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Email authentication is a crucial aspect of an email provider’s job. Email authentication also known as SPF and DKIM checks the identity of an email provider. DMARC adds to the process of verifying an email by checking if an email has been sent from a legitimate domain through alignment, and specifying to receiving servers how to respond to messages failing authentication checks. Today we are going to discuss the various scenarios that would answer your query on why is DMARC failing.

DMARC is a key activity in your email authentication policy to help prevent forged “spoofed” emails from passing transactional spam filters. But, it’s just one pillar of an overall anti-spam program and not all DMARC reports are created equal. Some will tell you the exact action mail receivers took on each message, and others will only tell you if a message was successful or not. Understanding why a message failed is as important as knowing whether it did. The following article explains reasons for which messages fail DMARC authentication checks. These are the most common reasons (some of which can be easily fixed) for which messages can fail DMARC authentication checks.

Common Reasons Why Messages Can Fail DMARC

Identifying why is DMARC failing can be complicated. However I will go over some typical reasons, the factors that contribute to them, so that you as the domain owner can work towards rectifying the problem more promptly.

DMARC Alignment Failures

DMARC makes use of domain alignment to authenticate your emails. This means that DMARC verifies whether the domain mentioned in the From address (in the visible header) is authentic by matching it against the domain mentioned in the hidden Return-path header (for SPF) and DKIM signature header (for DKIM). If either matches, the email passes DMARC, or else DMARC fails.

Hence, if your emails are failing DMARC it can be a case of domain misalignment. That is neither SPF nor DKIM identifiers are aligning and the email is appearing to be sent from an unauthorized source. This however is just one of the reasons why is DMARC failing.

DMARC Alignment Mode 

Your protocol alignment mode also plays a huge role in your messages passing or failing DMARC. You can choose from the following alignment modes for SPF authentication:

  • Relaxed: This signifies that if the domain in the Return-path header and the domain in the From header is simply an organizational match, even then SPF will pass.
  • Strict: This signifies that only if the domain in the Return-path header and the domain in the From header is an exact match, only then SPF will pass.

You can choose from the following alignment modes for DKIM authentication:

  • Relaxed: This signifies that if the domain in the DKIM signature  and the domain in the From header is simply an organizational match, even then DKIM will pass.
  • Strict: This signifies that only if the domain in the DKIM signature and the domain in the From header is an exact match, only then DKIM will pass.

Note that for emails to pass DMARC authentication, either SPF or DKIM need to align.  

Not Setting Up Your DKIM Signature 

A very common case in which your DMARC may be failing is that you haven’t specified a DKIM signature for your domain. In such cases, your email exchange service provider assigns a default DKIM signature to your outbound emails that doesn’t align with the domain in your From header. The receiving MTA fails to align the two domains, and hence, DKIM and DMARC fails for your message (if your messages are aligned against both SPF and DKIM).

Not Adding Sending Sources to Your DNS 

It is important to note that when you set up DMARC for your domain, receiving MTAs perform DNS queries to authorize your sending sources. This means that unless you have all your authorized sending sources listed in your domain’s DNS, your emails will fail DMARC for those sources that are not listed, since the receiver would not be able to find them in your DNS. Hence, to ensure that your legitimate emails are always delivered be sure to make entries on all your authorized third party email vendors that are authorized to send emails on behalf of your domain, in your DNS.

In Case of Email Forwarding

During email forwarding the email passes through an intermediary server before it ultimately gets delivered to the receiving server. During email forwarding SPF check fails since the IP address of the intermediary server doesn’t match that of the sending server, and this new IP address is usually not included within the original server’s SPF record. On the contrary, forwarding emails usually don’t impact DKIM email authentication, unless the intermediary server or the forwarding entity makes certain alterations in the content of the message.

As we know that SPF inevitably fails during email forwarding, if in case the sending source is DKIM neutral and solely relies on SPF for validation, the forwarded email will be rendered illegitimate during DMARC authentication. To resolve this issue, you should immediately opt for full DMARC compliance at your organization by aligning and authenticating all outgoing messages against both SPF and DKIM, as for an email to pass DMARC authentication, the email would be required to pass either SPF or DKIM authentication and alignment.

Your Domain is Being Spoofed

If you have your DMARC, SPF and DKIM protocols properly configured for your domain, with your policies at enforcement and valid error-free records, and the problem isn’t either of the above-mentioned cases, then the most probable reason why your emails are failing DMARC is that your domain is being spoofed or forged. This is when impersonators and threat actors try to send emails that appear to be coming from your domain using a malicious IP address.

