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What is DMARC?

DMARC or its full form Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance is a protocol that is used for email authentication, policy, and reporting. It is a very important element of email cybersecurity as it helps in reducing any threat email from reaching the end users' inboxes. DMARC is programmed to provide the email domain owners to have the ability to protect their domain from email spoofing which is unauthorized use of email.

With the development of DMARC, it is now possible for the senders to indicate that their emails are protected by SPF and/or DKIM which stands for Sender Policy Framework and DomainKeys Identified Mail respectively. It even enables the receiver to reject or isolate the message if no authentication methods were passed.

By using DMARC it is now easier to identify if an email is legitimately sent from the owner and if it isn't then it also comes up with the protocols which need to be followed otherwise. This whole process just makes it a whole lot easier to identify spam messages and keep them away from people's inboxes.

How Does DMARC Work?

As evident from its name "Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance", DMARC enables the sender to indicate that their emails are protected by SPF or DKIM or both and if in case they are not protected, then DMARC comes up with solutions for the receiver telling them what to do with the junk messages as no authentication messages were passed.

DMARC takes control of removing the guesswork from the receiver's handling for all those failed messages and thus minimizes or completely eradicates the exposure of the user from such harmful and fraudulent messages. The DMARC policy also helps the email receiver to report back to the sender about the messages that passed or failed when evaluated by DMARC.

How Does DMARC Work

Figure 1. How Does DMARC Work?

Here is a flow that will help you understand how DMARC works:

  • The domain owner will first publish a DMARC DNS record through their DNS hosting provider or company
  • When a receiver receives an email from the domain, the receiver's email server first checks to see if there is a DMARC record available for the domain.
  • The email server then does authentication tests as well as alignment tests like DKIM and SPF to verify the domain.
  • As the above tests are completed, the server is able to make a decision on the DMARC policy from the sender's side.
  • Once a decision has been made, the recipient's email server creates and sends out a DMARC aggregate report or reports to email addresses mentioned in the domain's DMARC record.

How Does DMARC Email Security Work?

DMARC works by leveraging two currently existing authentication techniques, one is the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and the other is the Domain Key Identified Mail (DKIM). The DMARC policy is designed to fit in the organization's email authentication processes. It helps the receiver in determining whether the messages which are received align with the information known about the sender. In case it is not determined then DMARC provides solutions on handling the non-aligned messages.

After the sender composes an email and presses send, a DKIM header is inserted and further sent ahead to be received by the receiver. When the email reaches the receiver, it passes through some standard evaluation tests like IP blocklists, etc. Then first the verified DKIM domains are retrieved and then the "envelope from" is retrieved with the help of SPF. Then the appropriate DMARC policies are applied to the email.

The appropriate DMARC policies which are applied to the email consist of Standard Processing, which helps with the anti-spam filters, then the email is either passed (if the authentication methods approve of it) or rejected or quarantined. If the email turns out to be rejected or quarantined then the sender is notified as he or she receives a failure report.

What are the DMARC Benefits?

Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance or DMARC is an email validation program designed for the protection of businesses and email domains from being exploited by email spoofing, spam, phishing, or any other methods of cybercrime.

The Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) come with 2 main benefits; cybersecurity and authenticated emails.

The DMARC protects the email domains which in turn prevents the attackers from making multiple attempts to invade the system and since the DMARC is a solid configuration program, it is very much successful in preventing all kinds of threats, spam, and email spoofing.

Another way how the DMARC works is by authenticating the email. Even the receivers know that the emails received by an email domain that is secured by the DMARC would be more secure than the one that just goes through some random singular authentication methods.

We have already stated about the working of DMARC, now let's take a look at some of the benefits provided by DMARC.

  1. Security: DMARC being a solid email validation system plays a full role in preventing random emails to be sent across the internet. The DMARC program does not allow unauthorized use of the email domain and thus protects people from spam or fraudulent messages.
  2. Visibility: Another great benefit of DMARC is its wide visibility feature. DMARC helps in providing visibility concerning whoever is sending emails across the internet using your email domain and prevents all unauthorized emails or spam from being passed.
  3. Delivery: DMARC follows the same modern technique that is used by mega-companies for delivering emails. DMARC assures to provide a safe and protected delivery of emails across the internet and thus fulfills its role as an email validation system.
  4. Identity: Even among a sea of DMARC-capable receivers, DMARC can keep your identity distinct and makes your email identification easy even across a huge population. This distinct identity of the DMARC based domains even helps the receiver to identify the legal emails and this identity helps them to refrain from any suspicious email which may seem harmful to the system.

How To Set Up DMARC?

