What Are the Recent Advances in Email Authentication and What Do They Mean for Email Marketers?

Email authentication has become a critical defence against an increasing surge of cyber threats.

With phishing attacks and spoofing attempts escalating, strengthening the defences of our digital mailboxes is crucial.

In 2022, around 30 per cent of adults worldwide encountered phishing scams (1). In the fourth quarter of 2022, there were over 1.35 million unique phishing sites worldwide a massive increase from around 150,000 in quarter 2 of 2020 (2).

The use of well-known brand names as part of phishing scams is also called spoofing. In October 2022, approx. 600 brand names were found to be involved in spoofing, globally, with Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo the most. PayPal was the most frequently used payment system in phishing attacks, with over 84 per cent of such attacks having some referral to the service. (1)

We explore the latest advancements in email authentication and the implications for email marketers, illuminating how these developments are fortifying our inboxes against ever-evolving threats.

The Basics of Email Authentication

Email authentication is a suite of protocols designed to verify that an email genuinely originates from the stated sender. It acts as the digital equivalent of sealing wax on a letter, offering proof of origin and integrity. At the heart of this system are SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance), each playing a pivotal role in the authentication process.

Knowing that an email is genuine is key to spotting and avoiding being caught in a phishing or spoofing scam.

Recent Improvements in Email Authentication

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) Enhancements

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) is an email authentication method designed to prevent spammers from sending messages on behalf of your domain. It is a DNS (Domain Name System) text entry that shows a list of servers that are allowed to send email for a domain. Essentially, SPF allows the receiving mail server to check during the SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) conversation whether the email claiming to come from a specific domain was sent by a server authorised by that domain's administrators.

Updates to SPF have focused on refining how domains specify authorised email servers, enhancing the protocol's capability to prevent email spoofing. These enhancements assist email receivers in verifying that incoming messages are sent from servers approved by the domain owner, reducing the incidence of unauthorised use.


DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) Advancements

DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) is an email security standard designed to help detect email spoofing. often used in phishing and email spam. DKIM allows the sender to attach a digital signature to emails, which can be verified by the recipient to authenticate the email's origin and ensure that the email's content has not been tampered with during transit.

DKIM has seen improvements in the robustness of its digital signatures. These advancements ensure that an email remains unaltered from the moment it leaves the sender's domain, offering a stronger guarantee of the message's authenticity and integrity.


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

DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) is an email authentication, policy, and reporting protocol designed to enhance the security of the email ecosystem by preventing email spoofing, phishing attacks, and other email-based threats. DMARC builds upon SPF and DKIM, to provide an additional layer of verification to ensure that an email is authentic and comes from the stated domain.

Recent updates to DMARC have significantly bolstered its capability to combat email fraud. Enhanced reporting features provide domain owners with detailed insights into how their domains are being used (or misused) on the web, enabling more effective actions against unauthorised and malicious email practices.


Impact of Authentication Improvements on Email Marketers

Enhanced Security and Trust

The advancements in email authentication protocols contribute substantially to the fight against spam and phishing. By more reliably verifying the authenticity of email sources, these protocols build a foundation of trust between senders and recipients, crucial for email marketers aiming to ensure their messages reach the inbox.


Improved Deliverability

For email marketers, improved authentication directly impacts deliverability. Emails that pass authentication checks are more likely to be delivered to the recipient's inbox, bypassing spam filters. This ensures that marketing messages are seen and not mistakenly categorised as spam, a vital factor for campaign success.


Challenges and Considerations

While these improvements are significant, they also introduce complexities in implementation, particularly for small businesses or organisations without dedicated IT support. However, the benefits of adopting these standards—increased trust and improved deliverability—are invaluable for email marketers.

Most reputable email providers are helping their customers to understand these changes and help them to update the records they need to.


Looking Ahead: The Future of Email Authentication

The future of email authentication looks promising, with AI, machine learning, and blockchain technology poised to offer more robust security solutions. These advancements could automate the detection of fraudulent activities and streamline the authentication process, offering email marketers more reliable tools for securing their campaigns.

For email marketers, staying up-to-date with the latest in email authentication isn't just about technical compliance; it's a critical component of ensuring campaign effectiveness and maintaining the trust of your audience. As cyber threats evolve, so too must our defences. Adopting the latest advancements in email authentication can significantly enhance the security and reliability of email marketing campaigns.


Call to Action

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Written by: Adam

Friday, 1 March 2024