How To Secure Your Company Email With DKIM, SPF & DMARC

According to Mimecast’s, study of email security, 51% of businesses fell victim to a ransomware attack. These are typically found in email Spoofing attacks.

The first question you should be asking yourself is ‘do I have a cybersecurity plan in place to protect my business’s sensitive data’? 

This, of course, should include more than just protecting your emails. But in this blog, we will be focusing on the common problems businesses face when it comes to sensitive data in emails and ways to implement protection.

“Criminals targeted Human Resources Departments and Consulting firms using malicious attachments. People working in these departments and sectors are having a high volume of emails including an attachment on a daily basis. Therefore, they are more vulnerable to malicious attachment attacks”.

KeepNet 2020 Phishing Trends Report

What Issues Will You Face Without Email Security?

  • Emails you send to customers automatically go into junk, spam or are automatically blocked by the receiving email service
  • Emails you receive from your website contact forms aren’t received or are placed in junk, spam or are automatically blocked by the receiving email service
  • Having an SPF policy adds trust signals to email providers. By not using this you may be adversely affecting your domains reputation
  • Having a bad domain reputation means all email addresses linked to that domain will have trouble sending emails in the future

Ultimately, just having Sender Policy Framework (SPF) set up, won’t solve all of your delivery problems. It is an additional layer of security that, when combined with DKIM and DMARC, can drastically  improve your email delivery rates and prevent abuse and misuse.

Many cyber attacks start with emails. If you weren’t already aware, more times than not a company’s most sensitive data is usually passed through emails, be it credit card information or passwords. This is why email protection and training your staff on the matter is so important!

Understanding Email Spoofing & Phishing Scams

At first glance, email spoofing might sound like some sort of joke but a 2017 study shows almost 30,000 spoofing attacks happen each day. 

‘Email Spoofing’ is a tactic used by cyber criminals where they impersonate someone in order to gain access to sensitive or personal information. 

Email spoofing is a form of a phishing scam where an email appears to be sent to you from someone you know and trust, maybe your boss or a service provider, when in actual fact it’s not them at all.

But what is there to gain from sending a spoof email? A cybercriminal could be trying to gain the following from you:

  • Personal or financial information
  • Information/access to intellectual property 
  • Login details or other credentials 

Or they could be trying to get you to download a malicious file, or click on a malicious link which will disrupt your systems and allow them to gain access to your files.

How To Stop Email Spoofing From Harming Your Business

One of the first steps you should take in order to prevent email spoofing affecting your business is to train your staff. Make sure they know what to look out for when receiving emails and measures they can take to reinforce IT security. 

Deleting old emails is also a good way to ensure no sensitive information can be found by cybercriminals. If there is information regarded as genuinely important then consider saving it onto an external hard drive. 

Other precautions you should consider are encrypting your company emails and using password protection to access them. 

Essential Email Security Measures

There are three main email security measures to look into, SPF, DKIM and DMARC. These protocols allow you to list what services are authorised to send email on your behalf.

What Is SPF?

SPF stands for ‘Sender Policy Framework’. This is a DNS TXT record that specifies which IP addresses and/or servers are allowed to send email “from” that particular domain.

How Does SPF Work?

To put it into other words, it’s simply like a return address that would be listed on a postcard so you know who sent it. SPF works the same, the recipient is more likely to open an email if they know who sent it. 

Check Your SPF Records

What is DKIM?

DKIM is an acronym for ‘DomainKeys Identified Mail’ and just like SPF, it’s a TXT record that is added to a domains’ DNS.

DKIM is used to generate a security key that is checked by all receiving email services. If the details don’t match then the email server will follow the DMARC rules on handling and reporting potential attacks.

How Does DKIM Work?

DKIM works to build trust between servers and can be compared to sending a letter via certified mail. It uses an encryption algorithm to create a pair of electronic keys that the servers use. 

Check Your DKIM Records

What is DMARC?

DMARC or Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance is a protocol that uses both SPF and DKIM to determine the authenticity of an email. 

How Does DMARC Work?

The three main functions of DMARC are as follows:

  • Monitor your email traffic and verifies if a senders email is protected by SPF and DKIM
  • Sends unauthorised mail to your spam folder/mail that is not protected by SPF and DKIM
  • Allows the receiving server to report back to the sender about messages that pass or fail DMARC evaluation   

Having a DMARC record for your email marketing efforts ensures that legitimate email is properly authenticating against established set standards.

It makes sure that fraudulent activity appearing to come from your company domain name is blocked. Two key values of DMARC are domain alignment and DMARC reporting.

Check Your DMARC Records

Additional Email Security Best Practices

Whether you’re at home, in the office or on the road, ensuring you keep your company emails safe and secure is a must. 

Whenever you step away from your computer or laptop ensure you lock the screen, even if it’s just for a second as you never know who is looking over your shoulder. 

Working With Emails Remotely

If you are working remotely, say in a coffee shop or on a train then we recommend staying clear of public wifi. Try using a WiFi hotspot from your mobile as this way you know your connection will be secure. 

We also recommend using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt your Internet connection so it’s safer to use with public hotspots.

Shared Office Workstations

For office workers who share computers, be sure to log yourself out before going home at the end of the day. Even if you trust the people who also use the same computer, we strongly recommend logging out to keep yourself secure. 

It’s very common for staff to take work home with them and access their work emails on their personal laptop or smartphone. 

Create an Email Usage Policy

By setting out some ground rules and creating an email policy for your team when accessing emails outside of the office will help maintain the security of any sensitive or personal information. 

Email Security Summary

In summary, to keep your company emails secure and to minimise the chances of your business becoming a victim to phishing scams you should consider the following:

  • Create a comprehensive cyber security plan that includes email
  • Train all staff members on cyber security and how to identify phishing scams
  • Implement an email policy for those who work out of the office and access their emails via their personal laptop or smartphone
  • Encrypt your company emails and make sure you only connect to trusted networks
  • Install reliable antivirus, malware protection and spyware protection software on your devices
  • Update your software regularly and perform security health checks
  • Use strong passwords and use a password manager so you have unique passwords for every online service and website
  • Make sure your company email implements the three main security measures mentioned above (SPF, DKIM and DMARC)
  • Use the S/MIME (secure/multipurpose internet mail extension) for data encryption and email signing

The number one thing to remember is DON’T CLICK ON LINKS in an email if you are unsure of the sender or the email asks you to send personal or financial information! 

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