What Is DMARC and Why Is It Important?

Originally Posted on RBLTracker.

dmarc_blogDMARC, or “Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance”, allows a domain owner to publish policies in DNS, telling remote mailers what to do with messages that do not align with these polices. DMARC is built on top of two existing technologies: SPF, or “Sender Policy Framework”, and DKIM, or “DomainKeys Identified Mail”.

By publishing a DMARC policy via DNS, domain owners can instruct remote mailers on what to do with messages that do not pass either a SPF or DKIM test. It also provides a mechanism for reporting under those policies. This gives remote mailers a channel for letting domain owners know that they received messages that did or did not align with those policies.

Why Is This Good?

The main goal of DMARC (and SPF and DKIM), is to detect and prevent email spoofing. For example, phishing scams that are designed to look like they’re coming from your bank or Paypal, prompting you to click on a link to reset your password or to give them your information.

Ultimately, SPF and DKIM are doing the hard work here. By designating email systems that are permitted to send email for a domain, and by cryptographically signing messages to avoid header modification en-route.

But DMARC ties the two technologies together, providing a single interface for instructing remote mailers on the domains policies, and actions to take when not met. It also opens up the possibilities of adding additional anti-spoofing or SPAM control software, which could also be handled under the DMARC umbrella.

For Example

As a domain owner of example.com, I can publish both SPF and DKIM records identifying my mail system (x.x.x.x) as the only authorized mail relay for my domain. I can then publish a DMARC record that tells remote mailers, that they should reject any messages that do not pass both a SPF and DKIM check, and that they should send reports to abuse@example.com to let me know if and when this happens.

A DMARC policy record, via a DNS TXT record, using the hostname _dmarc.example.com, would look something like this:

"v=DMARC1;p=reject;rua=mailto:abuse@example.com"

If a remote mail receives an inbound email from an email address @example.com, but not from my mail system (x.x.x.x), the SPF check should fail, and they should reject the email in accordance with my DMARC policy.

Technologies like DMARC, SPF, and DKIM are great tools in the seemingly never ending fight against email SPAM and spoofing.

For more information, see:

RBLTracker: Facebook Threat Exchange, New Website, and More!

After more than six month of design and development, we’ve launched a brand new version of the RBLTracker service and website. This release includes some long sought-after features, including a completely redesigned management portal, support for the Facebook Threat Exchange, and much much more.

New Management Portal

With a completely redesigned web portal, customers can easily manage all aspects of their RBLTracker account.

interface

Some key new features include:

  • Improved reporting and graphing features.
  • Additional payment options, including credit card payments, and auto-recharging account balances.
  • Easier management of accounts with large number of hosts.
  • Support for sub-accounts to split up account management roles for billing, development, and for read-only access users.
  • Support for contact groups by host, which allows custom alerting options by host.

Facebook Threat Exchange

threat_exchange_logosSupport for the new Facebook Threat Exchange service is now part of the standard RBLTracker monitoring process.

Facebook Threat Exchange is a shared network of malware and phishing attack targets, shared by a collaborative of social media and SaaS organizations, including Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Dropbox, and Yahoo.

RBLTracker monitors your host IP addresses and domains, against data collected from sources like Facebook posts, Dropbox files, and Pinterest pins. If your domain or IP address was used to try and spread malware or viruses on any of the supported platforms, you’ll receive alerts from RBLTracker.

How Do RBLs Affect Me? (Part 3)

sbOriginally posted on RBLTracker

In Part 1 and Part 2 of our series, I talked about what RBLs are, how they work, and how RBLs are used by administrators to control the day-to-day onslaught of SPAM on their email systems. In this article I’m going to talk about how RBLs affect you, your business, and why you should care.

So Why Do I Care?

Getting listed on an RBL or URIBL is not uncommon- it happens.

  • Maybe you have a customer using your email platform that didn’t quite understand the rules against bulk email.
  • Maybe one of your employees downloaded some virus infested software that started sending SPAM to all the contacts in their email client.
  • Maybe your email administrator made a mistake when configuring your email system, and opened you up as an open relay.
  • Maybe the WordPress or Drupal installation on your website was compromised, and injected with phishing code.

We all do our best to ensure that these types of errors aren’t the norm, but human error happens.

As a mail recipient, RBLs protect you from these issues by rejecting these messages before they land in your inbox. As a mail sender, RBLs protect others FROM your issues- and limit your overall liability, by reducing the number of messages delivered.

