Category Archives: Knowledgebase

First Verified Mark Certificate Issued

Recently, JPMorgan Chase became the first company to adopt the VMC standard, and companies gained another tool to prevent email fraud. 

What is VMC?

Verified Mark Certificate (VMC) is a method to watermark outbound messages to declare the email comes from an official, legitimate source.  With a certificate like this, senders get better email deliverability because email recipients will see a valid VMC as a certificate of trust emails.

Entrust Datacard, a U.S.-based provider of trusted identity and secure issuance technology solutions, recently issued the first VMC certificate to JP Morgan Chase. Entrust developed the new vendor-neutral VMC solution in collaboration with the AuthIndicators Working Group, a committee of companies responsible for creating the Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) standard.  While the VMC and BIMI standards still in the early stages of definition and adoption, this announcement indicates a big push to get BIMI into inboxes.

What is BIMI?

The BIMI protocol helps to improve email authentication and brand assurance by allowing a sender to publish a logo icon through DNS.  Inbox providers then use this logo to highlight DMARC compliant emails from the sender, thereby providing a reassurance to users that this email is free from phishing and spoofing attacks.  The logos themselves will also make it easier for customers to recognize their preferred companies in inboxes and increase brand awareness by prominently displaying trusted logos. 

How do VMC and BIMI work together?

The goal of VMC is to prove a BIMI image is authentic, not a scammer utilizing a fake image of a trusted source like the sender, Microsoft, Amazon, or JP Morgan, for example.  Validating that a BIMI-displayed logo is legitimate will make phishing and spoofing practices more difficult to accomplish. While BIMI allows companies to display logos in supported inboxes, VMC authenticates the logos are valid and owned by the actual sender of the email.

The recent exciting news that JPMorgan Chase was granted the first VMC is a promising sign that BIMI should be standardized soon. BIMI, which leverages DMARC, continues the technological trend of making it difficult for online fraudsters and phishing attacks to trick unsuspecting victims.

How MxToolbox Helps

To achieve the BIMI standard, Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC), along with SPF and DKIM, must first be implemented. MxToolbox’s team of email delivery experts and tools can help you implement and understand DMARC to help your business attain email deliverability.

First, MxToolbox provides a free DMARC lookup tool to analyze your DMARC record and make recommendations for getting your email DMARC compliant.

In addition, MxToolbox’s BIMI Lookup tool is a free diagnostic tool that will look for a BIMI record for the supplied domain name and run a series of diagnostic checks against the record to ensure compliance with standards and accessibility of the BIMI icon to inbox providers.  As the VMC standard is defined, MxToolbox will extend our tools to checking and validating VMC certificates.

Finally, MxToolbox is here to guide your company through the DMARC process and help optimize your email deliverability.  We offer several solutions to help you get your email DMARC compliant and monitor the on-going DMARC compliance of your email:

  • Delivery Center is our base package that allows you to monitor the SPF, DKIM and DMARC compliance of your email while giving you insight into emerging email threats.
  • Delivery Center Plus gives you all the great reporting of Delivery Center combined with deeper reporting on Phishing and Fraud using your domain.
  • Delivery Center Managed Services gives you access to our Email Experts who manage your DMARC compliance and free you to focus on your business.

Microsoft Office 365 Requires DMARC Compliance

Microsoft is taking more proactive steps to ensure email security by rolling out a new feature for Office 365 called Unverified Sender.  It allows users to keep their Outlook inbox safer and reduce fraudulent mail by flagging email that are not DMARC compliant .  If you send email to Outlook.com users or Office 365 users, this could severely impact your email deliverability!

How Does the Unverified Sender Feature Work?

According to their official Microsoft Roadmap, the Unverified Sender feature is described as follows:

“Unverified sender is a new Office 365 feature that helps end users identify suspicious messages in their inbox. In order to help customers identify suspicious messages in their inbox, we’ve added an indicator that demonstrates Office 365 spoof intelligence was unable to verify the sender.”

