain their banking details.
Whether you’re an SME or a large multinational company, the risks of being victim to a phishing attack have never been higher, as criminals – and technology – become more sophisticated.
Phishing attacks can result in severe financial consequences.
While the financial consequences are enough cause for concern, there can also be long term impact to your business:
Brand damage. A phishing attack on your domain can result in severe reputational damage to your brand – even though you had nothing to do with the attack. If your company domain is used to send fraudulent phishing emails, victims may associate your domain with the fraud in question. Especially if you’re in a competitive industry, undoing this association can be challenging. Brand is delivering viruses, malware and ransomware to your domain.
Ramifications for executives. If you’re an executive in a company who falls victim to such an attack, you may have to go to court, face the media or even lose your job as the person who was responsible for the damage that resulted.
Less room for plausible deniability. When phishing first became a threat several years ago, company executives could claim that there was nothing they could have done to prevent such attacks, as they didn’t know the risks. Now that DMARC is fast becoming accepted as a global best practice, where you can see the phishing attacks happening in real time from your email addresses – as an executive you’re compelled to do something about it.
Risks to customers. Protecting your domain is not just about your own company security – it’s about protecting your customers’ data too. Should your domain come under threat, there’s a very real chance that your customers could be affected too, which in turn could cause serious damage to your brand. As a corporate citizen, securing your domain is therefore the responsible thing to do.
DMARC allows an organisation to publish a policy that defines its email authentication practices and provides instructions to receiving mail servers for how to enforce them. Publishing is as simple and straightforward as a few DNS entries:
Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)
Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC)
The DMARC email validation system works as follows:
The domain administrator publishes a policy defining its email authentication practices and how receiving mail servers should handle mail that violates the policy.
When the inbound mail server gets an incoming email, it uses DNS to look up the DMARC policy
Depending on whether the incoming mail meets the provisions of the DMARC policy or not, the email will either be delivered, or disposed of. The receiving mail server will report the outcome of the sending domain owner.