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When you’re in the cybersecurity space for as long as we’ve been, you start to notice patterns in how some organizations view the purpose of security. A lot of people see cybersecurity measures more as a way to meet compliance standards than to actually secure their digital processes. This is a rather myopic way of looking at it, because it fails to properly convey the real-world utility security has.

In a recent article by Gartner, they listed 10 top security projects for 2020-2021. According to security and risk management leaders, these are the most important strategies for organizations to not only mitigate the risk to their brand, but actually drive up their business value. “The key is to prioritize business enablement and reduce risk,” writes Kasey Panetta, ” and communicate those priorities effectively to the business.”

Among others, DMARC was listed as one of the most important security measures organizations can leverage for their business. So how does that work exactly? How is it supposed to improve your business value in the long run? Let’s find out.

DMARC is About More Than Just Email

Sure, if we’re going to be technical, then yes. DMARC is an email authentication protocol that helps receiving servers weed out fake email sent from your domain. But when properly implemented, DMARC is a tool brands can use to build trust, credibility and authenticity through their digital communications. It’s also a way to ensure that the brand message you’re trying to convey isn’t diluted or dampened by impersonation attempts.

It’s incredibly difficult for the average user to tell when they’re being spoofed, because of how innocuous the emails often look. They can be as simple as asking your customer to log in to your online service to update information, like these massive Office 365 phishing scams that compromised thousands of accounts. Or it could be as complex and carefully orchestrated as the Silent Starling attack of 2019.

DMARC protection isn’t just going to keep the spam email out of your customers’ inboxes. It’s how you’re going to ensure that your customers have the confidence to click on your emails when they see them. Email authentication doesn’t just bring measurable benefits like increased delivery rates, it offers real-world benefits to your brand that go beyond numbers on a graph.

5 Benefits of DMARC for Business

1. Information

This is the most tangible and measurable benefit of DMARC, and it comes in the form of DMARC reports. Once you set up DMARC, you can start receiving reports to your email about which emails failed SPF, DKIM and DMARC.

It also provides other useful information, such as the sender’s IP address, so you can see if they’re an authorized sender or not. You can see what percentage of your emails are being authenticated, which will affect deliverability, and you can check how many emails each IP sends, in case of suspicious activity.

2. Control

When you have information, you also have control. You can see if you’re having delivery issues due to DMARC, in which case you can take immediate action to rectify the problem and boost your email deliverability.

Additionally, if you spot an abusive IP spoofing your domain, you can even contact their hosting provider and have them taken down, eliminating the threat. When you have control over your communication channels, you’re also taking back control of your brand.

3. Security

This is the most obvious benefit of DMARC, since it was created with the intention of securing email senders and receivers from the dangers of phishing. With DMARC, the security benefits are twofold: both your staff and customers are protected from spam.

Attackers that impersonate your boss or CEO send phishing emails to your employees to get them to transfer money or give access to sensitive data. In other cases, they impersonate your brand and send fake emails to customers or the public.

In both scenarios, if the email comes from an unauthorized source, DMARC will identify it, and if you’re 100% DMARC enforced, the email will be automatically rejected.

4. Visibility

DMARC makes it possible to use BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification). This protocol attaches your brand’s logo next to every email you send. If your email is validated by DMARC, the user will see your logo in the inbox.

This is useful for two reasons: Brand visibility, and Customer trust. Not only will users come to recognize and feel familiar with your brand after regularly seeing your logo, but they’ll know that only emails with your logo next to them are genuine.

5. Deliverability

Implementing DMARC tells your email service provider that you’re using a higher level of security than most domains. This will increase your domain’s reputation with the provider, and it will make it less likely for your genuine, authenticated emails to accidentally be marked as spam.

More emails make it to your customers’ inboxes, which means more clicks and engagement. And that never hurt, did it?

The DMARC journey is a carefully tuned process that looks at all aspects of your email usage patterns. Through careful monitoring and analysis, you can go from zero to 100% DMARC enforcement in just a couple of weeks. Here’s how it works.

 

Get in touch with us now to know more or start a free trial in order for us to provide you a fast track path to DMARC enforcement.

 

All of us at PowerDMARC are proud to announce that we have joined UK Crown Commercial Services G-Cloud 12 framework!

The UK Government’s Digital Marketplace is an online service for public sector organizations looking for services, people and technologies for various digital initiatives. It was created with the objective of making it easier and more cost-effective for public sector bodies in the UK to find and use cloud technology solutions.

