In today's digital world, your email is like Grand Central Station: a central hub where messages constantly arrive and depart, open to all.
This universal accessibility distinguishes email as a vital business tool. However, there are downsides to anyone being able to drop into our inbox, as this openness allows malicious emails access as well. Although the basic protocols of email are fixed, ensuring open access, you can enhance your email security. Taking some reasonable measures to protect your inbox will improve how you interact with this essential and public business communication channel.
Navigating the Email Deluge
Consider the staggering flow of emails: 9.8 billion per day in the United States alone. The average office worker navigates a daily torrent of 121 emails, making quick-fire judgments that could sometimes lead to error. Amidst this flood, even the sharpest eyes may falter, underscoring why email has become the favored entry point for hackers.
We are seeing an increase in cyberattacks that simply start out by tricking someone to give up their username and password, and then the attacker uses those credentials to perform actions like deleting or sending files, or conducting a banking transaction, that does not require software viruses, malware, or some special software. When a hacker leverages existing software tools on the computer or interface, they have gained access to it and this is known as living off the land.
According to Huntress, a third of recent cyberattacks were code-free. These living off the land strategies breach defenses through legitimate channels, often starting with a single compromised email account, and slipping past traditional security measures designed to detect malicious code.
The stakes are high. Your business and employees interact with a global audience through email – a digital train station that is as open to the world. This openness is both an asset and a liability; while it allows for seamless communication, it also invites unwarranted intrusion.
Fortifying Your Email
Just as Grand Central Station requires a detailed schedule, clear signage, and vigilant staff to ensure that each train arrives and departs without incident, a small business must implement key security measures to safeguard its email traffic. Implementing Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, & Conformance (DMARC) establishes a master control center for your emails. Each of these settings acts as a one-time configuration that significantly enhances your email security stance.
- SPF allows email systems to check on the senders of incoming messages, ensuring they are coming from IP addresses approved by the domain’s administrators. Similar to the station's staff checking a passenger's ticket and ensuring trains depart from the correct platforms.
- DKIM adds an extra layer of security, by providing a digital signature that verifies the message has not been tampered with in transit. Much like the station's surveillance system that monitors the station for safety.
- DMARC combines the efforts of both SPF and DKIM systems to provide a way for email receivers to handle unauthenticated messages according to the domain owner's wishes. Akin to the stationmaster overseeing operations and managing situations when things go wrong.
Despite their importance, very few businesses have taken these steps. A mere 14% have DMARC properly configured. This leaves a significant gap in the global fight against spam and phishing attacks. Recently, major email service providers like Yahoo and Google announced they are taking measures to start requiring that some businesses must have DMARC configured to have bulk email delivered to the intended recipients. This is a step in the right direction, and we expect others to follow their lead and for more to require DMARC, SPF, and DKIM records to be properly established or those emails will be automatically rejected.
While the initial setup requires some attention to detail, the long-term benefits are immense. It is a valuable investment of time that fortifies your domain's integrity. Moreover, adopting these measures does not mean you are on your own—many DNS providers offer guidance and support throughout the process.
It is important to find the right balance in your security policies. Tailoring them to your domain's needs can enhance your credibility and protect your stakeholders from potential threats.
Remember, a secure domain is a trusted domain. By taking these steps, you are not just protecting your business; you are also contributing to a safer internet ecosystem.
If a concerted effort were made to encourage the widespread implementation of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, especially among small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the collective security against fraudulent emails would be greatly improved. It would enable a global standard, allowing us to confidently reject messages from unverified senders and more effectively blacklist malicious sources.
Consider the image of a finely crafted, well-lit sign hanging proudly over the entrance of Grand Central Station. This sign is a beacon, signaling a place of trust and order, much like how SPF, DKIM, and DMARC signal to the world that your business's emails are trustworthy and secure. Reach out to your IT provider or MSP today and inquire about these three essential security records. Establishing SPF, DKIM, and DMARC should be as fundamental to your business's online identity as that sign is to Grand Central's facade. Without these records, your email domain might as well be a hastily spray-painted plywood sign—hardly the first impression you would want to give in the digital realm.
Unsure where to start? Net Friends can help you navigate the complexities of implementing SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. We are experienced professionals who can craft your email security measures as meticulously as a master sign maker would your business's frontage.
WHAT TO READ NEXT: