In a Brand-Centric Industry, Keep Yours Protected with DMARC

Marketing teams send out lots of emails to customers and prospects daily. While email is a great way to inexpensively reach a broad audience, it comes with challenges. Marketing emails often end up blocked or in spam folders, even when they contain valuable information. Additionally, cybercriminals incessantly target well known companies’ and their email domains to carry out brand impersonation attacks. By leaving themselves vulnerable to online spoofing, organizations risk surrendering control of their brands to bad actors that cash in on their hard-earned trust and long-developed brand imagery. This can also result in financial losses or lawsuits. Using DMARC helps solve these problems by detecting and blocking online brand abuse while increasing email deliverability.

What is DMARC?

Brand spoofing or impersonation can often be invisible to marketers, even if it’s affecting thousands of customers. DMARC helps by providing visibility into active threats using your domains, giving you the ability to stop them before they are delivered. DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) is an email validation system that helps protect your email domain from spoofs, phishing scams and other email-borne attacks that use your domains. With DMARC, your organization can block brand impersonation attempts before they cause harm. DMARC builds on previously existing email authentication techniques SPF and DKIM to strengthen your domain’s fortifications against fraudulent use.

DMARC Benefits for Marketing

DMARC helps your organization secure email communications by providing greater visibility into cyber threats. Additionally, DMARC provides the following benefits:

Online brand protection:

Cybercriminals will attempt to impersonate your domains and online presence for malicious purposes, no matter the size or scope of your brand. DMARC protects your online brand’s integrity by keeping your organization out of their arsenal of spoof-able email domains.

Increased email deliverability:

ISPs often place bulk emails in the spam folder due to high email volume, and emails not arriving in the primary inbox can decrease potential revenue. DMARC serves as extra proof that emails from your organization are legitimate, increasing deliverability to the inbox while also knocking out fraudulent mail.

A published policy that instructs ISPs and other email receivers to deliver, quarantine, or delete emails:

With DMARC, you can decide if potential abuses of your domains via email are solely reported back to you without further action, quarantined for further review, or automatically deleted. The gold standard policy of DMARC is “p=reject,” meaning illegitimate uses of your domains via email are automatically rejected when DMARC is enforced by the receiver.

It’s Marketing’s Job to Keep Brand-Loyal Customers Safe

Online brand impersonation is rampant, and cybercriminals regularly trick brand-loyal customers and others into falling for scams, wiring money, revealing sensitive information, and downloading malware. These bad actors often capitalize on natural disasters or times of chaos. The first 100 days of the coronavirus led to a staggering 30.3% increase in online brand impersonation (with continued growth afterward), and Mimecast saw similar patterns tied to the brush fires in Australia, typhoons in Asia, wildfires in California, and hurricanes in the U.S. Gulf states. Brand abuse as an attack technique shows no sign of stopping — in fact, quite the opposite. Customer trust and brand equity are at stake, so it’s vital that marketing organizations work alongside security teams to tackle this not just as an IT or security issue, but a business one as well.

Getting Your Return on Investment with DMARC

Security folks might see the benefits of DMARC mostly as an anti-phishing mechanism, while legal teams might appreciate DMARC as a compliance tool to ensure an organizations’ standards and policies are being followed. For marketing, the benefit lies in both protecting brand reputation and giving email a more reliable path to customers. Budget allocated to improving email delivery could be freed up with DMARC in place. Additionally, just about every major email provider, from Microsoft to Gmail to Yahoo!, requests DMARC-compliant mail to facilitate the filtering of legitimate from spam email. Thus, deploying DMARC is important if your business relies on consistent delivery of email. Plus, the more your brand is targeted for brand abuse by attackers, the more ROI you can receive from a DMARC implementation. And our research has found that it’s not only major companies that get spoofed by cybercriminals, but also small and medium organizations.

Stand Out in the Inbox with BIMI and DMARC

BIMI in the inboxBIMI and DMARC are a dynamic duo when it comes to marketing and emails. Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) is an emerging email specification that enables organizations to lock a brand-controlled logo to the correct email domain. That means your brand’s logo will appear alongside emails in the inbox of supporting email clients — and your logo with be cryptographically protected from being spoofed at the same time. BIMI not only decreases the likelihood of successful brand impersonation but can also increase email open rates and engagement because customers can trust the email is authentically from your organization. BIMI is a great way to further leverage investments in DMARC, as DMARC compliance is a prerequisite for BIMI.

Stop Email Phishing and BEC Attacks

Email is as vulnerable as it is vital. The hard secret of email is that because it is so easy to set up, it’s easy for cybercriminals to create an email account exploiting your brand’s domains and to execute phishing and BEC attacks. 91% of cyberattacks start with a phishing email, and countless organizations’ reputations have been used as a lure in these criminal acts. The last thing any company wants is for their brand to be associated with criminal activity — especially when it could have been prevented by enforcing stricter security standards like DMARC.


How to be DMARC Compliant

In order to achieve maximum DMARC ROI, your organization must complete the necessary steps to correctly implement DMARC. Mimecast embarked on our own journey to enforce DMARC across all of our owned domains in 2020, and the project was documented in a three-part blog series for other organizations to use for reference. Though DMARC is a key component of any email security program, it is not a standard that can be deployed, configured, activated, and then left alone. It’s vital that, once you have set your DMARC policy to reject, your organization establishes a program of ongoing monitoring, as the online threat landscape is continually evolving. In addition, most organizations are regularly deploying new, legitimate email senders that need to be managed as part of the organization’s DMARC program. Once you have deployed DMARC, you can look to implement BIMI to better present your organization’s brand via email.