Email Authentication Methods and Protocols

Email Authentication Methods and Protocols
Email Authentication Methods and Protocols

Email remains one of the predominant modes of communication in this modern world. All types of professional correspondence involve emailing, be it inter-departmental, intra-departmental, client-provider, or with customers.

Since email has minimal or negligible entry-level barriers, it is highly accessible to people around the world. This accessibility also extends to cyber criminals and people with fraudulent intentions. A network must implement some form of security protocol in place, and that is where email authentication enters the conversation.

Let us dive into a few different pillars of email authentication, i.e., the email authentication methods or protocols to spread awareness among the organisations that need it the most.

What is Email Authentication?

Email authentication is the process of verifying that your emails are not faked or forged when they get sent. The receiving email server also uses email authentication to verify that the sender is who they say they are.

This authentication process uses multiple methods and protocols — namely SPF, DKIM, DMARC and BIMI — to ensure emails are not altered in transit. They can be used together or separately to help protect you from spam, phishing attacks, and other security threats.

Email Authentication Protocols

1. Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

The SPF email authentication protocol allows email domain owners to establish a list of IP addresses that can send them mail. SPF validates the legitimacy of the mail sender’s IP address and verifies its authority to do so.

Since SPF is implemented through the domain name system, it becomes easy for the email servers to publish the list of authorised IP addresses and refer to the list at the time of authentication as well.

2. DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)

DomainKeys Identified Mail utilises a technology called public-key cryptography for authenticating outgoing mail. The DKIM protocol adds a cryptographic signature to the email, showcasing the sender’s authenticated identity.

The cryptographic signature proves that the email has not been compromised and that it is from the genuine, authenticated sender. This keeps the integrity of your organisation’s network, enhances the brand reputation, and prevents email tampering and phishing attacks.

3. Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC)

As the name suggests, DMARC is a comprehensive solution and protocol for email authentication. This type of email authentication protocol builds upon SPF and DKIM.

It verifies and investigates IP addresses that fail the SPF and DKIM validations. The two above protocols verify the IP addresses using the header.

Hence, it is possible that they can make a mistake or two, especially when the sender sends the email using the exact-domain email spoofing method.

4. Brand Indicators and Message Identifiers (BIMI)

BIMI is an emerging email authentication protocol that helps the receivers with the sender’s brand indication and identify the messenger through authentication, hence Brand Indicator and Message Identifiers!

If you implement BIMI to your email server, this protocol will enhance your trust factor with your clients, customers, or prospects and improve the brand reputation as well. This protocol allows the owners to display their brand logo alongside their email.

Should You Use All Email Authentication Protocols?

When SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and BIMI collaborate to form a comprehensive and robust email authentication ecosystem, the results are always better.

  • With SPF, unwanted IP addresses are eliminated by publishing a list of authorised IP addresses and implementing them through DNS.
  • With DKIM, the email network you contact is guaranteed safety and security with the help of a cryptographic signature that prevents tampering with email messages.
  • DMARC ensures that IP addresses' authenticity is re-verified after they pass through SPF and DKIM.
  • Beyond all of the above points, BIMI allows you to present your brand and identity visually with the help of a logo identifier.

All of these points together enable a secure environment for communication to thrive.

Together, these protocols create multiple layers of safety guards to prevent fraudulent behaviours and attempts, like phishing and data breaches.

This comprehensive utility of these collective protocols ensures secure communication through professional setups. Not only does it benefit the organisation but also the recipients, who need the reassurance of safety as well.

We will now discuss the benefits these protocols provide us.

Benefits of Email Authentication Methods

Prevention of Phishing Attacks

Email authentication plays a crucial role in preventing phishing attacks through email communication. It is designed to tackle accounts that try to deceive secure accounts in unethical and malicious ways.

When the protocols validate the identity of the sender, it can verify its authenticity and approve or block it accordingly, preventing phishing attacks.

Protection of Brand Reputation

Email authentication protects your organisation’s brand image by performing verification and identification to authenticate the sender.

This prevents any unauthorised or unethical sender from reaching your network and causing any damage.

That way, you do not receive any suspicious links through email, you don’t click on them, and you do not get scammed, saving the face of your organisation.

Apart from this, it obviously ensures secure communication and provides great email deliverability due to high visibility.

Setting Up Email Authentication Protocols

You can let your administrators or IT personnel's team set up high-quality and optimal email authentication protocols, preferably a combination of all of the abovementioned protocols.

The designated professional needs to contact the DNS provider or your web hosting platform. The service providers will hand you the tool that enables the upload of these protocols.

Usually, doing all the uploading and editing alone by yourself can be tedious. Hence it is recommended to hire a professional network service provider to complete the tasks of uploading and editing records.

Ending Note

As the seriousness of cyber crimes increases every day, the stringency in authentication policies and protocols must change, too. As an organisation, it is your responsibility to ensure safety and security throughout the network.

Ensuring great network security providers, optimal email authentication protocol, and following other security practices will get you to your comprehensive security stage.

Integrating all the email authentication protocols to safeguard your network in an all-inclusive manner will meet your security requirements. You can implement multi-factor authentication along with these email protocols to ensure a complete seal on unauthorised access.

Buying services from companies like Instasafe, which offers high-quality services, will always be a beneficial step.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How does email authentication protect against phishing attacks?

Email authentication protocols allow the receiver’s email server to verify the sender, approving genuine senders and rejecting and blocking fraudulent servers. This methodology helps an organisation avoid phishing attacks using email authentication.

SPF and DKIM are two of the most widely used and popular email authentication methods for organisations.

3. Is HTTP an email protocol?

HTTP is not an email protocol but can be utilised for accessing your organisation’s email communications.