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How to Stop My Emails from Going to the Junk Folder?

A very common question asked by domain owners is “why are my emails landing up in the 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 from Going to the 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.

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.

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!

Email serves as a critical channel for B2B lead generation and customer communications, but it is also one of the most widely targeted channels for cyberattacks. Cybercriminals are always innovating their attacks in order to steal more information and financial assets. As organizations continue to fight back with stronger security measures, cybercriminals must constantly evolve their tactics and improve their phishing and spoofing techniques. In 2021, a drastic increase in the use of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) based phishing attacks that are going undetected by traditional email security solutions have been detected by security researchers from around the world. The main aim of these attacks are to manipulate human behaviour and trick people into performing unauthorized actions – like transferring money to fraudsters’ accounts.

While the threat of email-based attacks and email fraud are always evolving, don’t stay behind. Know the email fraud trends that will take place in the following years in terms of fraudster tactics, tools, and malware. Through this blog post I’ll show you how cybercriminals are developing their tactics, and explain how your business can prevent this kind of email attack from taking place.

Types Of Email Fraud Scams to Beware of in 2021

1. Business Email Compromise (BEC)

COVID-19 has compelled organizations to implement remote-working environments and shift to virtual communication between employees, partners and customers. While this has a few benefits to list down, the most apparent down-side is the alarming rise in BEC over the past year. BEC is a broader term used for referring to email-based cyber attacks like email spoofing and phishing. The common idea is that a cyber attacker uses your domain name to send emails to your partners, customers or employees trying to steal corporate credentials to gain access to confidential assets or initiate wire transfers. BEC has affected more than 70% organizations over the past year and has led to the loss of billions of dollars worth of company assets.

2. Evolved Email Phishing Attacks

Email phishing attacks have drastically evolved in the past few years although the motive has remained the same, it is the medium to manipulate your trusted partners, employees and clients into clicking on malicious links encapsulated within an email that appears to be sent from you, in order to initiate installation of malware or credential theft. Evolved email scammers are sending phishing emails that are hard to detect. From writing impeccable subject lines and error-free content to creating fake landing pages with a high level of accuracy, manually tracing their activities have become increasingly difficult in 2021.

3. Man-In-The-Middle

Gone are the days when attackers sent out poorly-written emails that even a layman could identify as fraudulent. Threat actors these days are taking advantage of SMTP security problems like the use of opportunistic encryption in email transactions between two communicating email servers, by eavesdropping on the conversation after successfully rolling back the secured connection to an unencrypted one. MITM attacks like SMTP downgrade and DNS spoofing have been increasingly gaining popularity in 2021.

4. CEO Fraud

CEO fraud refers to the schemes that are being conducted that target high-level executives in order to gain access to confidential information. Attackers do this by taking the identities of actual people such as CEOs or CFOs and sending a message to people at lower levels within the organization, partners and clients, tricking them into giving away sensitive information. This type of attack is also called Business Email Compromise or whaling. In a business setting, some criminals are venturing to create a more believable email, by impersonating the decision-makers of an organization. This allows them to ask for easy money transfers or sensitive information about the company.

5. COVID-19 Vaccine Lures

Security researchers have unveiled that hackers are still trying to capitalize on the fears tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent studies shed light on the cybercriminal mindset, revealing a continued interest in the state of panic surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and a measurable uptick in phishing and business email compromise (BEC) attacks targeting company leaders. The medium for perpetrating these attacks is a fake COVID-19 vaccine lure that instantly raises interest among email receivers.

How Can You Enhance Email Security?

  • Configure your domain with email authentication standards like SPF, DKIM and DMARC
  • Shift from DMARC monitoring to DMARC enforcement to gain maximum protection against BEC, CEO fraud and evolved phishing attacks
  • Consistently monitor email flow and authentication results from time to time
  • Make encryption mandatory in SMTP with MTA-STS to mitigate MITM attacks
  • Get regular notifications on email delivery issues with details on their root causes with SMTP TLS reporting (TLS-RPT)
  • Mitigate SPF permerror by staying under the 10 DNS lookup limit at all times
  • Help your recipients visually identify your brand in their inboxes with BIMI

PowerDMARC is your single email authentication SaaS platform that assembles all email authentication protocols  like SPF, DKIM, MTA-STS, TLS-RPT and BIMI on a single pane of glass. Sign up today to get your free DMARC analyzer! 