Recent email fraud statistics have concluded that email spoofing cases are on the rise in recent times and are a very big threat to your organization’s reputation. In such cases if you have DMARC implemented on a reject policy, it will fail and the spoofed email will not be delivered to your recipient’s inbox. Hence domain spoofing can be the answer to why is DMARC failing in most cases.

We recommend that you sign up with our free DMARC Analyzer and start your journey of DMARC reporting and monitoring.

  • With a none policy you can monitor your domain with DMARC (RUA) Aggregate Reports and keep a close eye on your inbound and outbound emails, this will help you respond to any unwanted delivery issues
  • After that we help you shift to an enforced policy that would ultimately aid you in gaining immunity against domain spoofing and phishing attacks
  • You can take down malicious IP addresses and report them directly from the PowerDMARC platform to evade future impersonation attacks, with the help of our Threat Intelligence engine
  • PowerDMARC’s DMARC (RUF) Forensic reports help you gain detailed information about cases where your emails have failed DMARC so that you can get to the root of the problem and fix it

Prevent domain spoofing and monitor your email flow with PowerDMARC, today!

Is DMARC Required?

If you run an organization that makes use of a substantial amount of email flow on a daily basis, chances are you have already come across the term “DMARC”. So what is DMARC? Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance is your email checkpoint on your receiver’s side that helps you authenticate your outbound emails as well as respond to situations where these emails have questionable legitimacy. DMARC offers several advantages and it is especially useful in today’s world where remote-working environments are being adopted and electronic communication has become the most commonly used method of interaction for businesses. Let’s list down the 5 important reasons why is DMARC required in the context of today:

1) DMARC Helps Mitigate Impersonation Attacks

Ever since the news of the COVID-19 vaccine broke out worldwide in February 2021, cyber attackers took advantage of the situation to create forged emails using authentic company domains, offering vaccine lures to employees and customers. Several users, especially aged citizens fell victim to the lures and ended up losing money. This explains why is DMARC required now more than ever.

A new form of BEC (Business Email Compromise) has recently taken the internet by storm, exploiting loopholes in Microsoft 365’s read receipts and manipulating authentication protocols to evade spam filters and security gateways. Sophisticated social engineering attacks like these can easily bypass robust security measures and trick unsuspecting customers into submitting their credentials.

DMARC minimizes the chances of BEC and domain spoofing attacks and helps secure your emails from fraud and impersonation. This is because DMARC works differently than your ordinary integrated security gateways that come with your cloud-based email exchange services, offering a way for domain owners to decide how they want receiving servers to respond to emails failing SPF/DKIM email authentication protocols.

2) DMARC Improves Email Deliverability

When your email domain gets spoofed, your receivers who have been interacting with your brand  for years are the last people to be suspicious of fraudulent activities from your side. Hence, they readily open the spoofed emails and fall prey to these attacks. However, the next time they receive an email from you, even if the message is authentic and from an authorized source they would be reluctant to open your email. This will drastically impact your email deliverability, as well as your company’s email marketing strategies and agendas.

However, DMARC can improve email deliverability by almost 10% over time! DMARC is required for you to remain in complete control of your domain by choosing which messages get delivered to your recipients’ inboxes. This keeps illegitimate emails at bay and makes sure legitimate emails always get delivered without delay.

3) DMARC Aggregate Reports Help You Gain Visibility

DMARC Aggregate reports can help you view your authentication results and mitigate errors in email delivery at a faster pace. It helps you gain insight on sending sources and IP addresses that are sending emails on behalf of your domain and failing authentication. This helps you track down malicious IP addresses as well, explaining why is DMARC required.

PowerDMARC’s DMARC aggregate reports are available in 7 distinctive views on the platform that helps you gain an unfiltered perspective on your email sending sources and hostnames, like never before! Additionally, we provide you with the option to instantly convert your DMARC reports into PDF documents that you can share with your whole team, as well as create a schedule for them to be emailed to you at regular intervals.

4) DMARC Forensic Reports Help You Respond to Forensic Incidents

DMARC forensic reports are generated whenever a forensic incident is triggered, such as when the outbound email fails SPF or DKIM authentication. Such an incident may be triggered in case of domain spoofing attacks when an email domain is forged by an impersonator using a malicious IP address to send a fraudulent message to an unsuspecting receiver that appears to be coming from an authentic source they know and can trust. Forensic reports provide in-detail analysis of malicious sources that may have attempted to spoof you, so that you can take action against them and prevent future incidents.

