Typical DMARC Compliance Process: Step-by-Step Guide

If you’re an email sender, you’re likely aware of the importance of email authentication.

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) are two common authentication methods that help protect against email spoofing and phishing attacks.

However, even with SPF and DKIM in place, there’s still a risk that malicious actors can abuse your domain reputation and send harmful emails to your recipients.

This is where DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) comes in.

What is DMARC?

DMARC is an email authentication protocol that allows senders to indicate that their emails are protected by SPF and/or DKIM, and provide instructions on what to do if neither of those authentication methods passes.

DMARC records are added to your DNS records, and they instruct email providers on how to handle emails that fail authentication.

Why is DMARC important?

DMARC compliance is important for several reasons.

First, it helps protect your domain reputation and prevent malicious actors from abusing it.

This can have a significant impact on your email deliverability, as email providers are more likely to deliver emails from domains with a good reputation.

Additionally, DMARC compliance can help protect your recipients from phishing attacks and other harmful emails.

Steps to becoming DMARC compliant

Becoming DMARC compliant involves more than just adding a TXT record to your DNS records.

It’s a process that can take several weeks to months, depending on your sending volume, email marketing platform or email delivery provider who send email on your behalf.

Here’s what a typical DMARC compliance process looks like:

  1. Add a DMARC record to your domain host records with a policy of p=none
  2. Collect data from DMARC reports using a monitoring service for several weeks or months depending on your organization
  3. Perform an audit and adjust your SPF & DKIM records if necessary to bring your domain into alignment
  4. Collect more data from DMARC reports for several weeks or months depending on your organization
  5. Perform an audit, adjust your SPF & DKIM records if necessary and enforce a stricter DMARC policy of p=quarantine
  6. Continue collecting data from DMARC reports for several weeks or months depending on your organization
  7. Perform a final audit, adjust your SPF & DKIM records if necessary and enforce the strictest DMARC policy of p=reject
  8. Continue collecting DMARC reports and monitoring your sending habits

It’s important to note that when you first set up DMARC, it’s recommended to set a policy of p=none and collect aggregate data with a DMARC monitoring service.

This will allow you to monitor reports and slowly bring your domain into compliance over time.

The goal of becoming DMARC compliant is to eventually enforce a policy of p=reject.

Setting a reject policy will ensure that all malicious email is stopped, and the recipient of the intended malicious email will never become aware of the email in the first place.

However, it’s important to be aware that if legitimate emails are failing authentication and emails get rejected, the receiver will never know they are not receiving the intended email.

For organizations not actively using a reporting system to monitor authentication, it could take months to discover that legitimate email is not being delivered, potentially hurting marketing programs or other opportunities to engage with prospects, customers and partners.

In conclusion, DMARC compliance is an important step in protecting your domain reputation and preventing harmful emails from reaching your recipients.

By taking the time to become DMARC compliant step-by-step, using a monitoring service, and incrementally enforcing a stricter DMARC policy, you can ensure that your emails are delivered safely and securely.

FAQs

What is DMARC?

DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) is an email authentication protocol that allows senders to protect their email domains from unauthorized use, such as phishing and spoofing.

What is the purpose of DMARC?

The purpose of DMARC is to give email domain owners the ability to protect their domain from unauthorized use, monitor and analyze email traffic to and from their domain, and enforce policies for handling messages that fail authentication checks.

What are SPF and DKIM records?

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) are email authentication methods that help verify the authenticity of an email message and ensure that it was sent by an authorized sender.

Do I need to have SPF and DKIM records set up before using DMARC?

Yes, it’s recommended that you set up SPF and DKIM records before implementing DMARC. DMARC uses these authentication methods to determine if an email message is legitimate or not.

How do I become DMARC compliant?

Becoming DMARC compliant involves more than just adding a TXT record to your DNS records. It’s a process that can take several weeks to months, depending on your sending volume, email marketing platform, or email delivery provider who sends email on your behalf. The typical DMARC compliance process involves gradually enforcing stricter policies over time.

Why is it important to become DMARC compliant?

DMARC compliance will prevent malicious actors from abusing your domain reputation, which can in turn impact your deliverability. It helps protect your organization’s brand, reputation, and customers from phishing and spoofing attacks.

What are the benefits of using a DMARC monitoring service?

A DMARC monitoring service allows you to collect data from DMARC reports and gradually bring your domain into compliance over time. It helps you identify any issues with your SPF and DKIM records and monitor your sending habits.

What is the recommended DMARC policy to start with?

If you’re setting up DMARC for the first time, we recommend setting a policy of p=none and collecting aggregate data with a DMARC monitoring service.

What is the recommended DMARC policy to enforce eventually?

The goal of becoming DMARC compliant is to eventually enforce a policy of p=reject. Setting a reject policy will ensure that all malicious email is stopped.

What are the risks of enforcing a strict DMARC policy?

The downside of enforcing a strict DMARC policy is that legitimate emails may fail authentication and get rejected. If your organization is not actively using a reporting system to monitor authentication, it could take months to discover that legitimate email is not being delivered, potentially hurting marketing programs or other opportunities to engage with prospects, customers, and partners.

Hans Desjarlais
Hans Desjarlais

Hans Desjarlais is a seasoned tech entrepreneur with over a decade of industry experience. Faced with low open rates in his previous lifestyle software business, he dived into the complexities of email deliverability, performed rigorous testing and learned to achieve remarkable results. Now, he specializes in helping companies fix their email deliverability, avoid the spam folder and boost their email ROI.

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