All right, you’ve just gone through the whole process of setting up DMARC for your domain. You published your SPF, DKIM and DMARC records, you analysed all your reports, fixed delivery issues, bumped up your enforcement level from p=none to quarantine and finally to reject. You’re officially 100% DMARC-enforced. Congratulations! Now only your emails reach people’s inboxes. No one’s going to impersonate your brand if you can help it.

So that’s it, right? Your domain’s secured and we can all go home happy, knowing your emails are going to be safe. Right…?

Well, not exactly. DMARC is kind of like exercise and diet: you do it for a while and lose a bunch of weight and get some sick abs, and everything’s going great. But if you stop, all those gains you just made are slowly going to diminish, and the risk of spoofing starts creeping back in. But don’t freak out! Just like with diet and exercise, getting fit (ie. getting to 100% enforcement) is the hardest part. Once you’ve done that, you just need to maintain it on that same level, which is much easier.

Okay, enough with the analogies, let’s get down to business. If you’ve just implemented and enforced DMARC on your domain, what’s the next step? How do you continue keeping your domain and email channels secure?

What to Do After Achieving DMARC Enforcement

The #1 reason that email security doesn’t simply end after you reach 100% enforcement is that attack patterns, phishing scams, and sending sources are always changing. A popular trend in email scams often doesn’t even last longer than a couple of months. Think of the WannaCry ransomware attacks in 2018, or even something as recent as the WHO Coronavirus phishing scams in early 2020. You don’t see much of those in the wild right now, do you?

Cybercriminals are constantly changing their tactics, and malicious sending sources are always changing and multiplying, and there’s not much you can do about it. What you can do is prepare your brand for any possible cyberattack that could come at you. And the way to do that is through DMARC monitoring & visibility .

Even after you’re enforced, you still need to be in total control of your email channels. That means you have to know which IP addresses are sending emails through your domain, where you’re having issues with email delivery or authentication, and identify and respond to any potential spoofing attempt or malicious server carrying a phishing campaign on your behalf. The more you monitor your domain, the better you’ll come to understand it. And consequently, the better you’ll be able to secure your emails, your data and your brand.

Why DMARC Monitoring is So Important

Identifying new mail sources
When you monitor your email channels, you’re not just checking to see if everything’s going okay. You’re also going to be looking for new IPs sending emails from your domain. Your organization might change its partners or third party vendors every so often, which means their IPs might become authorized to send emails on your behalf. Is that new sending source just one of your new vendors, or is it someone trying to impersonate your brand? If you analyse your reports regularly, you’ll have a definite answer to that.

PowerDMARC lets you view your DMARC reports according to every sending source for your domain.

Understanding new trends of domain abuse
As I mentioned earlier, attackers are always finding new ways to impersonate brands and trick people into giving them data and money. But if you only ever look at your DMARC reports once every couple of months, you’re not going to notice any telltale signs of spoofing. Unless you regularly monitor the email traffic in your domain, you won’t notice trends or patterns in suspicious activity, and when you are hit with a spoofing attack, you’ll be just as clueless as the people targeted by the email. And trust me, that’s never a good look for your brand.

Find and blacklist malicious IPs
It’s not enough just to find who exactly is trying to abuse your domain, you need to shut them down ASAP. When you’re aware of your sending sources, it’s much easier to pinpoint an offending IP, and once you’ve found it, you can report that IP to their hosting provider and have them blacklisted. This way, you permanently eliminate that specific threat and avoid a spoofing attack.

With Power Take Down, you find the location of a malicious IP, their history of abuse, and have them taken down.

Control over deliverability
Even if you were careful to bring DMARC up to 100% enforcement without affecting your email delivery rates, it’s important to continuously ensure consistently high deliverability. After all, what’s the use of all that email security if none of the emails are making it to their destination? By monitoring your email reports, you can see which ones passed, failed or didn’t align with DMARC, and discover the source of the problem. Without monitoring, it would be impossible to know if your emails are being delivered, let alone fix the issue.