The Unverified Sender feature checks if the sender of an email can be verified. If its origin is found and identified as harmful/fraudulent, this feature works by providing Outlook users with a distinct visual indicator. 

When an Unverified Sender is detected, Outlook customers will see a “?” next to a message you sent to their Office 365 inbox, which means it is considered unverified. 

For example:

message-did-not-pass-verification

Once Unverified Sender is enabled by the user, the warning indicator will alert Office 365 customers about the potential risk that the email poses, especially phishing attacks or sender spoofing attempts

What Criteria Is Used?

To be Verified, your email must pass either SPF or DKIM authentication and also achieve DMARC compliance. When Outlook can’t verify if the identity of the sender is DMARC compliant, the “?” indicator is displayed in the sender photo field, as shown in the above visual. With this update from Microsoft, DMARC should now be at the top of your priority list if you haven’t adopted it yet.

How Does the Feature Affect My Business?

If your business sends email to Office 365 and Outlook users (which most businesses do today), it’s critical to avoid being marked as an unverified sender.  Adopting DMARC and getting all your legitimate senders to DMARC compliance is now a business necessity. Without DMARC, you run the risk of having Microsoft’s new Unverified Sender feature label your outbound messages as suspicious threats customers, vendors and partners, impacting your email deliverability and potentially your business.

MxToolbox is here to guide your company through the DMARC process and help optimize your email deliverability.  We offer several solutions to help you get your email DMARC compliant and monitor the on-going DMARC compliance of your email:

  • Delivery Center is our base package that allows you to monitor the SPF, DKIM and DMARC compliance of your email while giving you insight into emerging email threats.
  • Delivery Center Plus gives you all the great reporting of Delivery Center combined with deeper reporting on Phishing and Fraud using your domain.
  • Delivery Center Managed Services gives you access to our Email Experts who manage your DMARC compliance and free you to focus on your business.

 

Using MxToolbox to setup SPF, DKIM and DMARC

A few months ago, our friends over at BEMO cybersecurity paid us a huge compliment  by blogging on two of our favorite topics, MxToolbox and implementing DMARC.  Their blog, MxToolbox: How to Enable SPF, DMARC, and DKIM, is a great guide for setting up SPF, DKIM and DMARC in a single outbound email sender Office 365 configuration.  If you’re getting started with SPF, DKIM and DMARC, this is a great guide to using our free tools and improving your Office 365 configuration for better email delivery.  

Since not all outbound email configurations are the same, our delivery experts had a few thoughts to add…

Do you have Multiple Outbound Senders?

Most companies send corporate email from a centralized set of servers.  Office 365 and Gmail do this for many companies, but you could also have an internal email setup like MS Exchange.  However, many companies also employ one or many 3rd party email senders.  For example:

  • Marketing Automation (Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot, etc.)
  • Email Campaign Tools (MailChimps, Constant Contact, etc.)
  • Customer Relationship Managers (Salesforce, Zoho, Microsoft Dynamics, etc.)
  • Support Ticketing Systems (LiveAgent, ZenDesk, etc.)
  • Order Management and Fulfillment

You will want these services to send email “from” your domain, so they need to be included in your SPF, DKIM and DMARC configurations.  This will mean additional IP address ranges in your SPF record, additional DKIM keys setup and monitoring DMARC compliance for all your outbound email senders.

Do you send email from Multiple Domains?

Whether your company has acquisitions or other brands you wish to send email from, you may operate and email from multiple domains.  For this type of configuration, you’ll need to configure SPF, DKIM and DMARC for each domain you send from.  Similarly, MxToolbox Experts are finding that it has become more common to send email from a dedicated subdomain, like email.yourdomain.com.  This also requires careful thought and may need additional SPF, DKIM and DMARC configuration.

Everyone should be looking at DMARC Reports

When you configure DMARC records there are two important tags that you can use to elicit feedback on your sent email from inbox providers – RUA and RUF.

mxtoolbox-dmarc-record

RUA – List the email addresses you would like to receive SPF, DKIM and DMARC compliance information from inbox providers.