We’ll be part of their G-Cloud framework as a supplier of DMARC authentication and cybersecurity services, listed in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) category of G-Cloud. Add a section for our link to their digital market place

Learn more about the G-Cloud 12 framework here:

https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/buyers/direct-award/g-cloud/start

https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/g-cloud/services/124488964256084

PowerDMARC, a Delaware-based DMARC and cybersecurity services provider, is announcing their latest partnership with Config, a French IT solutions distributor operating in Paris. A major player in the IT security and network services space in France, Config is looking to expand into the spheres of email security and authentication.

“Config is one of our first major distributors in Europe,” said Faisal Al Farsi, Co-Founder and CEO of PowerDMARC. “It’s a big step for us as a growing email authentication platform, because France is a very progressive country for pioneering tech in cyberspace. We’re really looking forward to expanding operations there and seeing increased DMARC adoption across Europe as a whole.”

For the last 20 years, Config has been a part of the growth of IT solutions and security in France. They boast a number of established clients that rely on their expertise to secure their network systems, servers and more. One of their hallmarks is providing tailor-made services that are fine-tuned to their clients’ needs, enabling them to act on security incidents quickly and effectively. 

Through this strategic partnership, Config has their sights on DMARC authentication services going big in France and securing their positions as the leading distributor of advanced PowerDMARC technology. By adding PowerDMARC solutions to their already wide array of solutions, they’re expected to make an impact in helping businesses both big and small secure their brands against spoofing attacks and email compromise.

Zouhir El Kamel, Founder and CEO of Config, commented on the new partnership. “There’s a lot of ground to be covered,” he said. “French businesses have only begun to recognize the importance of DMARC authentication in the last few years. We already have an established base of operations in France, Switzerland, Morocco and Africa, and puts us in a good position to help businesses in these countries get the security they need. With PowerDMARC’s platform, we’re confident we can make a difference.”


CONFIG (www.config.fr) is a value-added distributor  who accompanies more than 1000 integrators, editors and resellers in the sale of solutions distributed in the following ecosystems: 

Security and Cybersecurity Networks  Storage  Virtualisation and Cloud Solutions of  Vidéoprotection Config proposes to his partners  a custom-made support thanks to innovative marketing actions encouraging lead generation, the developed skills via technical trainings and certifications (Approved Center ATC) and a lot of différenciants services to develop the activity of the suppliers and the partners.

Config is headquartered in Paris, France, and now has more than 120 employees and several subsidiaries (Switzerland, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Sub-Saharan Africa).

 

You know what’s the worst kind of phishing scam? The kind that you can’t simply ignore. Emails supposedly from the government, telling you to make that pending tax-related payment or risk legal action. Emails that look like your school or university sent them, asking you to pay that one tuition fee you missed. Or even a message from your boss or CEO, telling you to transfer them some money “as a favor”.

The problem with emails like this is that they’re impersonating an authority figure, whether it’s the government, your university board, or your boss at work. Those are important people, and ignoring their messages will almost certainly have serious consequences. So you’re forced to look at them, and if it seems convincing enough, you might actually fall for it.

But let’s take a look at CEO fraud. What exactly is it? Can it happen to you? And if it can, what should you do to stop it?

You’re not immune to CEO fraud

A $2.3 billion scam every year is what it is. You might be wondering, “What could possibly make companies lose that much money to a simple email scam?” But you’d be surprised how convincing CEO fraud emails can be.

In 2016, Mattel almost lost $3 million to a phishing attack when a finance executive received an email from the CEO, instructing her to send a payment to one of their vendors in China. But it was only after checking later with the CEO that she realized he’d never sent the email at all. Thankfully, the company worked with law enforcement in China and the US to get their money back a few days later, but that almost never happens with these attacks.

People tend to believe these scams won’t happen to them…until it happens to them. And that’s their biggest mistake: not preparing for CEO fraud.

Phishing scams can not only cost your organization millions of dollars, they can have a lasting impact on the reputation and credibility of your brand. You run the risk of being seen as the company that lost money to an email scam and losing the trust of your customers whose sensitive personal information you store.

Instead of scrambling to do damage control after the fact, it makes a lot more sense to secure your email channels against spear phishing scams like this one. Here are some of the best ways you can ensure that your organization doesn’t become a statistic in the FBI’s report on BEC.

