Protecting your brand with DMARC

Let’s envision a potential nightmare for your brand:  Your database gets hacked and all of your customers’ private information is now on the dark web, potentially available to exploit.  Now, you need to notify all of your customers to the potential threat.  Instead of sending it out through your typical email channels, you decide to setup a special domain specifically for this purpose.  Sounds logical, right?  What could go wrong?

How about the rejection of this highly important email and a serious erosion of trust for your brand?

If this sounds far-fetched, it shouldn’t.  It really happened to a Fortune 500 brand in 2018 – Marriott.

The Full Story

Following a harmful data breach involving personal information of up to 500 million guests in late November of 2018, the hotel giant decided to send notifications to its customers using a new domain email-marriott.com, instead of marriott.com or starwood.com, the affected brands.  Traditionally, Marriott properties had used the domain of the brand for customer communications around reservations, for example courtyard.com for Courtyard by Marriott properties.

From a technology standpoint, this was a completely logical decision. Marriott had been transitioning email communications to the email-marriott.com domain for sometime.  However,  customers reacted with confusion for several reasons:

  1. The message sender name appeared to be email-marriott, not Marriott, or an identifiable brand.
  2. email-marriott.com looks strange to customers of other Marriott brands that may not use the Marriott name: Starwood, Westin and Ritz-Carlton for example.
  3. It is a common technique for spoofers to use a domain that uses similar names to the intended target.
  4. The topic of the message is about security, which automatically heightens customer attention to small details relating to security.

Missteps by Marriott

Not only did it backfire in terms of reaching the inboxes of their client base, it also created a major backlash and critically damaged their email reputation.  Particularly troubling is item #3, the email-marriott.com domain mimics a fraudster’s spoofing/phishing efforts, some receivers were undoubtedly leery of opening the message. Appending common words to a known brand name is a scammer’s go-to move. The following phishing domains have been used in recent cybercrime attempts:

  • support-appleinc.com
  • service-capitalone-com.tk
  • support-verificationaccount.com

Marriott’s failed to recognize the potential pitfalls of their notification strategy and ended up compounding a customer relations problem.

What’s in a Domain?

Your company’s email reputation, as well as your customers’ security and trust in your brand, rely on which domain you utilize. Selecting an identifiable sender domain name is a best practice for businesses that rely on email to regularly communicate with clients. Domain name reputation plays a vital role in email deliverability. Unfortunately, Marriott discovered the hard way that using a nonspecific domain to suddenly send hundreds of millions of emails isn’t a good idea.

Building your company’s domain reputation can be achieved in several ways, including the length of time the domain has been registered and using it to send messages to engaged recipients. Having legitimate contact information listed on your website also helps increase overall reputation and deliverability.

Protect Your Brand

Because online security is a legitimate concern for your customers, making sure all outgoing emails are safeguarded and delivered as intended should be a top priority for your business. At MxToolbox, we specialize in helping you achieve high message delivery rates. By improving your company’s domain reputation, situations such as the aforementioned Marriott fiasco will be of no concern. To discuss your brand’s options and learn about MxToolbox’s DMARC products to solidify domain reputation, please contact our team of experts. We look forward to helping you achieve future email success.

DMARC and Phishing

Businesses, like yours, rely heavily on email for internal and external business communication, so safeguarding your email is necessary to ensure your company’s interests are protected against harmful phishing attacks. Email phishing is when a third-party (usually a hacker or malicious website) uses the brand identity of a company to deceive a recipient into divulging sensitive information. The negative effects of a customer falling victim to a phishing scam are varied but damaging to your brand’s reputation. Thankfully, protocols such as DMARC and SPF are available to help combat email phishing attacks.

Why Using DMARC and SPF on Mail Servers Is Necessary

The original standards for email were written without much attention to security; the Internet of the time was a small community of scientists, not a commercial platform. This oversight meant email was sent in clear text with no encryption and anyone could pretend to send email from any domain with a simple change to the text wrapper of the email.  My coworkers used to enjoy sending emails to random coworkers from santaclaus@northpole.com around Christmas every year.

However, email authentication technology has made great strides in securing mail servers in the fight against hackers and online criminals. Blacklists started off as a means to detect and limit IP addresses and domains that were frequent bad actors.  And now, technologies such as SPF, DKIM and DMARC can recognize and halt the most convincing fraudulent emails in their tracks. SPF plays a key role in email delivery by letting you control who sends messages on your company’s behalf, while DKIM allows you to cryptographically sign an email, and DMARC ties them all together by allowing recipients to provide senders with information about email sent on their behalf.

By the Numbers

Industries as a whole are implementing these authentication tools to offset the increasing number of phishing scams, with 80% of all federal domains currently publishing a DMARC record. This rise in adoption reflects a positive shift in the way entities should treat email threats.  As a federally mandated security measure, it is clear that using DMARC for email security is becoming a necessity for doing business.

On the other hand, in the United States, only Fortune 500 companies and large technology businesses have a DMARC adoption rate of 50% or higher. This gap shows that IT departments lack the necessary skills to handle such a task. But, not all the news is bad – 28% of Fortune 500 companies were utilizing DMARC at the end of 2017,so the jump to nearly double that number is great progress. However, almost 50% of companies have yet to implement DMARC into their email security, an area for improvement.

