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Email Spoofing & The Role of DMARC Checks In Email Security

Posted on by Dawna M. Roberts in SecurityDecember 10, 2020

By now, you are probably well aware of email spoofing, and you probably get fake emails daily. However, when hackers spoof your own domain, it can damage your reputation and affect your credibility with customers. How do you prevent hackers from using your domain in email spoofing? DMARC is one answer.

email spoofing and dmarc

What is Email Spoofing?

Email spoofing is when cybercriminals send out malicious emails to thousands of recipients borrowing an email address from your domain. The "from" field may even show your name or company domain, but if you look deeper into the header of the email, you will see it actually came from a completely different address. 

Spoofing is a pretty common tactic used by criminals these days. Sometimes they use fake caller ID to make it appear that their calls are coming from a legitimate source, hoping you will pick up the phone.

They do this with email, too, hoping the recipient won't bother to investigate further but just trust that the email came from the spoofed address. This technique adds credibility to their scams, and many people fall for email spoofing. The goal of these scammers is simply to trick you into believing that the email is real, so you will either click a link and infect your device with malware or provide the crook with personal information they can use for identity theft or fraud.

The reason email spoofing works is that companies often use the SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), which lacks email authentication and a level of security that would prevent this from happening. The solution is DMARC.

The Dangers of Email Spoofing

If a clever hacker group gets ahold of your domain and uses it to propagate malicious emails, it could result in financial ruin. Although some lesser results might include a hacked network, damage to your reputation, and exposure of employees' or customers' information, there is the potential for real damage. 

The Hacker News reported that a New York trading firm lost $6.9 million in a BEC (business email compromise) scam in May of this year.

They also mentioned that in October of this year, the U.S. Census Bureau sent out warnings that hackers were using their domains in phishing campaigns aimed at stealing valuable personally identifiable information for identity theft. 

Email spoofing and the potential danger cannot be taken too seriously. 

What is DMARC?

DMARC stands for Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance. DMARC is a special type of email authentication protocol that uses SPF and DKIM technologies to send and deliver authentic emails. 

Regular email (SMTP and POP) does not use any validation techniques to ensure that the email actually came from the sender it claims to be. With DMARC, however, each email is processed using SPF and DKIM through the receiver's Mail Transfer Agent (MTA). So before any email ends up in your inbox, it goes through these gates to ensure validity. 

Not only does DMARC authenticate your emails, preventing hackers from spoofing your domain to send out malicious attacks, but it also delivers legitimate email more promptly to your vendors and customers. 

How You Can Use DMARC to Protect Your Business Domain

The Hacker News recommends using a tool like PowerDEMARC to implement the changes necessary to secure your domain against unauthorized abuse.

Some of the features they expand upon in their article include:

  • Forensic encryption allowing you to review detailed reports, and using AI, you can investigate the source of attacks.
  • PowerSPF to prevent DoS attacks.
  • MSSP Program to manage multiple installations among various clients. 
  • Built-in analyzer tool to monitor and assess threats and mitigate them automatically.
  • Quarantine so you can review emails that end up there and release them if they pass human inspection. 

These, along with automated email authentication, make this particular tool a must-have to protect your company against email spoofing and abuse. 

Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Spoofing

Some other tips to avoid becoming a victim of spoofing as a company and an individual include:

  • Never trust that an email came from the listed sender. Confirm with the sender before taking any action.
  • Watch out for phishing emails that urge you to click a link, log in, or verify credentials.
  • Educate your entire staff on cybersecurity best practices, especially for emails.
  • Always review the headers of an email to verify the real sender.
  • Never click a link in an email or download any attachments.
  • Only install software and apps from trusted sources.
  • Keep all your systems updated with the latest security patches.
  • Install and run deep scans using strong antivirus/anti-malware software.

Use common sense when something sounds too good to be true; it probably is. Find out more before accessing financial accounts, providing personal details, or visiting a web address. 

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