Note that forensic reports are highly detailed and may contain your mail body. However, you can avoid disclosing your email contents while viewing your DMARC forensic reports by encrypting your reports with a private key that only you have access to, with PowerDMARC.

5) DMARC Helps Improve Your Domain Reputation

A good domain reputation is like a feather in your cap, as the domain owner. A good domain reputation indicates to receiving email servers that your emails are legitimate and from reliable sources and hence are less likely to be marked as spam or land up in the junk folder. DMARC helps you improve your domain reputation by validating your message sources and indicates that your domain has extended support towards secure protocols by implementing standard email authentication practices like SPF and DKIM.

With this, it is evident why is DMARC required, and can prove to be beneficial for your business! So the next step is :

How to Configure DMARC for Your Domain?

PowerDMARC’s DMARC Analyzer can help you implement DMARC in 4 easy steps:

  • Publish your SPF, DKIM and DMARC record in your domain’s DNS
  • Sign up with PowerDMARC to gain access to your DMARC aggregate and forensic reports and monitor your email flow
  • Shift from a policy of monitoring to DMARC enforcement, to gain maximum protection against BEC and spoofing
  • Stay under the SPF 10 lookup limit with PowerSPF

Sign up today for your free DMARC Analyzer and avail of the multiple benefits of DMARC today!

A very common question asked by domain owners is “why are my emails going to junk folder instead of the recipients’ inboxes?”. Now it is important to note that the underlying reason behind emails going to the junk folder is never unidirectional, but can be due to various reasons starting from simple inducements like a poorly written email to more complex causes like in case your domain name has been previously used for spam. In either of the cases, your emails landing in the spam folder drastically affects your email deliverability rate and domain reputation. 

If you want to quickly resolve this obstacle all while ensuring that your emails always reach their designated destinations in future, you have come to the right place. Without beating around the bush much, let’s get right into the solution for stopping your emails from getting flagged as spam: opt for email authentication solutions from a reliable service provider today!

How Does Email Authentication Improve Email Deliverability?

Remember that it is all about boosting your domain’s reputation and ensuring that your domain is not used to carry out malicious activities like spoofing or phishing attacks and BEC. This is exactly what an email authentication protocol like DMARC does. Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) is an industry-recommended email authentication standard that makes use of SPF and DKIM to authenticate email messages sent from your domain. DMARC exists in your domain’s DNS as a DNS TXT record specifying to receiving servers how they should treat emails that fail authentication (probable spoofing/phishing emails sent by threat actors using your domain name).

However, it isn’t as easy and it appears to be. Simply publishing a DMARC record would not protect you against email fraud, rather it might worsen the situation in case you have incorrectly configured your authentication protocols. For implementing DMARC correctly you need to set up SPF and DKIM for your domain with the correct syntax and policy mode. Furthermore, only a DMARC policy level of enforcement (p=reject/quarantine) can adequately protect your domain against BEC and spoofing.

Keeping all of this in mind, eventually with DMARC you can observe a more than 10% increase in your email deliverability rate and a noticeable decrease in the number of emails landing in the spam folder.

How Can I Properly Configure DMARC to Stop Being Marked as Spam?

You can follow the steps given below to setup DMARC correctly for your domain:

  • Make a note of all authorized sending sources that can send emails on behalf of your domain.
  • Setup SPF for your domain completely free of cost, with PowerDMARC’s free SPF record generator.
  • Configure DKIM for your domain with PowerDMARC’s free DKIM record generator.
  • Configure DMARC for your domain with PowerDMARC’s free DMARC record generator.
  • Lookup and validate your records.
  • Monitor your authentication results and email flow with automatically generated and easy to comprehend DMARC aggregate and forensic reports using our DMARC analyzer tool, so that you can shift from a none policy to DMARC enforcement in no time!

You can find all the record generators in the PowerDMARC toolbox

Additional Recommendations on Stopping Emails Going to Junk Folder

Stay under the SPF hard limit

You may not be aware of this but SPF authentication comes with a DNS lookup limit of 10. Exceeding this limit invalidates your SPF record causing SPF to break and even legitimate emails to fail authentication checks. In such cases, an SPF permerror result is returned if you have enabled DMARC monitoring for your domain. Hence, staying under the SPF 10 DNS Lookup Limit is imperative to ensure your emails reach your recipients’ inboxes and prevent emails going to junk folder.

