Monthly Archives: January 2018

DMARC Record Missing Alerts

Have you heard of DMARC?  It is the newest way to protect your email delivery and online reputation from delivery failures, misconfigurations and fraud and phishing attempts.  If you aren’t using DMARC, you are at risk from email delivery failures.  Learn more about DMARC, DMARC Compliance and Email Delivery.

Since DMARC is such a pivotal technology, we have decided that our customers need to be alerted when it is not configured.   Therefore all MX record lookups will show a critical warning when a DMARC record is not found (see below).  Paid users with MX monitors will receive critical alerts that a DMARC record is missing or misconfigured for their domain.

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MxToolbox experts feel that DMARC is critical to your business success.  Our team is ready to help you with your DMARC configuration and transition to a focus on proactive email delivery management.  Our most recent products MxToolbox Delivery Center and MxToolbox Fraud Center leverage DMARC to improve your email delivery and protect your brand from email fraud.

What is Email Phishing?

There has been a lot of discussion about Email Fraud and Phishing lately.  Email is still the largest threat vector for hacking and information theft.  Email phishing is one of the best way to obtain access to accounts, but what is email phishing really?

Phishing is when a 3rd party, typically a hacker or malicious website, uses the brand identity of a company to lull a user into exposing private information.  Phishing emails target email address with an email that looks just like a legitimate service provider to implant malware in a download or obtain login credentials for that domain.  For example, you might receive an email that looks like it comes from a financial institution like Paypal (see mine below) asking you to download a document or go to a link to stop or start a transaction, or change your password.

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Example Phishing Email

Identifying Phishing Emails

Phishing groups and hackers are constantly changing their patterns to improve both their targeting and the effectiveness of their emails in order to exploit users, but there are a few characteristics in common for every phishing email.

Phishing emails leverage a strong brand

In my example, the “From” email address used Paypal’s, but I have seen it with many big brands, especially in credit cards, financial, banking and insurance industries.  Ask yourself:  Do you really have an account? Is this the email address for that account? Have you done anything with the account lately?

There is a sense of urgency

The email will require you to “act soon” or it will cost you money.  This sense of urgency makes you react before you think.  Take a breath before acting on any email that looks really important.  

Quality Varies

Some phishing emails, like the one above, look good on the surface.  For example, the logos look correct, the fonts and color scheme are appropriate and some of the language is even straight from legitimate emails.  However, when you read deeper you can see spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or other areas where it is clear the writer was not a native English speaker.  Notice above that “DeLL” is not written correctly nor is the phrase “This not you?” proper English.  Take a moment to read the information presented in the email and check grammar and spelling.

“From” domain and Return Path Domain will not match

It is relatively easy to spoof a “From” address.  Email Standards allow 3rd party emailers to send email on behalf of another domain, otherwise inbox providers like Google and Outlook.com or bulk email providers could not send email for the business or personal domains they host.  If “From” and Return Path do not match and the Return Path looks random or shady, it’s a good chance you have a phishing email.  Further, most companies will not use a 3rd party to send important account information emails like the one above, but their own internal servers.  Check the Return Path email address in the header to see if it looks legitimate.

There is an attachment

If you are required to download anything that you did not ask the company for, then it is probably a phishing email and may contain malware.  Even PDFs or DOCs can contain malware payloads.  At minimum, they are trying to lull you into thinking that their fake document is valid so that they can get personal, private or financial data from you.  Do not download attachments you did not ask for.

Links on the page go to a different domain

Often a phishing email will include a link to a 3rd or 4th domain or just to an IP address.  The goal here is to get you to click unsuspectedly on any link so they can further the con and grab your information when you attempt to login to their fake website.  Sometimes the domains even look like subdomains or related domains.  Always check links before clicking on them.  If in doubt of any link, open a clean window and navigate to the company’s website and login to your account from there to check on the issue.  

