DMARC Email Security Update Explained

In October 2023, Google and Yahoo announced new email sender requirements for inbound mail to their domains, to be implemented in early 2024. These requirements target bulk email senders, for now. And now that we’re a couple months into 2024 – it’s time to get ready for these updates!

Email security and compliance with new DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) requirements are crucial for businesses to ensure the safety and reliability of their email communications. DMARC is an email authentication protocol that helps protect against email spoofing and phishing attacks by verifying the legitimacy of sender domains.

Email security and DMARC compliance are important for the following reasons:

  • Protection against spoofing and phishing: DMARC helps prevent email spoofing – which occurs when unauthorized individuals send emails that look like they’re coming from your domain. This reduces the risk of scammers trying to trick recipients into providing personal information or clicking on malicious links, a practice known as phishing.
  • Improved email deliverability: Implementing DMARC improves the deliverability of legitimate emails. Major email providers like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo give preference to emails that pass DMARC authentication, ensuring that your emails reach their intended recipients.

Understanding DMARC and its Importance

DMARC allows email domain owners to publish a policy in the Domain Name System (DNS) that specifies how receivers should handle emails that fail authentication checks. This DMARC policy instructs recipients to either reject, quarantine, or deliver the email.

By implementing DMARC policies to reject or quarantine unauthorized emails, you can protect your domain and prevent impersonation of your brand. DMARC also helps defend recipients against phishing attacks; this also works to maintain your brand's reputation. DMARC provides an extra level of protection against attacks.

What is DMARC?

Initially formed as a voluntary group in 2010 and formalized under the Trusted Domain Project in 2015, DMARC.org aims to reduce fraudulent email through widespread adoption of DMARC and related technologies.

Key Changes in the 2024 DMARC Requirements

Here are some specific updates to DMARC requirements set by major ESPs for 2024:

  • Google will start enforcing a stricter DMARC policy for all Gmail users. This means that emails that fail DMARC authentication will be more likely to be marked as spam or rejected outright.
  • Microsoft will also be implementing a stricter DMARC policy for all Outlook users, requiring all organizations that send email to Microsoft domains to implement DMARC.
  • Yahoo will be following suit and implementing a stricter DMARC policy for all Yahoo Mail users.

Step-By-Step Guide to the DMARC 2024 Update

To comply with these new DMARC requirements and ensure alignment with SPF and DKIM settings, businesses and email marketers should take the following steps:

  • Implement DMARC: If you haven't already, you should implement DMARC for your email domain. This involves adding a DMARC record to your DNS settings.
  • Monitor your DMARC reports: DMARC reports provide valuable information about the performance of your DMARC policy. You should monitor these reports regularly to identify any issues and adjust as needed.
  • Educate your employees: It's important to educate your employees about DMARC and the importance of email security to ensure that they are not inadvertently sending emails that could be spoofed or used for malicious purposes.

Setting Up SPF and DKIM for Your Domain

Implementing SPF and DKIM for DMARC Compliance involves the following:

  • Set up SPF: Create an SPF record for your domain in your DNS settings, specify the authorized servers that are allowed to send emails on behalf of your domain, and publish the SPF record.
  • Set up DKIM: Generate a public/private key pair for DKIM, publish the public key in your DNS settings as a TXT record, and configure your email server to sign outgoing emails with the private key.

Once SPF and DKIM have been implemented, you can set up DMARC to monitor and enforce email authentication policies. DMARC allows you to specify what should happen to emails that fail SPF and/or DKIM checks, such as rejecting them or quarantining them. These protocols play a major role in the overall effectiveness of DMARC.

Defining Your DMARC Policy

Creating or updating a DMARC policy involves the following steps:

  • Generate a DMARC record: You can use a DMARC record generator tool to create a DMARC record for your domain.
  • Publish the DMARC record: Once you have generated the DMARC record, you need to publish it in your DNS records.
  • Monitor the DMARC reports: DMARC generates reports that provide information about the authentication status of emails sent from your domain; regularly monitor these reports to ensure that your DMARC policy is working effectively.

By following these steps, you can create or update a DMARC policy to protect your email domain from spoofing and phishing attacks.

There are three main DMARC policy settings:

  • None: This setting means that no action will be taken on emails that fail DMARC authentication checks. This is the least secure setting because it allows spoofed emails to be delivered to recipients' inboxes.
  • Quarantine: This setting means that emails that fail DMARC authentication checks will be quarantined instead of being delivered to recipients' inboxes. This is a more secure setting than "none," as it prevents spoofed emails from being delivered to recipients, but it can also result in legitimate emails being quarantined.
  • Reject: This setting means that emails that fail DMARC authentication checks will be rejected outright and not delivered to recipients. This is the most secure setting because it prevents all spoofed emails from being delivered, but it can also result in legitimate emails being rejected.

