Larkin Ryder, Slack’s Chief Security Officer recently quoted “Email is an open front door to security threats to an organization. $12 billion losses are caused by business email scams and 90% of data breaches are from phishing”. As scary as the above email security statistics sound, we cannot deny the fact that we are highly reliable on emails as the channel of communication, for both personal and official purposes.
Currently, the global email users are 3.9 billion and by 2024, the number is set to grow to up to 4.48 billion users! On the contrary, hackers are bringing forth sophisticated methods to launch cyber attacks which are further resulting in the growth of email security breaches every year. In a recent advisory issued by CERT-In, malicious actors still have 2 million individuals/citizens’ email addresses.
This is why email security is important and is observed as one of the most crucial concerns of this year. It is the high time where organizations must start securing their email domains not only from BEC attacks but also, from email spoofing attempts. Organizations should primarily implement email authentication protocols to safeguard their and customers’ data. Let’s proceed further to learn about the best email security practices.
Email Authentication Protocols: Security Against Unauthorized Emails
Hackers don’t need rocket science to launch email-based attacks. The most common weapon they use for these attacks is email spoofing. Hackers spoof email accounts to send fraud and malicious emails on behalf of victims. Or even ask your contacts to wire money to a fake account by using the spoofed email address.
Therefore, to stop such email-based crimes, it is important to secure outbound emails so that recipients of emails are not duped by spoofed email addresses. There are three main email authentication protocols that every organization must implement for the email security of their domain:
DMARC or Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance is an email authentication protocol that is designed to secure email domains from unauthorized usage.
The purpose of this protocol is to secure a domain from being misused in BEC attacks, phishing emails, email scams, etc. Once the DMARC DNS entry is published, the receiving email server (any) can authenticate inbound emails based on published instructions within the DNS entry by the domain owner.
If the email makes it through, bypassing the authentication, it can be trusted to be delivered. In case the email fails the authentication, then depending upon the instructions and policies set within the DMARC record, it will be either delivered, quarantined or rejected.
SPF or Sender Policy Framework is an email authentication standard that is designed to identify forged email sender addresses during email delivery. In simple terms, it is a protocol with which mail servers decide whether to accept or reject the incoming email.
This decision is made by using the SPF information TXT records as per the authorized IP addresses enlisted within the particular domain. Therefore, depending upon the list, the email sender’s address is verified for whether it is forged or not.
However, SPF alone is not enough since SPF in combination with DMARC can be effectively used to detect email spoofing.
DKIM or Domain Key Identified Mail is a type of email authentication technique that helps organizations to claim responsibility for the email message in a way that it can be validated by the email recipient.
It allows the recipient to check whether the email was indeed sent and authorized by the domain owner by using “public-key cryptography” for verification. This verification key is called the DKIM signature that helps in detecting forged emails and prevents the delivery of spam or phishing emails.
This DKIM signature is secured with encryption and is added to the message as a header. It is usually not visible to the end-user and the validation is done at the server level.
Implementation of a DKIM standard improves email deliverability and when it is implemented together with DMARC and SPF, your domain is fully protected against malicious emails that are sent on your behalf.
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Also, do check out our email security solution, KDMARC.