RUF – List the email addressed you would like to receive Forensic data on failed email from your domain.

These RUA and RUF reports are sent in XML format by each individual inbox provider.  The information sent is highly valuable to protecting and improving your email deliverability.  However, to gain insight from them, you need some way to aggregate these reports across all these inbox providers.

Go slowly on your road to Quarantine or Reject Policies

If you have a single sender setup, then you can go straight to Quarantine or Reject policies on DMARC without concern for a portion of your email being unfairly rejected.  Most companies, though, have multiple outbound email senders.  Before you commit to Quarantine or Reject, you need to ensure that all of your legitimate outbound email senders are sending SPF, DKIM and DMARC compliant email.  If not, email from these sources may miss the inbox.  It takes some time and effort to:

  1. Examine DMARC reports
  2. Uncover non-compliant senders
  3. Update each non-compliant configuration
  4. Evaluate the changes you made

Once you are confident that your legitimate email is getting through, the DMARC record enables you to set a percentage of your email to the Quarantine policy.  Starting with a small fraction, like 10%, gives you the opportunity to detect any email that might go missing from customers’ inboxes.  MxToolbox recommends a slow, iterative approach through Quarantine to Reject policies.  Once you are at 100% Reject, MxToolbox recommends continual evaluation of your senders DMARC compliance.

Leverage MxToolbox SPF and DMARC record generators

As part of our suite of free tools, MxToolbox provides an SPF Record Generator and DMARC Record Generator tool.  Use these to help you get the syntax of your DNS records correct, then use our check tools to that your DNS entries are properly detectable by the outside world.

BIMI Lookup Tool

MxToolbox is excited to announce the unveiling of another free tool for your use: the new BIMI Lookup tool. This innovative tool enables you to test your Brand Indicator for Message Identification (BIMI) records, ensuring that your BIMI record is correct and adheres to the current standards.  A missing or incorrectly formatted BIMI record means your customers may not see your domain’s logo in their inboxes. 

What’s BIMI and Why’s It Such a Big Deal?

BIMI is an industry-wide standards effort to display brand logos next to the brand’s email messages in their customer’s inboxes as indicators of trust to help message recipients recognize and avoid fraudulent emails delivered to their inboxes. This new standard, which is currently in beta testing, is important to email senders and their customers alike. Businesses get a prime opportunity to add trust to the emails they send and increase the visibility and ROI of their email programs, while recipients also benefit from senders deploying DMARC and other BIMI authentication standards to reduce the success of phishing attacks.

BIMI builds off of DMARC, with some outlets calling it DMARC 2.0, and will only display if you have deployed DMARC. Several Oath brands (Yahoo!, AOL, etc.) are currently beta testing the BIMI standard with their mailbox users. Gmail will also be rolling out their own beta test of the BIMI protocol in 2020. With Gmail’s current 1.2 billion worldwide users able to see a company’s logo displayed within a year’s time, adopting the BIMI standard will be highly beneficial to your business email practices. As DMARC and BIMI work in tandem to improve message delivery, it becomes imperative your brand utilizes these pioneering email technologies and standards.

How MxToolbox’s BIMI Lookup Tool Works

The new BIMI Lookup tool allows you to check for any errors included in your BIMI record published content, syntax check content, DMARC record format, or image format content. By entering your company’s domain name and clicking the “BIMI Lookup” button, this diagnostic tool will parse the BIMI record for the supplied domain, display its BIMI record, and run a series of diagnostic checks against that specific record. The provided results will help you recognize any current issues in your BIMI record’s setup that may prevent your logo from being displayed in Yahoo!, AOL, and Gmail (early 2020) inboxes.

To learn more about BIMI and how it’ll benefit your business, please click here.