How to prevent CEO fraud: 6 simple steps

  1. Educate your staff on security
    This one is absolutely critical. Members of your workforce—and especially those in finance—need to understand how Business Email Compromise works. And we don’t just mean a boring 2-hour presentation about not writing down your password on a post-it note. You need to train them on how to look out for suspicious signs that an email is fake, look out for spoofed email addresses, and abnormal requests other staff members seem to be making through email.
  2. Look out for telltale signs of spoofing
    Email scammers use all kinds of tactics to get you to comply with their requests. These can range from urgent requests/instructions to transfer money as a way to get you to act quickly and without thinking, or even asking for access to confidential information for a ’secret project’ that the higher-ups aren’t ready to share with you yet. These are serious red flags, and you need to double and triple-check before taking any action at all.
  3. Get protected with DMARC
    The easiest way to prevent a phishing scam is to never even receive the email in the first place. DMARC is an email authentication protocol that verifies emails coming from your domain before delivering them. When you enforce DMARC on your domain, any attacker impersonating someone from your own organization will be detected as an unauthorized sender, and their email will be blocked from your inbox. You don’t have to deal with spoofed emails at all.
  4. Get explicit approval for wire transfers
    This is one of the easiest and most straightforward ways to prevent money transfers to the wrong people. Before committing to any transaction, make it compulsory to seek explicit approval from the person requesting money using another channel besides email. For larger wire transfers, make it mandatory to receive verbal confirmation.
  5. Flag emails with similar extensions
    The FBI recommends that your organization creates system rules that automatically flag emails that use extensions too similar to your own. For example, if your company uses ‘123-business.com’, the system could detect and flag emails using extensions like ‘123_business.com’.
  6. Purchase similar domain names
    Attackers often use similar-looking domain names to send phishing emails. For example, if your organization has a lowercase ‘i’ in its name, they might use an uppercase ‘I’, or replace the letter ‘E’ with the number ‘3’. Doing this will help you lower your chances of someone using an extremely similar domain name to send you emails.

 

As a DMARC services provider, we get asked this question a lot: “If DMARC just uses SPF and DKIM authentication, why should we bother with DMARC? Isn’t that just unnecessary?”

On the surface it might seem to make little difference, but the reality is very different. DMARC isn’t just a combination of SPF and DKIM technologies, it’s an entirely new protocol by itself. It has several features that make it one of the most advanced email authentication standards in the world, and an absolute necessity for businesses.

But wait a minute. We’ve not answered exactly why you need DMARC. What does it offer that SPF and DKIM don’t? Well, that’s a rather long answer; too long for just one blog post. So let’s split it up and talk about SPF first. In case you’re not familiar with it, here’s a quick intro.

What is SPF?

SPF, or Sender Policy Framework, is an email authentication protocol that protects the email receiver from spoofed emails. It’s essentially a list of all IP addresses authorized to send email through your (the domain owner) channels. When the receiving server sees a message from your domain, it checks your SPF record that’s published on your DNS. If the sender’s IP is in this ‘list’, the email gets delivered. If not, the server rejects the email.

As you can see, SPF does a pretty good job keeping out a lot of unsavoury emails that could harm your device or compromise your organisation’s security systems. But SPF isn’t nearly as good as some people might think. That’s because it has some very major drawbacks. Let’s talk about some of these problems.

Limitations of SPF

SPF records don’t apply to the From address

Emails have multiple addresses to identify their sender: the From address that you normally see, and the Return Path address that’s hidden and require one or two clicks to view. With SPF enabled, the receiving email server looks at the Return Path and checks the SPF records of the domain from that address.

The problem here is that attackers can exploit this by using a fake domain in their Return Path address and a legitimate (or legitimate-looking) email address in the From section. Even if the receiver were to check the sender’s email ID, they’d see the From address first, and typically don’t bother to check the Return Path. In fact, most people aren’t even aware there is such a thing as Return Path address.

SPF can be quite easily circumvented by using this simple trick, and it leaves even domains secured with SPF largely vulnerable.

SPF records have a DNS lookup limit

SPF records contain a list of all the IP addresses authorized by the domain owner to send emails. However, they have a crucial drawback. The receiving server needs to check the record to see if the sender is authorized, and to reduce the load on the server, SPF records have a limit of 10 DNS lookups.

This means that if your organization uses multiple third party vendors who send emails through your domain, the SPF record can end up overshooting that limit. Unless properly optimized (which isn’t easy to do yourself), SPF records will have a very restrictive limit. When you exceed this limit, the SPF implementation is considered invalid and your email fails SPF. This could potentially harm your email delivery rates.

 

SPF doesn’t always work when the email is forwarded

SPF has another critical failure point that can harm your email deliverability. When you’ve implemented SPF on your domain and someone forwards your email, the forwarded email can get rejected due to your SPF policy.

That’s because the forwarded message has changed the email’s recipient, but the email sender’s address stays the same. This becomes a problem because the message contains the original sender’s From address but the receiving server is seeing a different IP. The IP address of the forwarding email server isn’t included within the SPF record of original sender’s domain. This could result in the email being rejected by the receiving server.

How does DMARC solve these issues?

DMARC uses a combination of SPF and DKIM to authenticate email. An email needs to pass either SPF or DKIM to pass DMARC and be delivered successfully. And it also adds one key feature that makes it far more effective than SPF or DKIM alone: Reporting.