Report abusive IP addresses

Blacklisting abusive IP addresses that are using your domain name to conduct fraud can be an important step towards ensuring that similar incidents do not take place in the future. Our DMARC analyzer can help your report malicious addresses from all around the world, in real-time, to make sure they can no longer use your domain for fraudulent activities again!

Gain 100% DMARC compliance

Align emails sent via your domain against both SPF and DKIM authentication standards to gain 100% DMARC compliance. This would considerably improve your senders’ reputation over time and minimize the chances of your emails being flagged as spam, thereby minimizing the chances of your emails going to junk folder.

Sign up with PowerDMARC today to get your free DMARC and take the first step towards preventing your emails from going to the junk folder!

The rate at which emails make it through to the recipients’ inboxes is called the email deliverability rate. This rate can get slowed down or delayed or even lead to failure in delivery when emails end up in the spam folder or get blocked out by receiving servers. It is essentially an important parameter to measure the success of your emails reaching your desired receivers’ inboxes without being marked as spam. Email authentication is definitely one of the options authentication novices out there can resort to, to see a substantial improvement in email deliverability over time.

In this blog we are here to talk to you about how you can improve your email deliverability rate with ease and also discuss the best industry practices to ensure smooth flow of messages across all your email channels!

What is Email Authentication?

Email authentication is the technique used for validating your email for authenticity against all authorized sources that are allowed to send emails from your domain. It further helps in validating the domain ownership of any Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) involved in transferring or modifying an email.

Why Do You Need Email Authentication?

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) which is the internet standard for email transfer, contains no feature to authenticate inbound and outbound emails, allowing cybercriminals to exploit the lack of secure protocols in SMTP. This can be used by threat actors to perpetrate email phishing scams, BEC and domain spoofing attacks wherein they can impersonate your brand and harm its reputation and credibility. Email authentication enhances the security of your domain against impersonation and fraud, indicating to receiving servers that your emails are DMARC compliant and arise from valid and authentic sources. It also serves as a checkpoint for unauthorized and malicious IP addresses sending emails from your domain.

To protect your brand image, minimize cyber threats, BEC and ensure improved deliverability rate, email authentication is a must!

Email Authentication Best Practices

Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

SPF is present in your DNS as a TXT record, displaying all the valid sources that are authorized to send emails from your domain. Every email that leaves your domain has an IP address that identifies your server and the email service provider used by your domain that is enlisted within your DNS as an SPF record. The receiver’s mail server validates the email against your SPF record to authenticate it and accordingly marks the email as SPF pass or fail.

Note that SPF has a 10 DNS lookup limit, exceeding which can return a PermError result and lead to SPF failure. This can be mitigated by using PowerSPF to stay under the lookup limit at all times!

DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)

DKIM is a standard email authentication protocol that assigns a cryptographic signature, created using a private key, to validate emails in the receiving server, wherein the receiver can retrieve the public key from the sender’s DNS to authenticate the messages. Much like SPF, the DKIM public key also exists as a TXT record in the DNS of the domain owner.

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

Simply implementing SPF and DKIM is just not enough since there is no way for domain owners to control how receiving servers respond to emails that fail authentication checks.

DMARC is the most widely used email authentication standard in the current time, which is designed to empower domain owners with the ability to specify to receiving servers how they should handle messages that fail SPF or DKIM or both. This in turn helps in protecting their domain from unauthorized access and email spoofing attacks.

How Can DMARC Improve Email Deliverability?

  • When publishing a DMARC record in your domain’s DNS, the domain owner requests receiving servers supporting DMARC, to send feedback on the emails which they receive for that domain, automatically indicating to receiving servers that your domain extends support towards secure protocols and authentication standards for emails, like DMARC, SPF and DKIM.
  • DMARC aggregate reports help you gain increased visibility into your email ecosystem, enabling you to view your email authentication results, detect authentication failures and mitigate delivery issues.
  • By enforcing your DMARC policy you can block malicious emails impersonating your brand from landing into the inboxes of your receivers.

Additional Tips on Improving Email Deliverability:

  • Enable visual identification of your brand in your receivers’ inboxes with BIMI
  • Ensure TLS encryption of emails in transit with MTA-STS
  • Detect and respond to email delivery issues by enabling extensive reporting mechanism with TLS-RPT

PowerDMARC is a single email authentication SaaS platform that combines all email authentication best practices such as DMARC, SPF, DKIM, BIMI, MTA-STS and TLS-RPT, under the same roof. Sign up today with PowerDMARC and witness a considerable improvement in email deliverability with our enhanced email security and authentication suite.