Ultimate Combo

MxToolbox’s free BIMI Lookup tool is a great way to ensure your BIMI record is setup correctly and displays your logo as intended. BIMI provides your business an opportunity to grow your brand and protect your customers. Implementing this standard and monitoring it with our new tool are positive steps in improving your business email delivery. Don’t let your messages be sent to the Junk folder anymore.

How to Create a BIMI Record

Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) is a standardized way for companies to use their logo as a visible indicator to help email recipients recognize and avoid fraudulent messages. BIMI builds on the DMARC email authentication protocol to develop trust with current and potential customers. For a closer look at the new BIMI standard, please click here.

Creating a BIMI Record

The following steps outline how to create a BIMI record for your domain:

1. Create Image in SVG Format

First, you’ll need to obtain a copy of your logo and convert it to SVG format. For those steps, please click here.

2. Visit DNS Hosting Provider and Select Create Record

Now that you’re ready to create a BIMI record for your domain, visit your DNS hosting provider. After logging in, locate the prompt to create a new record.

3. Add Host Value

In this field, you’ll likely input the value _bimi and the hosting provider will append the domain/subdomain following that provided value. (ex: default._bimi.example.com)

4. Select TXT DNS Record Type

Based on provider, you’ll likely see a dropdown list of DNS record types. Because a BIMI record is a kind of TXT DNS record, be sure to select the “TXT” option.

5. Add “Value” Information

There are two required tag-value pairs that MUST be present on every BIMI record: v and l.

  • The only tag-value pair for v (version) is v=BIMI1
  • Confirm l (location) tag is present and followed by a full URL of your logo using HTTPS (l is lowercase L)

6. Publish BIMI Record

Click “Save Record Set” button to generate your new BIMI record.

7. Test BIMI Record for Errors

The last step you will want to perform is to Run a BIMI Record Check to verify the record you just created has the correct values and syntax. This tool will also render how your logo will appear in email clients.

Note: Creating your BIMI record and publishing it to the DNS per the above steps doesn’t automatically display your logo in all customer inboxes. Currently, several Oath brands (Yahoo!, AOL, etc.) are testing the BIMI standard in beta with their mailbox users, and the inbox providers that participated in developing the protocol and are likely to add BIMI support soon. Gmail will also be rolling out their own beta test of the BIMI standard in 2020. By having your BIMI record and associated logo published in the DNS, your brand will easily be recognized and trusted by current and future customers. For details on all BIMI technical specifications, please click here.

Summation

Creating a BIMI record for your company’s logo to be visible in customers’ inboxes is a simple way to enhance your brand. Not only are current and prospective clients confident that your emails are legitimate, they also gain a level of trust by seeing your approved logo in their inbox. Each time a customer receives a message from your domain using the BIMI standard, at least three potential unique brand impressions are made—message list, email address in message, and within message itself. The quicker your business decides to adopt BIMI (when available via your outbound email provider), the more recognized your brand will be.

MxToolbox is here to Help!

MxToolbox Delivery Center is the most effective email deliverability solution for your business. With MxToolbox you get our decades of experience helping businesses just like yours manage your online reputation and improve your email delivery.

MxToolbox Delivery Center Features:

  • Insight into your SPF, DKIM and DMARC (and BIMI!) configuration to ensure your sending email properly
  • DMARC Compliance checks for all of your reported email
  • Adaptive Blacklist Monitoring of all your email senders
  • Recommendations for improving DMARC compliance and DMARC policies
  • Event-based reminders for emergent issues and on-going maintenance

DMARC is a necessity for your business!  Improve your Email Delivery!

Google Joins BIMI Working Group

If you haven’t heard the exciting news, as announced in late July, Google is joining the AuthIndicators Working Group, agreeing to pilot the Brand Indicators Message Identification (BIMI) standard. Google will beta the concept in Gmail soon, so now is the time to start getting prepared by adopting DMARC and soon BIMI.

What Does this mean to me?

