Monthly Archives: November 2017

Improving SPF Compliance

SPF can be a huge benefit to your email delivery.  SPF, in short, lets you state who you trust to send your email.  The more email sent on your behalf that complies with your SPF rules, the more of your email will be accepted by email inbox providers and your intended recipients.

How does SPF work?

SPF is a DNS record type that gives you the option to declare all the IP addresses, domains and 3rd party providers that you use, and also limit the list of valid emailers to only what you list.  By setting these limits, you could shut down potential fraud, spoofing or phishing threats and improve your reputation with customers and vendors.  Spoofing and phishing scams are incredibly common place, even using credentials from legitimate small and medium sized businesses.  Email that is SPF compliant is more likely to get to a customer’s inbox.

How can you improve SPF Compliance?

First, you need to understand what your compliance rate is.   To get your compliance rate, you’ll need to elicit feedback from your recipients.  Fortunately, you can do this by setting up a DMARC record, something that MxToolbox can help you with.  DMARC records include an RUA declaration which defines who gets SPF and DKIM compliance information about your email.

Compliance digests can be cumbersome to read, process and understand, especially if you have more than a very small volume of outbound email.  Getting help processing these files, like with MxToolbox Delivery Center, is a necessity.  However, once decoded, you’ll get information about ALL the IP addresses and Domains that send email on your behalf and how much of that email volume complies with SPF or DKIM.  Now’s the time to consider how to improve compliance:

  1. Take note of IP addresses and domains that are low in compliance
  2. For each IP address and domain, investigate the origin
    • Is the domain an email partner that wasn’t included in your SPF record?  Commonly, CRMs, Email Marketing, Marketing Automation, Order Management and Customer Support/Ticketing Systems send email on your behalf.
    • Does the IP address belong to you, an existing partner or a new email partner?  It is common for partners to add a new IP range from time to time.
    • Does the IP address belong to a forwarder one your partners uses?  Forwarders are more difficult to track down but you may need to investigate or change your contract terms.
    • Can you trace the IP address to a place you don’t do business or a location of frequent scammers?  It is frequent
  3. For valid IP addresses and domains, add them to your SPF (or negotiate with the department that hired them to stop using that service)
  4. For invalid IP addresses, there are options you can take through DMARC to instruct your recipients to reject SPF-non-compliant email.

This is an iterative and continuous process.  New services will be added and IP addresses change all the time.   SPF Compliance requires regular review of your DMARC digests and statistics.  However, all this work will improve your email delivery and your online reputation.

MxToolbox Delivery Center is your solution for managing SPF and DKIM compliance and understanding the complexity of DMARC setup.  MxToolbox experts developed Delivery Center to help customers like you improve email deliverability, manage their online reputation and head off fraud and phishing issues.

Understanding Email Delivery

Email delivery is more than simply having an email service or configuring an email server.  Today, with outsourced email providers, 3rd party emailers, bulk emailers and spoofers, email delivery requires a multi-faceted approach that might seem daunting to many.  MxToolbox, your expert on email delivery, helps companies like yours navigate the complexity.

  1. Managing Blacklist Reputation
  2. Managing 3rd Party Emailers
  3. Taking Ownership of your Email
  4. Requesting Feedback on your Email
  5. Iterative Management of your Feedback

Managing Blacklist Reputation

The first line of defense against bad emailers is the blacklist.  An IP address or Domain on a blacklist typically means that the IP address has sent spam or the Domain on the list has been included in the body of spam email messages.  A receiver will reject email from that IP or any message that includes that Domain.  Because your email may be rejected outright, monitoring the IP addresses of your outgoing mail servers for blacklisting is a necessity.  (Monitoring your domain for blacklisting is somewhat less valuable as domain blacklists only report if a domain is in the body of controversial email, rather than being the sender of the email.)

MxToolbox has email delivery plans that include blacklist monitoring to get you started on the path to managing your email deliverability.

Managing 3rd Party Emailers

As your company grows, you will probably move more of your outbound email to email services from a third party provider in some form or fashion:

  • Bulk Emailers – Marketing will outsource the delivery of newsletters or advertisements, or signups emails.
  • CRMs and Marketing Automation – Sales/Marketing adds a CRM system or Marketing Automation system, either online or locally, that sends important email to customers.
  • Order Entry/Fulfillment – Online businesses especially rely on 3rd parties for order entry or fulfillment which may send email on behalf of the original seller.

Regardless of the application, tool or service, there are multiple IP addresses or Domains that could be legitimately sending email on your behalf.  Declaring this relationship publicly through SPF makes it more likely that your 3rd party email will get through to your customers, partners and vendors.

MxToolbox can help you setup your SPF records and check your existing SPF records for compliance.  Once SPF is setup, you will need to maintain the list of IP addresses or domains of 3rd party emailer and regularly check your record for compliance.

Taking Ownership of your Email

Anyone can say that they are sending email on your behalf, but how do you ensure that recipients trust that the email is from you?  If it were a letter, you’d sign it, right? SPF allows you to designate who can send on your behalf but that’s only one part of it.  DKIM allows you to actually sign an email and take responsibility for the email’s content just like a signature on a letter.  As such, implementing DKIM gives your recipients a level of confidence that you take responsibility for the content of emails coming from your domain, including spam, viruses and malware.

MxToolbox experts can help you with your DKIM setup.  Our team has a deep understanding of the problems businesses face implementing new technologies and experience helping small, medium and large businesses with DKIM.

Requesting Feedback on your Email

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what a recipient organization thought of your email?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know if they classified it as spam or passed it through to their inboxes?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know who (IP addresses and Domains) are using your good name to spoof email?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know if your 3rd party emailers are passing SPF and DKIM checks and being delivered?

DMARC is a standard that uses DNS to set how a sender obtains feedback from recipient organizations on email purportedly sent from the sender’s domain.  Any recipient can bundle up statistics on emails received from your domain and send them back in a digest format.  They can also send forensic data that includes individual troublesome email.  DMARC, in short, gives you insight into your email deliverability across your own servers, 3rd party emails, and potential fraud and phishing schemes.

Setting up a DMARC record and analyzing the feedback is the next step you must take to manage your email deliverability.  MxToolbox experts know DMARC and our newest product, Delivery Center, makes it easy to process the feedback you are receiving via DMARC, get insight into issues with 3rd party senders and make early detection of potential fraud and phishing schemes.

Iterative Management of your Feedback

Once you start receiving DMARC digests and forensic reports, you will begin to see patterns in email sent on your behalf:

  • Legitimate Senders not in your SPF
  • Legitimate Senders/Forwarders without proper DKIM signatures
  • Legitimate Senders that you may not have known about
  • Illegitimate Senders looking to leverage your brand

All of this feedback gives you the opportunity to manage how recipients process your email. By updating the policy on your DMARC record and the level of filtering recommended, you can tell your recipients to quarantine or outright reject email that doesn’t pass SPF and DKIM checks.  This should be an iterative process, one that requires slowly increasing restrictions on how email is processed.  Never go straight to reject, you are likely to have legitimate email rejected.

Why would you want to set more restrictive policies?  Third parties with bad sending reputations can affect your email reputation, potentially even causing your legitimate email to be dumped to the spam folder or rejected entirely.  The more you manage the reputation of your senders, the better your reputation and the more likely your email is to be accepted.

MxToolbox is the expert in email delivery, SPF, DKIM and DMARC.  Our team will help you improve your email delivery, give you insight into your legitimate and illegitimate senders, help you set DMARC to improve your email reputation and help you get your message delivered.  Our Delivery Center product gives you everything you need, including access to our expert support team.