Reputation.

This one word has the power to make or break your brand. Why not protect it every chance you get?

The internet gives companies and customers alike endless opportunities to connect and build relationships. But it also gives spammers and phishers an equal number of opportunities to hurt your audience and damage the reputation you worked so hard to establish. And without a positive sender reputation, all your emails might end up in the spam folder, hurting your ROI.

Enter DMARC – a layer of defense between your brand’s reputation and the people who would use it for their own gain.

What is DMARC?

DMARC stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance. It’s a DNS TXT record that protects against phishing and email spoofing by letting senders indicate their messages are protected by Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM). If a sender’s message fails these authentication methods, it’s their DMARC policy that determines how to handle the message.

Why you need DMARC

There are plenty of spammers, spoofers, and phishers who will jump at the chance to use your sending and brand reputation (and run them into the ground) for their own gain. With 95 percent of hacking attacks and data breaches originating from email, purposefully protecting your domain and your customers has never been more relevant and important.

Once you’ve set up your DMARC policy, if a message is sent from an unauthorized source, that policy determines what happens to that message (like whether it’s quarantined in spam, rejected outright, or accepted).

Not all receiving servers will check a DMARC record before accepting a message, but adoption is growing. Popular email servers that enforce DMARC include:

 

Examples of DMARC records

DMARC records can be simple or complex, depending on the number and type of mechanisms used. Here’s an example of each:

Simple

  • v=DMARC1;p=none

This is the most simple DMARC record. When the policy (“p”) is set to none, receivers will ignore the outcome of the SPF and DKIM checks. However, it’s not effective unless you add additional rules to make it more robust.

Complex

  • v=DMARC1; p=reject; rua=mailto:dmarc@yourdomain.com; ruf=mailto:dmarc@yourdomain.com; rf=afrf; pct=100

This DMARC record is rejecting all unqualified mail sent from the domain. All messages (100 percent) are filtered. Also contained in this DMARC record are the email addresses to which aggregate and forensic reports are to be sent.

Basic rules for DMARC records

DMARC records are versatile and customizable, so you can set yours up in the way that suits you best. While at first glance the list of mechanisms and rules may seem overwhelming, we recommend starting your first record with the p=none, moving to a more advanced record only when you’re feeling like you’ve gotten the hang of it.

Below we’ve listed some of the rules that can be used in a DMARC records.

Record Description Possible rule Rule description
v State protocol version v=DMARC1 Without a TXT record beginning with v=DMARC1, the receiving email server won’t check for a DMARC policy.
p Policy for organizational domain. This tells the receiving server how to handle mail from your domain that doesn’t make it past SPF and DKIM. p=none This tells the receiver not to take any action against unqualified mail. This tag still sends email reports for infractions.
p=quarantine This tag quarantines unqualified mail, typically by sending it directly to the spam folder.
p=reject With this option, the receiving server completely rejects any unqualified mail from your domain. Any mail that does not pass this verification is blackholed, making it impossible to catch false positives.
sp Policy for subdomains of the OD. sp=reject This tells the receiver whether or not to apply the DMARC policy for subdomains.
rua Reporting Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) of aggregate reports rua=mailto:
dmarc.rua@yourdomain.com
This tells the receiving server where to send aggregate reports of DMARC failures. Aggregate reports are sent daily and contain macro information on each incident. These reports can be sent to any email address.
ruf Reporting URI for forensic reports ruf=
mailto:dmarc.ruf@yourdomain.com
This tells the receiving server where to send forensic reports of DMARC failures. Forensic reports are sent in real-time and contain micro information on each incident.
pct Percentage of messages subjected to filtering pct=40 This indicates how much of your mail should be subjected to the DMARC policy. It’s indicated by a number between 1-100 that represents a percentage amount.
adkim Alignment mode for DKIM adkim=s Strict; means the DKIM portion of DMARC authentication only passes if the d= field in the DKIM signature matches the from domain exactly.
adkim=r Relaxed; means that messages will pass the DKIM portion of DMARC authentication if the d= field in the DKIM signature matches the root domain of the from address.
aspf Alignment mode for SPF aspf=s Strict; means the SPF portion of DMARC authentication only passes if the SPF signature matches the from domain exactly
aspf=r Relaxed; means that messages will pass the SPF portion of DMARC authentication if the SPF signature matches the root domain of the from address

 

How to implement DMARC

You’ve learned how important DMARC is for protecting your sender reputation, and you’ve learned what DMARC rules and records you can implement. Now it’s time to learn how to actually set up your DMARC policy.

Step 1: Set up SPF and DKIM before setting up DMARC

Messages that don’t pass SPF or DKIM will trigger your DMARC policy, so you need these authentication policies in place before you establish DMARC.

Step 2: Align your domain and verify it

Open all email headers from your emails and identify the domain or subdomain, which is listed in three places:

  • Mail-from
  • Header from
  • The “d=” field in the DKIM signature

If these domain names are all identical, they’re aligned. Otherwise, you’ll need to enlist the support of your IT department to move forward.

Step 3: Generate a DMARC TXT record

You can generate a DMARC TXT record using the rules we mentioned earlier, or you can simply use a free DMARC generator.

If you create a DMARC record on your root domain, it applies for all the underlying subdomains.

Step 4: Implement DMARC into DNS

Working with your DNS administrator, add your DMARC policy to DNS to start receiving reports at the mailto: address you’ve specified in your record.from your domain.

dmarc-analyzer

Step 5: Modify your DMARC policy flags

As mentioned above, once you become more experienced with handling your DMARC policy, update your tags from “none” to “quarantine” or “reject.” Doing this progressively gives you more confidence in your ability to manage your policy and any infractions you’re alerted to.

Start protecting your reputation today

By implementing DMARC, you’re taking proactive steps to protect your sender reputation in particular and your brand overall. And remember that if you’re struggling to find time, it only takes five simple steps to get started.

Ready to create your DMARC record but need more help setting policies? Use a free DMARC generator if you need help getting started, but take action today to safeguard your brand, customers, and sending reputation. The spammers and spoofers aren’t waiting around, so why should you?