If you are wondering about how to set up the DMARC at your DNS provider, here is a step to step installation guide written below:

  1. Creating Record and Visiting DNS Provider: After making a decision on your record, you then need to visit the DNS provider and log in. Then a prompt for creating a record is to be found or you can also look for the TXT section to edit instead. After being done with the above procedure, you will find the following three fields:
    • Host/Name
    • Record Type
    • Value
    The name of the above-mentioned fields may vary from interface to interface.
  2. Selection of TXT DNS Record Type: You will be provided with a drop-down list of DNS record types from which you have to choose the one that says TXT.
  3. Addition of Host Value: For this field, you should most probably fill it with _DMARC and as you input this value, the hosting provider will append the domain or subdomain after it.
  4. Addition of Value Information: It is important for the two tag value pairs v and p to be present on every DMARC record type. The tag value pair for v is v=DMARC1
    The value p can be paired with none, quarantine or reject and look like p=none, p=quarantine, or p=reject. Other than the two tag value pairs; v and p, there are a few more things to DMARC such as:
    Rua provides an address for the aggregation of the data reports.
    Ruf provides an address for the forensic reports.
  5. Create or Save Button: After you have added all the necessary information, you then need to press save or submit so that your record can be generated.
  6. Validation of the Record: The last step would be to check if the record has been correctly set up and for this, you need to run a DMARC record check so that it can be verified that the record that has just been created by you contains the correct values and correct syntax.

How to Use DMARC?

As the DMARC policies are published in the public DNS, Domain Name System, it is available to be used by anyone and everyone. DMARC comes with no licensing or any other restrictions, thus it can be implemented by any party which is interested in implementing DMARC.

The Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance system is an email validation system that protects business email domains from fraudulent and malicious messages. It is employed by organizations as a technical standard which makes it easier for the Internet Service Providers (ISP) to prevent malicious email practices such as email spoofing.

DMARC is necessary for the protection of the email domains. It keeps a check on what is being sent across the internet and who is sending things under your email domain. With the help of DMARC, the user interactions with the spam messages or harmful emails are minimized or nearly eliminated as DMARC has taken control over the security of the email domains.

What is a DMARC Registry?

DMARC registry or DMARC tag registry is a group of tags for DMARC that are registered with IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority). The initial set of entries in the DMARC registry is limited to 11 entries. They are:

  • adkim (DKIM alignment mode)
  • aspf (SPF alignment mode)
  • pct (sampling rate)
  • p (request handling policy)
  • rf (forensic reporting format)
  • ri (aggregate reporting interval)
  • rua (reporting URI for aggregate data)
  • ruf (reporting URI for forensic data)
  • sp (request handling policy for subdomain)
  • v (specification version)

New entries can be added but to do so will require consideration by the IANA and will need to be mentioned in a published RFC.

How to Make DMARC DNS Registration?

To first make DMARC DNS registration you will need to decide on the type of record. Then you will need to visit your hosting provider and log in. Once you have logged in, you can follow these steps:

  • Create a new record by filling the Host, Record Type, and Value fields.
  • When you are selecting the record type you should go for a DNS type like TXT.
  • When filling the host field you should write _DMARC and the hosting provider will take care of the rest.
  • Filling the value field will require you to enter a pair of values. In the first value v, you will need to write v=DMARC1. In the second value p, you can choose from none, quarantine, or reject.
  • Once you have entered these details for the DMARC, you will need to save them.
  • After doing all this, you should ideally run a DMARC record check to ensure that the record was created with the correct syntax and the right values.

How to Check DMARC Registration?

For the implementation of Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC), it is also very necessary for it to be validated. This validation needs to be done by an authentic source and this turns out to be a DMARC record check. This analyzer is free to use and follows a convenient usage procedure.

The steps are pretty simple. You just need to enter the domain name so that the DMARC record check can perform its action. The DMARC record is then parsed and the DMARC record is then displayed with additional information.

The DMARC record check can be used to test and look up the DMARC record. Each possible option and even the implemented options can be evaluated. This also helps in the verification and testing of whether any of the external domains are currently under usage.

What is the Best DMARC Tool?

Several tools can be used for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC). The DMARCians and the ValiMail are at the top of the list of being the most useful DMARC tools. Following is a list of such beneficial DMARC tools which are used widely for various organizations according to their needs and preferences.

