SPF validation error

The Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an email authentication system that domain owners and organizations use to authenticate emails sent by other sources to avoid spoofing and phishing attempts (view 2022 phishing stats) on their domains. However, such records can be configured incorrectly, resulting in verification errors such as “SPF validation error.” A situation like this can be time-consuming and costly to the company.

To create an error-free SPF record you can use our SPF Record generator tool.  This article explores in-depth, the various reasons why SPF validation errors may arise and how to fix them.

What is SPF Validation Error?

The SPF record contains a list of IP addresses for servers that servers a domain owner has permitted to send emails on their behalf. The receiving server will accept only emails from IP addresses indicated in the SPF record.

As a result, if a domain sends an email from an IP address that isn’t specified in the SPF record, the domain owner receives an invalid SPF record delivery status report.

“Error 550 – Message refused due to a failed SPF check.”

Types of SPF Errors

  • Pass: The domain’s sender IP address is permitted to send an email.
  • None: It signifies that the domain has no SPF record. The server produces an ‘SPF None’ error if it cannot resolve the domain name in the DNS or locate the appropriate SPF record on the domain. In other words, if an SPF record is missing or the server is unable to locate it, an SPF None error is returned. This problem can be fixed by publishing/adding a valid SPF record to the sender’s domain.
  • Neutral: When the domain owner does not wish to claim that the transmitting IP addresses are allowed, SPF neutral messages are delivered. The fact that the SPF record utilizes the ending tag ‘?all’ proves the argument. It’s almost the same as a missing SPF record.
  • Temperror: This might be an error caused by a momentary issue such as a DNS timeout or similar issues during the SPF validation procedure. It does not imply that the SPF record is invalid, unavailable, or has failed the SPF record validation procedure. You shouldn’t be concerned if you only receive an SPF temperror from one mail server. However, you should double-check your SPF record if you start receiving such notifications regularly.
  • Permerror: When the mail servers can’t check the SPF records correctly, they issue these SPF PermError messages. These problems are usually caused by typos or syntax issues.
  • Softail: The sender is authorized or not authorized to send email from the domain. The host may be ‘probably not approved’ if the domain hasn’t established a clear and aggressive policy that results in a ‘fail.’ It works by attaching an “all” mechanism to the SPF record. Any IP address will provide an ‘SPF Softfail’ result on assessment. The SPF Soft fail result is, in fact, a weak statement. The DMARC reads the SPF Softfail result as a ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail,’ depending on the email server settings, much like the SPF Neutral result.
  • Fail: The ‘SPF Fail’ declaration, in contrast to ‘SPF Softfail,’ is an explicit or definitive claim that the host is not permitted to use the domain. This condition is implemented in the SPF record using the ‘-all’ technique. If any IP address is used, it will produce an ‘SPF Fail‘ result when the SPF authentication check is performed. This situation is treated the same by all domains with DMARC implemented and is interpreted as ‘Fail.’ 

Reasons for SPF Validation Error

Common reasons for SPF Validation Error include:

  • Message Scanners have difficulty parsing certain data from the SPF record
  • Your DNS has not had the time to render your newly added SPF record (this can take up to 72 hours depending on your DNS hosting provider)
  • You have not updated your IP list for new third-party sending sources
  • Domain owners do not have access to modify their Domain’s MX record or use a third-party sender like SendGrid, MailPoet, etc.
  • DNS Server is unable to resolve the domain name in the DNS.
  • It’s possible that the check found numerous SPF entries on the domain.
  • A single SPF check might have included more than ten DNS lookups.
  • The SPF check might have identified more than two ‘void’ lookups in a single SPF check.
  • The SPF record could be syntactically incorrect.

How to Prevent SPF Validation Error

The most common validation error is caused when the SPF records are not updated. Double-check your SPF record to ensure you’ve updated it or disabled it if it’s no longer used by emailing your domain’s owner. However, if you recently switched to another email provider (for example, Gmail), or a change in the domain name servers was made, your SPF can break because Google can’t match the sender address with any existing records. If you have recently made any of these changes to your domain, please make sure that your SPF records are updated by contacting your web host or email provider.

Steps to Fix SPF Validation Error

Domain owners can avoid SPF validation errors by taking a few simple measures given below:

  • Use valid sender
  • Domain owners must verify that their emails come from a legitimate source. Checking the following items might be beneficial:
  • The domain and mail record both link to the appropriate server.
  • The domain’s SPF records are accurate.
  • The domain used in the “from” field is accurate.
  • Correct the sender SPF record

The recipient receives the SPF check failed error; nevertheless, the sender must remedy the problem. As a result, it’s important to double-check the sender’s SPF records to ensure they’re set up correctly. Online applications can exchange SPF checks to ensure that emails are coming from the IP address specified in the SPF record. If there is an error, the emails will be rejected by the receiving mail server.

Final Words

SPF authentication is required for email integrity and spam prevention. A fake email can readily enter a recipient’s mailbox because of an SPF validation error. It can harm the legitimate domain owner’s reputation by spamming or phishing the receiver.

Though the SPF authentication method is intended to prevent unwanted emails from overwhelming one’s inbox, real emails might occasionally be recorded as an authentication failure owing to a configuration error or a faulty SPF record. As a result, an email administrator must understand what causes an SPF failure and how DMARC understands SPF methods.

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