Google’s decision to join the BIMI working group is a strong indicator that the BIMI standard will successfully make it out of draft stage and will likely be adopted as DMARC 2.0. For those new to BIMI, BIMI is a new authentication standard that will allow domain owners to display their company logos inside of email platforms like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and potentially Outlook.com/Office 365 inboxes.

The intention of BIMI is to add an additional trust layer to the validity of email senders to help thwart email phishing attacks, as domains who are DMARC and BIMI authenticated will have their logos displayed front and center in those inboxes. Beyond the boost to the fight against email phishing, domain owners should be excited by BIMI, as this will allow them to get their logos directly in email inboxes; a long sought after real estate for marketers.

What Is BIMI?

BIMI is an industry-wide standards effort to use brand logos as indicators to help email recipients recognize and avoid fraudulent messages. Essentially, it allows email inboxes like Google’s Gmail to securely display approved logos beside DMARC authenticated messages, signaling to users that the received emails are legitimate and safe to open.

The BIMI standard also allows domain owners control over which logos email recipients see. For example, an insurance company could use BIMI to display its logo next to authenticated messages sent from its domain or an alternative logo at its choosing. This gives the insurance company complete control over which images are displayed, providing brand exposure, as well as protection against spoofing.

Using BIMI requires DMARC authentication is to be implemented on the respective domain. In fact, the BIMI standard is considered an extension of the DMARC protocol, i.e. DMARC 2.0 to some. At the current time, BIMI is still in draft stage and is being beta tested in Verizon Media (Yahoo! Mail, AOL, etc.) and will be in beta in Gmail in the near future.  However, MxToolbox is here to help you get ahead with our own BIMI Lookup tool.  

For further reading about BIMI please click here

What Is the BIMI Working Group?

The AuthIndicators Working Group is responsible for developing the BIMI standards. Currently, the Working Group’s public members include Agari, Comcast, LinkedIn, Return Path, Valimail, Verizon Media, and now Google. With a shared goal of reducing email fraud, the Working Group committee of companies is aiming to help create a safer inbox experience for all email users. 

The Future of Email Delivery

With the DMARC protocol slowly becoming such a vital aspect of email delivery over the years, BIMI in combination with DMARC will only improve on the DMARC standard. Improving protection in the fight against email phishing and opening up a new and exciting avenue for brand advertising/awareness for domain owners, brands, and marketers may finally be boost needed to spark rapid DMARC adoption. With BIMI still in beta, this is a great opportunity to adopt DMARC if you haven’t yet or have been too afraid to. 

Learn more about BIMI here

Get started with DMARC here

MxToolbox BIMI Lookup

 

SPF Tool and IPv6 Updates

SPF Tool and IPv6 Updates

To continue our support of Email Delivery and Deliverability, MxToolbox is adding IPv6 support (Internet Protocol Version 6) to our SPF Tool, with more tools to come online later. When a user runs an SPF lookup, this update changes the lookup behavior for MX and A records that are specified within an SPF record (as tags).  Now,  SPF lookups will also check for AAAA DNS records and their resulting IPv6 addresses. Previously, the SPF tool only looked for IPv4 addresses when MX and A tags were present in an SPF record.  

Background

IPv6 is the most recent version of the Internet Protocol—the communications protocol that provides an identification and location system for computers on networks and routes traffic across the Web. It was ratified as an Internet Standard in 2017 and allows for larger addressing space. Every computer, smartphone, and any other device connected to the Internet needs a numerical IP address in order to communicate with other devices. Compared to its predecessor, IPv6 can handle packets more efficiently, improve performance, and increase security.

While, IPv6 has been around for decades, IPv6 addresses are now being actively used in email delivery.  MxToolbox is here to help with the transition to IPv6.  MxToolbox’s research of the current outbound email space shows that adoption has largely been among the free webmail providers such as Gmail and Outlook.com.  Additionally, 25% of the Alexa Top 1000 websites are currently reachable over IPv6 networks.

1 https://www.worldipv6launch.org/measurements/