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  • Writer's pictureDavid Hancox

Demystifying DMARC: Understanding Policies and Reports

Introduction

Email remains a critical communication channel for businesses. However, it's also a vulnerable platform susceptible to phishing attacks and domain spoofing. DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) emerges as a powerful tool to combat these threats. This whitepaper explores DMARC, focusing on its policy options and the valuable insights gleaned from reports.


Understanding DMARC

DMARC builds upon existing email authentication protocols, SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail). It establishes a policy for recipient mail servers to handle emails failing SPF or DKIM authentication (emails claiming to originate from your domain but not authorized to do so). Additionally, DMARC facilitates reporting, allowing you to receive valuable insights into email activity for your domain.


DMARC Policy Options

A crucial aspect of DMARC implementation is defining the policy within your DNS record. Here's a breakdown of the primary policy options:

  • Monitor (p=none): In monitor mode, DMARC reports are generated but recipient servers don't reject unauthenticated emails. This allows you to assess email traffic patterns and identify potential issues before enforcing stricter policies.

  • Quarantine (p=quarantine): Emails failing authentication are quarantined by the recipient server, not delivered to the inbox but potentially retrievable. This provides a safety net while you investigate.

  • Reject (p=reject): The strictest policy instructs recipient servers to reject emails failing DMARC authentication. This offers maximum protection but can potentially block legitimate emails if not implemented carefully.

DMARC Reports and Their Significance

DMARC reports provide valuable information about email activity for your domain. There are two main report types:

  • Aggregate Reports: Sent by recipient mail servers, these reports offer a high-level overview of email traffic, including the volume of emails sent, authentication results (SPF/DKIM pass/fail), and the applied policy (quarantine/reject).

  • Forensic Reports: Provide detailed information on individual emails, including sender and recipient addresses, authentication details, and message headers. These reports are crucial for investigating suspicious activity and identifying potential impersonation attempts.

By analyzing DMARC reports, you gain insights into:

  • Email authentication effectiveness: Identify any issues with SPF or DKIM configurations.

  • Spoofing attempts: Detect unauthorized emails claiming to originate from your domain.

  • Legitimate email sources: Understand which senders are authorized to send emails on your behalf.

Conclusion

DMARC empowers organizations to take control of their email domain and combat email fraud. Implementing DMARC with a well-defined policy and leveraging DMARC reports is essential for robust email security. By understanding the policy options and the significance of reports, you can ensure optimal email deliverability and protect your domain from malicious actors.


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