With DMARC reporting, you get daily feedback on the status of your email channels. This includes information about your DMARC alignment, data on emails that failed authentication, and details about potential spoofing attempts.

If you’re wondering about what you can do to not get spoofed, check out our handy guide on the top 5 ways to avoid email spoofing.

When it comes to cybercrime and security threats, Business Email Compromise (BEC) is the big daddy of email fraud. It’s the type of attack most organizations are the least prepared for, and one they’re most likely to get hit by. Over the past 3 years, BEC has cost organizations over $26 billion. And it can be shockingly easy to execute.

BEC attacks involve the attacker impersonating a higher-up executive at the organization, sending emails to a newly hired employee, often in the financial department. They request fund transfers or payments of fake invoices, which if executed well enough, can convince a less experienced employee to initiate the transaction.

You can see why BEC is such a huge problem among major organizations. It’s difficult to monitor the activities of all your employees, and the less experienced ones are more prone to falling for an email that seems to be coming from their boss or CFO. When organizations asked us what’s the most dangerous cyberattack they needed to watch out for, our answer was always BEC.

That is, until Silent Starling.

Organized Cybercrime Syndicate

The so-called Silent Starling is a group of Nigerian cybercriminals with a history in scams and fraud going as far back as 2015. In July 2019, they engaged with a major organization, impersonating the CEO of one of their business partners. The email asked for a sudden, last minute change in bank details, requesting an urgent wire transfer.

Thankfully, they discovered the email was fake before any transaction occurred, but in the ensuing investigation, the disturbing details of the group’s methods came to light.

In what’s now being called Vendor Email Compromise (VEC), the attackers launch a significantly more elaborate and organized attack than typically happens in conventional BEC. The attack has 3 separate, intricately planned-out phases that seem to require a lot more effort than what most BEC attacks usually require. Here’s how it works.

VEC: How to Defraud a Company in 3 Steps

Step 1: Breaking in

The attackers first gain access to the email account of one or more individuals at the organization. This is a carefully orchestrated process: they find out which companies lack DMARC-authenticated domains. These are easy targets to spoof. Attackers gain access by sending employees a phishing email that looks like a login page and steal their login credentials. Now they have complete access to the inner workings of the organization.

Step 2: Collecting information

This second step is like a stakeout phase. The criminals can now read confidential emails, and use this to keep an eye out for employees involved in processing payments and transactions. The attackers identify the target organization’s biggest business partners and vendors. They gather information about the inner workings of the organization — things like billing practices, payment terms, and even what official documents and invoices look like.

Step 3: Taking action

With all this intelligence collected, the scammers create an extremely realistic email and wait for the right opportunity to send it (usually just before a transaction is about to take place). The email is targeted at the right person at the right time, and is coming through a genuine company account, which makes it next to impossible to identify.

By perfectly coordinating these 3 steps, Silent Starling were able to compromise their target organization’s security systems and nearly managed to steal tens of thousands of dollars. They were among the first to try such an elaborate cyberattack, and unfortunately, they’ll certainly not be the last.

I Don’t Want to Be a Victim of VEC. What Do I Do?

The really scary thing about VEC is that even if you’ve managed to discover it before the scammers could steal any money, it does not mean no damage has been done. The attackers still managed to get complete access to your email accounts and internal communications, and were able to get a detailed understanding of how your company’s finances, billing systems and other internal processes work. Information, especially sensitive information like this, leaves your organization completely exposed, and the attacker could always attempt another scam.

So what can you do about it? How are you supposed to prevent a VEC attack from happening to you?

1. Protect your email channels

One of the most effective ways to stop email fraud is to not even let the attackers begin Step 1 of the VEC process. You can stop cybercriminals from gaining initial access by simply blocking the phishing emails they use to steal your login credentials.

The PowerDMARC platform lets you use DMARC authentication to stop attackers from impersonating your brand and sending phishing emails to your own employees or business partners. It shows you everything going on in your email channels, and instantly alerts you when something goes wrong.

2. Educate your staff

One of the biggest mistakes even larger organizations make is not investing a little more time and effort to educate their workforce with a background knowledge on common online scams, how they work, and what to look out for.

It can be very difficult to tell the difference between a real email and a well-crafted fake one, but there are often many tell-tale signs that even someone not highly trained in cybersecurity could identify.

3. Establish policies for business over email

A lot of companies just take email for granted, without really thinking about the inherent risks in an open, unmoderated communication channel. Instead of trusting each correspondence implicitly, act with the assumption that the person on the other end isn’t who they claim to be.

If you need to complete any transaction or share confidential information with them, you can use a secondary verification process. This could be anything from calling the partner to confirm, or have another person authorize the transaction.

Attackers are always finding new ways to compromise business email channels. You can’t afford to be unprepared.