PowerDMARC gives you the option of viewing reports based on their DMARC status so you can instantly identify which ones didn’t make it through.

 

Our cutting-edge platform offers 24×7 domain monitoring and even gives you a dedicated security response team that can manage a security breach for you. Learn more about PowerDMARC extended support.

At first glance, Microsoft’s Office 365 suite seems to be pretty…sweet, right? Not only do you get a whole host of productivity apps, cloud storage, and an email service, but you’re also protected from spam with Microsoft’s own email security solutions. No wonder it’s the most widely adopted enterprise email solution available, with a 54% market share and over 155 million active users. You’re probably one of them, too.

But if a cybersecurity company’s writing a blog about Office 365, there’s got to be something more to it, right? Well, yeah. There is. So let’s talk about what exactly the issue is with Office 365’s security options, and why you really need to know about this.

What Microsoft Office 365 Security is Good At

Before we talk about the problems with it, let’s first quickly get this out of the way: Microsoft Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (what a mouthful) is quite effective at basic email security. It will be able to stop spam emails, malware, and viruses from making their way into you inbox.

This is good enough if you’re only looking for some basic anti-spam protection. But that’s the problem: low-level spam like this usually doesn’t pose the biggest threat. Most email providers offer some form of basic protection by blocking email from suspicious sources. The real threat—the kind that can make your organization lose money, data and brand integrity—are emails carefully engineered so you don’t realize that they’re fake.

This is when you get into serious cybercrime territory.

What Microsoft Office 365 Can’t Protect You From

Microsoft Office 365’s security solution works like an anti-spam filter, using algorithms to determine if an email is similar to other spam or phishing emails. But what happens when you’re hit with a far more sophisticated attack using social engineering, or targeted at a specific employee or group of employees?

These aren’t your run-of-the-mill spam emails sent out to tens of thousands of people at once. Business Email Compromise (BEC) and Vendor Email Compromise (VEC) are examples of how attackers carefully select a target, learn more information about their organization by spying on their emails, and at a strategic point, send a fake invoice or request via email, asking for money to be transferred or data to be shared.

This tactic, broadly known as spear phishing, makes it appear that email is coming from someone within your own organization, or a trusted partner or vendor. Even under careful inspection, these emails can look very realistic and are nearly impossible to detect, even for seasoned cybersecurity experts.

If an attacker pretends to be your boss or the CEO of your organization and sends you an email, it’s unlikely that you’ll check to see if the email looks genuine or not. This is exactly what makes BEC and CEO fraud so dangerous. Office 365 will not be able to protect you against this sort of attack because these are ostensibly coming from a real person, and the algorithms will not consider it to be a spam email.

How Can You Secure Office 365 Against BEC and Spear Phishing?

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance, or DMARC, is an email security protocol that uses information provided by the domain owner to protect receivers from spoofed email. When you implement DMARC on your organization’s domain, receiving servers will check each and every email coming from your domain against the DNS records you published.

But if Office 365 ATP couldn’t prevent targeted spoofing attacks, how does DMARC do it?

Well, DMARC functions very differently than an anti-spam filter. While spam filters check incoming email entering your inbox, DMARC authenticates outgoing email sent by your organization’s domain. What this means is that if someone is trying to impersonate your organization and send you phishing emails, as long as you’re DMARC-enforced, those emails will be dumped in the spam folder or blocked entirely.

And get this — it also means that if a cybercriminal was using your trusted brand to send phishing emails, even your customers wouldn’t have to deal with them, either. DMARC actually helps protect your business, too.

But there’s more: Office 365 doesn’t actually give your organization any visibility on a phishing attack, it just blocks spam email. But if you want to properly secure your domain, you need to know exactly who or what is trying to impersonate your brand, and take immediate action. DMARC provides this data, including the IP addresses of abusive sending sources, as well as the number of emails they send. PowerDMARC takes this to the next level with advanced DMARC analytics right on your dashboard.

Learn more about what PowerDMARC can do for your brand.

 

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.