About MxToolbox

MxToolbox is the expert in email delivery, including the prevention of fraud and phishing.  Our focus is to help companies reduce the threat to their brand so that their customers, users and employees can trust that emails “From” their domain are legitimate.  Our Fraud Center product leverages international standards DMARC, DKIM and SPF combined with cutting edge algorithms to help small-enterprise companies halt phishing emails from their domain.  Learn More

Improving DMARC Compliance

In recent months, DMARC has become increasingly mentioned in the news as a way to reduce spam, improve email deliverability and reduce the potential for fraud and phishing.

  • In early 2017, UK National Health Service required DMARC as the default for email services.
  • In July, a US Senator Ron Wyden sent an open letter to the US Department of Homeland Security requesting the agency take steps to protect all Federal agencies with DMARC.
  • In August, the UK’s HMRevenues & Customs announced that it had stopped over 300k phishing emails using DMARC.
  • In October, the US Department of Homeland Security directed Federal agencies to adopt security technologies like DMARC.

With all this attention, businesses are starting to realize that adopting DMARC helps them in two ways:

  • Inbound – using DMARC to screen incoming emails for compliance can limit your company’s exposure to fraud and phishing emails, scams and malware.
  • Outbound – sending email that is DMARC compliant can improve email delivery to your customers and limit the potential negative impacts of 3rd parties that try to use your domain for fraud or phishing.

MxToolbox highly recommends that every company implement DMARC for both inbound email screening and outbound email delivery.  Inbound email screening is dependent on your particular email service.

How does DMARC work for outbound email?

DMARC works in conjunction with two other technologies: SPF and DKIM.  SPF allows you to designate 3rd parties as legitimate senders for your domain.  More on SPF here. DKIM allows you to take responsibility for your email by cryptographically signing your email.  SPF, DKIM and DMARC use DNS records to specify the IP addresses, domains and security keys for your particular configuration.

DMARC requires both SPF and DKIM to function properly.  Once you setup SPF and DKIM you can setup DMARC to get information on how your outbound emails are performing – whether or not emails coming “from” your domain are compliant with the definitions in your SPF and how many of your emails are compliant with DKIM.

With a DMARC record, you specify an email address for aggregate feedback about your SPF and DKIM compliance, an email address for specific forensic feedback related to failed emails and how email that fails compliance should be handled by the recipient – ignored, quarantined or rejected.

How do you improve your DMARC Compliance?

DMARC Compliance is based upon SPF and DKIM compliance rates.  In order to improve your outbound DMARC compliance and therefore your email delivery rates, you must:

Setup DMARC with both RUA and RUF

RUA and RUF designate email addresses where you can receive summaries of authentication and alignment pass/fail and detailed forensic information on failed emails.  As this is the only way to receive feedback, setting up these email addresses is extremely important.

Monitoring your DMARC Feedback

Inbox providers will respond to these RUA and RUF tags by sending summaries.  Unfortunately, the summary digests and forensic details are not quite human readable.  If your outbound email volume is over a few hundred emails a day, you need to consider some way to decode these digests.

MxToolbox provides a service, Delivery Center, that decodes these digests, summarizesthem and gives you granular reports on how your emails are performing.

dc_dashboardWith tools like Delivery Center, you can review the IP addresses and Domains sending on your behalf to determine how your legitimate senders are performing and who is using your brand/domain name to commit fraud and phishing.  It is important to investigate domains and IPs that fail SPF, DKIM and DMARC regularly so that determine if they are legitimate and need to have their configuration updated or illegitimate and need to be blocked. As your investigations progress and you improve your configurations, you will have more confidence when you decide to tell recipients to block failed email.

 

Act on DMARC Forensic Responses

DMARC forensic reports provide you with detailed information about the emails that have failed SPF, DKIM and DMARC checks.  You can use this information to investigate threats to your brand or problems with your 3rd party emailers.

Tools like MxToolbox Delivery Center give you immediate access to DMARC forensic reports that enable your detailed investigations.

Summary

The best way to improve email delivery is to adopt new technologies SPF, DKIM and DMARC and leverage a tool like MxToolbox Delivery Center that gives you insight into how your email is performing.  With the right tool, you can keep tabs on your email configuration, understand the threat to your brand, and improve email delivery.