The right DMARC policy setting for your business depends on your specific needs and risk tolerance. If you are concerned about the security of your email communications, you should choose a more secure setting like "quarantine" or "reject." However, if you are concerned about the potential for legitimate emails being quarantined or rejected, you may want to choose “none” – a less secure setting.

Best Practices for Email Security Beyond DMARC

Beyond DMARC, there are several additional security measures and best practices you can implement to safeguard your email marketing efforts, including:

  • Reviewing and updating your Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and DMARC records to ensure they are accurate and up to date. Monitor your email sending patterns and analyze any suspicious activities or deviations from the norm.
  • Conducting regular security awareness training for your staff to educate them about email security risks and best practices. Highlight the importance of using strong passwords, being cautious when opening attachments or clicking on links in emails and reporting any suspicious emails.
  • Choosing a reputable ESP that offers robust security features such as spam filtering, virus scanning, and encryption. Ensure that your ESP complies with industry standards and best practices for email security.
  • Regularly monitoring your email reputation using tools or services that provide insights into your sender score and deliverability rates; take steps to improve your reputation if it is low, such as removing invalid email addresses from your list and avoiding sending spam.
  • Enabling 2FA (two factor authentication) for your email accounts to add an extra layer of security beyond just a password. This requires users to provide a second form of identification, such as a code sent to their mobile phone, when logging in.

By implementing these additional security measures and best practices, you can strengthen your email marketing efforts and protect your organization from potential threats and vulnerabilities.

Monitoring and Analyzing DMARC Reports

To set up DMARC reporting, you need to add a DMARC record to your DNS records. This record specifies the email address where you want to receive DMARC reports and the policy that you want to apply to unauthenticated emails.

Once you have set up DMARC reporting, you can start to receive DMARC reports that provide information about the emails that were sent from your domain, whether they were authenticated, and what happened to them. You can use DMARC reports to gain insights into your email performance and security. For example, you can use DMARC reports to identify email spoofing attempts, track the effectiveness of your email authentication policies, and improve your email deliverability.

Troubleshooting Common DMARC Implementation Challenges

DMARC updates may present some common challenges, including:

  • Incorrect DNS records: The most common issue is incorrect DNS records. This occurs when the DKIM or SPF records are not properly configured or when the DMARC record is not published.
  • SPF alignment problems: SPF alignment occurs when the SPF record includes all of the IP addresses that are authorized to send email for a domain. If the SPF record is not aligned, emails may be rejected by receiving servers.
  • DKIM key issues: DKIM keys are used to sign emails and verify that they have not been tampered with. If the DKIM keys are not properly configured or if the public key is not published, emails may be rejected by receiving servers.
  • Reporting problems: DMARC reports provide valuable information about the authentication status of emails. However, businesses may encounter issues with receiving or interpreting these reports.

To troubleshoot these issues, businesses should:

  • Check their DNS records: Make sure that the DKIM and SPF records are properly configured and that the DMARC record is published.
  • Ensure SPF alignment: Verify that the SPF record includes all the IP addresses that are authorized to send email for a domain.
  • Check DKIM key configuration: Make sure that the DKIM keys are properly configured and that the public key is published.
  • Troubleshoot reporting issues: If businesses are not receiving or interpreting DMARC reports, they should contact their email service provider for help.

The Importance of Staying Ahead in Email Security

DMARC is important for email security because it helps to protect businesses and their customers from a variety of email-related threats.  

The 2024 updates to DMARC will make it even more effective at protecting businesses and their customers from email-related threats. In addition, these updates will include new features that will make it easier for businesses to implement DMARC and to track the effectiveness of their DMARC policies.

Americaneagle.com's specialized email marketing services develop impactful emails and utilize advanced analytics for targeted campaigns. Our comprehensive services are designed to enhance your brand, engagement, and results across various online platforms. For further expert help on DMARC and what it means to your business, feel free to contact us!


About Author

Shawn Griffin
Shawn has been with Americaneagle.com since 1999 in a variety of roles. Currently, Shawn is part of our digital marketing and content team. In addition to editing and producing written company pieces, he produces copy for clients and he also helps to produce our radio and TV spots. He wants to make sure everybody knows that it’s truly a collaborative effort – between many, including the people he’s worked for during the past 20+ years!


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