Next Steps with MxToolbox

If your business domain is not DMARC compliant, MxToolbox recommends you begin to to evaluate and adopt this beneficial email technology to improve delivery rates and stop the onset of malicious phishing attacks. Start with ensuring your SPF setup is correct, a vital piece that DMARC depends upon.  Once you have SPF configured, move to adopting DMARC.  Phishing and other scams are preventable, so why not take the fight to them? After all, your brand reputation relies on keeping your customer communications secure and legitimate. Contact our expert team to discuss your DMARC and SPF options to safeguard your messages.

New Features for MxToolbox

At MxToolbox, we’re continuously striving to provide cutting-edge tools to help our customers improve their company’s email practice. As you can see on our Network Tools page, we offer a wide-range of helpful free tools and paid products that ensure your business email platform is working at its optimal level. And since we’re routinely updating and expanding our collection of tools, we recommend you visit the page often for the latest developments. For the most recent updates and newest tools please check out the NEW! tab. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more popular MxToolbox features.

NetworkTools-21April2019

Email Tab

The email portion of the Network Tools page contains some of our most popular tools such as the MX Lookup and Blacklist Check; and offers several other essential diagnostic tools that can greatly benefit your company’s email setup. For example, the SPF, DKIM, and DMARC tools now support improved message delivery and provide feedback catered to your business domain. Moreover, the two specific DNS record generators features (SPF and DMARC) MxToolbox offers under this tab help create records for the respective protocols.

Network Tab

For this section of Network Tools, the ASN Lookup and Domain Health Report tools are highlighted points. For example, the ASN (Autonomous System Number) Lookup query takes either an AS name or AS number as input and returns the missing component. For immediate feedback regarding your domain, the Domain Health Check will execute hundreds of domain/email/network performance tests to ensure your systems are online and performing optimally. In addition, the report will provide results for your company’s domain and highlight any critical problem areas that need attention.

DNS Tab

The DNS tab provides all the key DNS tools to help make sure your DNS records are published correctly and your DNS is operating at 100% such as DNS Lookup, DNS Check, and Whois. This list of tools also contains some advanced DNS Security diagnostic tools such as nsec, rrsig, and more.

MxToolbox’s Newest Additions and Updates

Among the many email tools MxToolbox offers, there are a few that stand out. Although we love each equally, if forced to name favorites, these come to mind:

  • DMARC Report Analyzer – One of our newest tools, this feature will make DMARC Aggregate XML reports human readable by parsing and sorting them by IP address into understandable reports.
  • DMARC Generator – Another new tool we’re proud of, this generator will help you create a DMARC record specifically for the domain/subdomain that you submit. Simply put, this tool’s a must for your DMARC implementation.
  • Header Analyzer – Found under the Email tab, this tool will make email headers human readable by parsing them. This helpful feature is a popular tool to which we’ve recently added DMARC, SPF, and DKIM testing functionality.
  • Email Deliverability – Also under the Email tab umbrella, this tool has been updated for easy workability. Send a test email to us, and we take over from there to generate a comprehensive deliverability report. To receive crucial data regarding your email status, definitely try this tool.

MxToolbox strives to provide your business the most beneficial information related to your email platform. By offering your company a variety of free tools to gain optimal deliverability, we believe our tools allow your messages to be delivered successfully. This not only protects your business, but also your customers. Whether found under one or more tabs, the features shown on the Network Tools page are vital to your email rates. Be sure to explore the page and try as many as desired. We’re here to help.

Can DMARC stop spam?

Yes, yes it can.  But, how?

DMARC, by itself, does not stop a spammer from sending email.  To be effective at reducing spam, everyone needs to implement DMARC and follow-up by improving the compliance rates of their outbound emails.  As your legitimate email becomes more DMARC compliant, you can begin to tell recipients to ignore email that isn’t compliant.  This spam will bounce and foil the spammers trying to use your brand!

Learn More about how MxToolbox can help you.

Why do blacklisting and DMARC work together?

Your email might have been blacklisted at one time.  You probably found that out when customers or suppliers told you that they weren’t receiving email they were expecting from you.  It’s painful and can shutdown your business.  Staying off blacklists is just one of the ways to guard your email deliverability.  The other is DMARC.  DMARC enables you to proactively obtain feedback about your email so that you know about how your recipients’ email systems perceive your email quality.  From that information, you can determine how to improve your email quality before it becomes a blacklisting issue.

Learn More

Improving DMARC Compliance

DMARC is not a set-and-forget type of technology.  It changes as your company adopts new email senders, and as fraud and phishing threats emerge.  Your legitimate email should be as compliant as possible in order to reach your audience.  Insight from MxToolbox Experts can help you improve DMARC compliance.  Learn More

Prevent Spoofing with DMARC

Have you received an email that looks like it comes from your bank, credit card company or a retailer only to find out that it was fake?  Has anyone used your company’s brand to send a similar spoofed or fraud email?

Spoofing has become commonplace, even for small companies.  In fact, one of our customers found that their spoofed email volume was 3 times the amount of legitimate email.  At that rate, companies have no choice but to reject your email, assuming that all email “from” your domain is spam or fraud.

DMARC can help you prevent your domain from being spoofed,  and MxToolbox can help you understand DMARC.  Learn More