DKIM + DMARC = Enhanced email security

Understanding email security: Safeguarding your digital communication

By Mark HoffmannKENOSHA.COM

A leader in the IT industry for nearly three decades, Hoffmann has helped small and large businesses take advantage of technology to better serve their customers and employees. Hoffmann is owner of CMIT Solutions of SE Wisconsin.

Fifty years after its invention and 30 years after its use became widespread, email remains an indispensable tool for communication. According to recent research, more than 350 billion email messages are sent every day—that’s nearly 40 per person, per day, for all 8 billion people on the planet.

However, the widespread use of email also makes this form of communication a prime target for cybercriminals seeking to exploit vulnerabilities for malicious purposes. Email inboxes contain so much sensitive information that they’ve become prime threat vectors for phishing attacks, ransomware infections, malware distribution, and data breaches.  

That’s why email security is so essential. Its effectiveness, however, can vary widely—especially depending on the type of email service you use. And when the conversation about email security progresses from practical application to technical strategy, it can become one of the most complex issues in the IT landscape.

How does email security work?

Email security encompasses a wide range of technologies and protocols designed to protect the integrity, confidentiality, and authenticity of communications. Two key components are DKIM (Domain-Keys Identified Mail) and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance).

DKIM is a digital signature mechanism that allows an organization to cryptographically sign outgoing emails, verifying their authenticity and ensuring that they haven’t been tampered with during transit. Email servers of message recipients can then use this signature to verify the sender’s domain and detect any attempts at email spoofing or phishing.

DMARC adds another layer of security on top of DKIM by providing email authentication and reporting capabilities. It enables domain owners to specify how their emails should be handled by recipient servers, including policies for email authentication failures and reporting mechanisms to monitor email activity and potential abuse.

What does that mean for everyday email users? 

DKIM and DMARC work hand in hand with spam filters and reputation-based scoring systems to scan email content, check attachments, verify links, and block suspicious messages. This gives regular email users the peace of mind that the messages that land in their inboxes are actually safe. 

The flip side to these enhanced security layers, however, is that DKIM and DMARC vary by email provider, industry, and organization. That means, depending on the settings of the recipient and the sender and the rules implemented by their respective email servers, a trusted message that gets delivered to one person’s inbox may get quarantined by another person’s inbox.

Sensitive industries like healthcare and finance may also employ even more stringent filtering, resulting in legitimate emails being erroneously blocked or marked as suspicious if certain language is used or safety concerns are flagged by automated email filters. For users and businesses struggling to navigate the complexities of DKIM and DMARC, a trusted IT advisor like CMIT Solutions can provide invaluable expertise. 

Combine that with proactive threat mitigation and ongoing email support and businesses can turn a confusing situation into a competitive advantage. Here’s how it works:

  • Protection against the most prevalent email-based threats. Very few businesses have the bandwidth and resources to focus on email security themselves. Trusted IT support can streamline the configuration and management of advanced email security solutions, and these robust protocols can significantly reduce the risk of users falling victim to phishing scams, ransomware infections, and malware attacks. By verifying the legitimacy of email senders and detecting fraudulent messages in real time, email security helps to safeguard sensitive information and prevent illicit access to email accounts and systems.
     
  • Enhanced data privacy. Protective measures can help ensure the confidentiality of sensitive data transmitted via email by encrypting communications and verifying the security of message contents. This helps prevent unauthorized interception or tampering of emails by malicious actors, preserving the privacy of users’ personal and business information.
     
  • Elevated trust and reputational resilience. Effective email security practices demonstrate a commitment to protecting users’ interests and maintaining the integrity of communication channels. By safeguarding against email-based threats, individuals and organizations can preserve trust with clients, partners, and employees. This enhances reputation and credibility in today’s increasingly dangerous digital domain.
     
  • Comprehensive regulatory compliance. In an era of stringent data protection rules such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), robust email security measures are critical to comply with government and industry standards. By adhering to best practices for email security, organizations can avoid costly fines and penalties associated with data breaches and non-compliance.
     
  • Human intelligence and ongoing training. In addition to the technical steps outlined above, it’s critical to offer users real-world education on how to protect their inbox. When employees understand the risks related to sending and receiving emails, they fortify the first line of defense against phishing attempts and the negative consequences of clicking on suspicious links or downloading unknown attachments. An educated workforce is an empowered one, significantly reducing the risk that your company will fall victim to an email-based threat.
     
  • Reliable email backups and archiving. Communications protection does more than just block threats and prevent unauthorized access. It also helps businesses prepare for unforeseen disasters by regularly backing up email data and storing reliable archives in multiple locations. In the event of a cyberattack, system failure, or accidental deletion, backups and archives can help a business quickly recover and resume operations.

Email protection is a fundamental aspect of modern cybersecurity, offering essential protection against a wide range of risks. This is a critical layer of security against bad actors seeking to exploit email vulnerabilities for financial gain, data theft, or disruption of operations.

By translating complex technologies like DKIM and DMARC into actionable security steps, a trusted IT provider like CMIT Solutions can enhance the privacy and reliability of email communications.

Our 250+ offices and 800+ technicians located across North America offer ongoing support and proactive monitoring for every type of email system. From educating your team to implementing advanced security features, we can safeguard your business communications and set you up for ongoing success.

Want to better understand DKIM and DMARC while strengthening your sense of digital security? Contact us today.

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