January 30, 2012    /    by

DMARC Should Reduce Phishing Scams

Major technology vendors announced the formation of the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) system today. This new email authentication framework should reduce the number of phishing scams that try to trick users into thinking emails are from someone else.

Major technology vendors announced the formation of the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) system today. This new email authentication framework should reduce the number of phishing scams that try to trick users into thinking emails are from someone else. Participating vendors, many of which provide free email services, aim to make spoofed domains in messages a thing of the past.

Leading technology companies like Google, Microsoft, AOL and Facebook are participating in the system – which is explained and can be examined in detail at DMARC.org. Here is a quote from the new website:

“DMARC standardizes how email receivers perform email authentication using the well-known SPF and DKIM mechanisms. This means that senders will experience consistent authentication results for their messages at AOL, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and any other email receiver implementing DMARC. We hope this will encourage senders to more broadly authenticate their outbound email which can make email a more reliable way to communicate.”

Coverage of the press announcement was widespread today with numerous headlines all over the Internet  such as:

USA TodayTech companies team up to combat e-mail scams

Information Week - Google, Microsoft Say DMARC Spec Stops Phishing and

Tech Crunch - DMARC Promises a World Of Less Phishing

Here’s an excerpt from the Tech Crunch article:

“The move follows an announcement in November that Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and Agari were authenticating emails from Facebook, YouSendIt, and other e-commerce companies and social networks.

DMARC said the anti-phishing initiative has actually been going on for the last 18 months.

According to Google, about 15 percent of all e-mail comes from members of DMARC, but by published their DMARC records, these records can not be domain spoofed. This makes the anti-phising group much more effective at stopping criminal gangs from using phasing to dupe unsuspecting users.”

Are there any downsides to DMARC? Not really, in my opinion.

However, as many at Slashdot pointed out in their comments today, this system still doesn’t stop unwanted spam from within gmail or yahoo (or wherever) – it only ensures that the email is not from a fake domain. The benefit is tied to ensuring that the domain is genuine – which is a huge step forward – but not a complete solution. So as the critics point out, we still need to be careful to esnure that you are reading a message from the correct user. For example: there are mutiple people with the same name in Yahoo mail.

Nevertheless, I agree with the major vendors that this is an important step forward in fighting phishing attacks.

What are your thoughts on this announcement?