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All About Email Spam, Spoofing And SPF

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The Web browser is your portal to the world — as well as the gateway that lets in many security threats. Just imagine what if someone’s watching you and playing with your credentials without your notice.

This is called Email spoofing or fishing, where scammers alter the source address and email header to make it appear that it has come from a source which is not the original source.

The most common email spoofing example is the email from the bank stating that for security reasons we require you to change your password at the below given link. When you follow the link you find a website which is almost similar to the bank’s website and you end up losing your confidential data to the scammer. Where is security on web?

Phishing

People are still asking, does authentication matter? Do, I, as a sender, need to authenticate my outbound email? If you don’t already know, the answer is: Yes, you should be authenticating your email. Here’s a simple explanation as to why it is a must.

The point of email authentication is to help mitigate concerns over phishing and spoofing. You want to try to close as many gaps as possible, eliminate any opportunities for bad guys to send out fake mail purporting to be from you. Email authentication doesn’t do this perfectly, just like locking your car (and buying a car alarm) doesn’t ensure that it will never be stolen, but you still do it, because you know , it helps to slow the bad guys down – perhaps driving them to go look for an easier target.

What is SPF?

Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an anti-spam approach in which the Internet domain of an e-mail sender can be authenticated for that sender, thereby discouraging spam mailers, who routinely disguise the origin of their e-mail, a practice known as e-mail spoofing. SPF and other anti-spoofing initiatives, such as Domain Keys, work by making it easier for a mail server to determine when a message came from a domain other than the one claimed. Or we can say it’s a method of verifying that the sender of an email message went through the appropriate email server when sending. .

SPF was designed to detect email spoofing and is implemented using the DNS (Domain Name System). A domain name owner can specify an SPF policy — a number of IP addresses or host names that are allowed to send emails from that particular domain — inside a DNS TXT or SPF record. Email servers can then perform SPF lookups via DNS in order to check that email messages appearing to have been sent from that domain actually came from an IP address authorized by the domain administrator.

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If the sender IP address or host specified in an email’s header is not listed in the SPF policy for the corresponding domain name then the email sender’s address was probably spoofed.

Although most spoofed e-mail falls into the “nuisance” category and requires little action other than deletion, the more malicious varieties can cause serious problems and security risks. For example, spoofed e-mail may purport to be from someone in a position of authority, asking for sensitive data, such as passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal information — any of which can be used for a variety of criminal purposes.

What are SPF records?

Sender Policy Framework (SPF) records ensure higher deliverability for your emails by allowing ISPs to trust the authenticity of your email

And why do I need a SPF record?

When sending emails, there is initially no way to verify the sender. A spammer can use any of your email addresses to e.g. send phishing emails. For the recipient, it looks as if the email comes from you. The result is that the reputation of the address (or company) decreases.

Here SPF comes into play. The receiver can check when you receive a mail, if the sender is legitimate and process the mail or reject or further highlight the mail.

However, a possible source of error is the servers that are allowed to send mail, like web server

Own mail server, Office mail server (e.g. Microsoft Exchange), and mail server of the ISP, mail server of the ISP that at home using the user, other mail servers.

It just depends on the mail server that sent the last mail to the outside. Each server will not reject the mail because of an incorrect SPF records.

Benefits:

A carefully tailored SPF record will reduce the likelihood of your domain name getting fraudulently spoofed and keep your messages from getting flagged as spam before they reach your recipients.

In addition, an SPF Record will reduce the number of legitimate e-mail messages that are flagged as spam or bounced back by your recipients’ mail servers. The SPF record is not 100% effective, unfortunately, because not all mail providers check for it. Many do, however, so you should notice a significant decrease in the amount of bounce-backs you receive.

An SPF record is added to your domain’s DNS zone file as a TXT record and it identifies authorized SMTP servers for your domain.

In short, the ISP can trust the email is genuine and not fraudulently sent in your name, which is a common spammers’ trick. If you are following email marketing best practices, your good reputation and your verified identity should be enough to let the ISP know that your email is not spam and thus should be delivered.  So by adding an SPF, you will authorize your client to send emails on your behalf, by verifying that they are the sending with the SPF Record.

Summary

The best practice is to set up an SPF record on your DNS server. Setting up an SPF record lets other email servers use SPF filtering (if the feature is available on the mail server) to protect against incoming email from spoofed, or forged, email addresses that may be associated with your domain. As SPF records are implemented more widely, SPF filtering will become more effective at identifying spoofed email messages.

To conclude, as more and more companies add SPF information to their domain DNS records, this check will prevent spoofing at an increasing rate then there will be a day very soon when the possibility of phishing and spam disappears.

Credits: infoworld, tripwire, knowledge.3essentials, earchsecurity.techtarget.com, searchexchange.techtarget.com, theemailguide

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