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Spoofing, Phishing and Fraud: The email marketer’s ultimate survival guide

7 July 2015
by Force24


When it comes to email marketing, keeping your sensitive data secure is a key priority.

There are countless spammers out there, hijacking legitimate sender identities to send billions of fraud emails every day.

In fact, spam makes up 45% of all emails, so it’s now more important than ever to make sure that your data and your domains are in safe hands.

We sat down with our head of deliverability Umesh to find out exactly what spoofing and phishing attacks look like, how to prevent them and what to do if your prevention strategy fails.

Protect your mail servers. Protect your data. Protect your business.

What is spoofing?

Umesh: “A spoofing attack is when a malicious party impersonates another device or user on a network in order to launch attacks against network hosts, steal data, spread malware or bypass access controls.”

Simply put, if anyone has ever received an email from ‘you’, that you didn’t send, you’ve been the victim of a spoofing attack.”

How can I tell if I’ve been a victim?

Umesh: “There are several ways to tell if someone has hijacked your identity in order to launch a spoofing attack, so keep your eyes peeled for any of them and always investigate if you’re suspicious. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

  • If you start receiving more notifications of undelivered emails to your account than usual, it may be a sign that you’re under an attack
  • If your email system becomes sluggish and slow-moving compared to its usual performance
  • If customers are making complaints about emails you know you’re responsible for”

How does it happen? 

Umesh: “If you find yourself a victim, it could be that the main protocol used to send emails doesn’t include an authentication mechanism. 

Alternatively, it could be that there’s a technical issue or a virus running in your email process, in which case it is possible to fix by inserting commands to alter the message headers.”

What is phishing? 

Umesh: “Where there is spoofing, there is always the risk of a phishing attack, which can be disastrous for a brand’s reputation.

A phishing attack is where the illegitimate sender tries to deceive the recipient to gain sensitive information from them.

They try their best to make the email look legitimate and, unfortunately, they’re usually pretty successful, meaning it’s vital that you do all you can to protect yourself from an attack. 

If the receiver is tricked into clicking a link or completing a form with sensitive information, there is nothing that can be done to undo the damage. The victim will need a scapegoat, and that scapegoat will more than likely be you, so make sure you’re protecting yourself and your business.”

How do we protect ourselves? 

Umesh: “When it comes to prevention, the most important step to take as email senders is to strengthen our authentication mechanisms. 

There are three main providers of authentication; SPF, DKIM and DMARC 

Let me explain.

What is SPF?

Sender Policy Framework, or SPF, is a record thatinstructs the receiving mail transfer agents (MTAs) to ensure the ‘from address’ field matches the DNS records, ensuring stricter delivery management. 

Though not all mailboxes use SPF for email authentication, with those that do, you will see a decrease in bounces and an increase in your data quality. 

What is DKIM?

Domain Key Identified Mail (DKIM) is a mechanism built to verify the source and contents of email messages before allowing it into inboxes. 

What is DMARC? 

Umesh: “Domain Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance is essentially a more advanced form of the above and can be used to tell the receiving MTAs and ISPs what to do if SPF and DKIM fails to protect you.” 

So what should I be doing about this?

Umesh: “Spoofing and phishing are major security issues faced by anyone who sends emails. Though not fully preventable, you can dramatically reduce your risk and deal with an attack should you need to. 

Potential consequences of not dealing with the risk effectively include data theft, losing the trust of your clients and damaged or abandoned IPs and domains.

Stay safe by following our top safety tips: 

  1. Apply a well crafted SPF record
  2. Strengthen SPF records for old domains
  3. Implement DKIM
  4. Invest in DMARC
  5. Most importantly, you should closely monitor system performance and act upon what you see.

Should you need any support in safeguarding your sending service, contact me at Force24 on 0845 272 5990.”

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