  1. DMARCian: The DMARC tool called DMARCian is considered as one of the OGs for DMARC. This tool was founded in 2012 and is of an advanced complexity yet it is one of the most trusted sources. It helps secure emails from impersonation and phishing attacks. It comes with a DMARC SaaS platform which brings improved visibility especially for authentication gaps and prevents people with the wrong intentions from mimicking your email domain. The DMARCian tool has quite a few dashboards which provide better visualization of the DMARC reports. The viewer is also able to break down the reports into four groups or domains which can be categorized under the names of DMARC capable, non-compliant, forwarding, and threat/unknown and this grouping discovers the email source and the data from multiple providers a whole lot easier than before. DMARCian is specifically useful for all those organizations and/or business enterprises who want detailed reports and visualization into their DMARC platforms. DMARC has a great presence in the partner channel which makes it a useful solution for resellers and those looking for a DMARC solution for their clients.
  2. Mimecast DMARC Analyzer: The Mimecast DMARC Analyzer makes it very much easier for organizations to prevent email attacks and provide protection to brands against abuse. This DMARC tool called the Mimecast DMARC Analyzer comes with such a wide range of features that help in the management of the emails and also block the security risks. DMARC analyzer helps in a more efficient and quicker implementation of DMARC policies and thus is especially useful for the mid-sized organizations which are looking for a quicker and efficient implementation of the DMARC policies. Some of its features such as the aggregation of DMARC reports, automated alerts and reporting, and Domain Name System (DNS) timeline, etc just make it better at implementing the DMARC policies and taking advantage and benefits of the DMARC.
  3. Barracuda Sentinel: The Barracuda Sentinel is another email security service type that protects the email platforms from threats, frauds, and phishing attacks. It is unique in providing post-delivery protection and resides inside the inbox instead of the usual residence in the email perimeter. Apart from protecting the organization from malicious attempts, the Barracuda Sentinel also comes with the provision of automated DMARC reporting along with both the aggregation and visualization. The Barracuda Sentinel results in being a specific solution for those organizations which are struggling with the prevention of spam attacks as they are using Office 365 and also want to implement the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC). A Barracuda Sentinel is thus a great option for those organizations which range from being small to mid-sized companies which want to prevent fraudulent attacks and in addition want the implementation of the DMARC policies.
  4. Agari Brand Protection: The Agari Brand Protection automates the implementation of DMARC and also provides multiple security solutions which are specifically designed for the protection of organizations from sophisticated threats. The Agari brand protection comes with the ability to rapidly detect and respond to such threats and prevent brand abuse. The key features of the Agari brand protection include autoregulation and generation of relevant host Domain Name System (DNS) records and it also additionally takes a charge in ensuring that the DMARC records are accurate with the automated workflows. Since the Agari brand protection provides greater visibility for the organization, it even makes it convenient to implement rejection policies that can reject malicious and harmful threats and emails. The Agari brand protection is therefore a strong Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) solution for organizations ranging from midsize to large enterprises which are on a search for expert guidance and support for the implementation of the DMARC policies in a complex work environment.
  5. OnDMARC: The OnDMARC software comes with the ability to protect against spam, harmful, and phishing attempts as well as the attempts of email impersonation. This helps in the implementation of DMARC policies across the whole organization with simplified Domain Key Identified Mail (DKIM) and Sender Policy Framework (SPF) management. The OnDMARC investigation program allows the organizations to verify the Domain Key Identified Mail (DKIM) as well as the Sender Policy Frameworks (SPF) setups so that the authentication of the emails may be ensured. Since it provides an overview along with a checklist of all the next steps to be taken, the OnDMARC tool turns out to be a great time saver for the organization and with no compromise on email authentication. The OnDMARC program is particularly a strong solution for all those organizations and enterprises which are searching for the configuration of DMARC compliance through simple guided steps and also with automated domain monitoring.
  6. ValiMail: The ValiMail program provides DMARC protection and thus prevents the organization from phishing attempts. It has an easy setup mechanism. The ValiMail prevents the impersonation of domains by utilizing the DMARC policies and the emails are protected at the level of the sender. The ValiMail even allows the organizations to have a look at the images or graphic content present in the emails and thus results in improving the campaigns of email marketing and governing the overall success rate. ValiMail is unique in protecting even the payrolls which normally do not include the DMARC policies. In addition to this, ValiMail manages the configuration of all DMARC, DKIM, and SPF which simplifies the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) configuration and SPF records for all of the Office 365 users. Another unique feature of ValiMail that deserves to be mentioned is that it has a great focus on the reputation of the brand which means that it is highly useful for those organizations which are concerned about the management of their brand for email marketing campaigns.

What are the Differences Between DKIM and DMARC?

The DKIM stands for Domain Key Identified Mail. The DKIM authentication is added in the domain panel as a TXT record. The DKIM takes control of making sure that whatever emails are being sent from server to server are not tampered with by anyone and the email can be identified from the other end which is receiving the email.

The Domain Key Identified Mail (DKIM) provides only an encryption key and a signature that digitally verifies that no alteration was made to the email. It also assures that the email is not fake and is not falsely generated.

In comparison to Domain Key Identified Mail (DKIM), the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance or DMARC is built on the SPF which is the Sender Policy Framework and DKIM which is the Domain Key Identified Mail and works invalidating the emails by matching the validity of the emails with the validity of the SPF and DKIM records. This process results in enabling us to generate policies and even get notified with generated reports in case the validation of DMARC fails.

The Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) work by the combination of both Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain Key Identified Mail (DKIM) mechanisms into one unit and allows the domain owners to handle the domain according to their own will and also how they would like the domain to be handled in case the program goes otherwise and the authorization of the email fails.