By listing compromised mail servers and website domains, and using these RBLs and URIBLs in our mail systems, we effectively limit the spread of SPAM and phishing websites, which is good for everybody.

Sounds Great- What’s the Catch?

Once you’re listed- as the name indicates- you’re “black-holed”- much of your email won’t be reaching its destination, and traffic to your websites could be limited.

If your business relies on email communication- either as a tool, or a product- then the longer you’re listed, the worst it is for your bottom line, and your reputation. It looks really bad if your customers email you, and get a bounce message indicating that your email system has been blocked.

The sooner you know there is an issue, the sooner the issue can be resolved, and the sooner you can request delisting from the RBLs in question.

RBLTracker

RBLTracker provides a fully automated RBL monitoring service, which checks your IP addresses and website domains, against a customizable list of the top DNSBLs, and will alert you immediately if your system is listed.

Don’t wait days or weeks to find out that your email hasn’t been reaching your customers- click here to find out more!

How Are RBLs Used? (Part 2)

Originally posted on RBLTracker

In Part 1 of our series we talked about what RBLs are, and the different types of RBLs. In this article, we’ll talk more about how they can be used by administrators to control the flow of SPAM into their networks.

How Are They Used?

Most mail server software can be configured to make requests against DNSBLs, and reject or accept mail, based on if the sending mail servers IP address is listed in the DNSBL. Or in the case of URIBLs, if a domain name or website URL found in the body of the message is listed.

Example

As a quick example, the Exim mail transfer agent (MTA) supports specifying one or more DNSBLs during the ACL processing of an inbound SMTP message.

exim_rbl

Exim will make a DNS lookup request on the sending mail servers’ IP address, and if found in the DNSBL, can reject the message with a specific error message.

The Postfix MTA allows administrator to add one or more DNSBLs using the reject_rbl_client configuration option in the smtpd_recipient_restrictions option.

postfix_rbl

You can also do a simple check on Windows, Mac, and Unix, using the command line nslookup tool. Simply reverse the digits in your IP address, and prefix it to one of the DNSBL host names.

So for example, if your IP address was 127.0.0.2 and you wanted to check the bl.spamcop.net DNSBL, you would do a DNS lookup on: 2.0.0.127.bl.spamcop.net:

manual_lookup

Check back for Part 3 of our series where I talk about how RBLs affect organizations, and why they can be an important part of your day-to-day administration.

What are RBLs and How Do They Work? (Part 1)

antispamOriginally Posted on RBLTracker

Real-Time Blackhole Lists (RBL) are a simple but effective way for organizations around the world, to share the location (in this case, the IP addresses) of email systems that are reputed to send email SPAM.

The most common implementation of these lists are distributed via DNS, and referred to as DNS-based Blackhole Lists (DNSBL). Distributing this data via DNS makes perfect sense; it’s a technology that already exists, and servers all already have access to. It’s fast, and the data (IP addresses and domains) is well suited for DNS.

Types of RBLs

There are hundreds of RBLs available worldwide, managed by hundreds of organizations and individuals. Most RBLs are free to use, some are pay-to-use, and they all have their own methodologies for compiling their databases, and their own processes for being delisted.

Two of the most common and reliable methodologies for collecting data for RBLs, are based on user input, or something they call a “honey pot”.

Crowd Sourced

RBLs based on user input are the most common, and often most reliable. This data is effectively crowd sourced. When an email recipient receives a SPAM message (assuming their system supports it), they can “flag this message as SPAM”. If enough recipients flag the same message as SPAM, the IP address of the sender will be added to the RBL database.

This is common in free email services like Hotmail and Gmail.

Honey Pots

Another common source for RBL data is something called a honey pot. These are basically email addresses that are never used for any legitimate email purposes, and aren’t owned by any end users. They simply exist out on the Internet in places where robots and SPAM aggregators collect email addresses.

Any email that comes to these addresses is by definition unsolicited, and considered SPAM, and will land you on an RBL.

URIBLs

Another type of RBL is the URI Blackhole List (URIBL). This is used for distributing domain names of websites that are reputed to send SPAM or to be involved in phishing schemes. So this doesn’t just affect organizations that run their own mail servers, but anyone that has a website as well.

There are definitely RBLs that are more reputable than others; there are some that have no process for being delisted, and others where you have to pay to be delisted. In my opinion, the pay-to-delist RBLs should not be considered reputable, and should not be used by mail system administrators.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where I’ll talk about how these RBLs are used by organizations, and give you some real-world examples of how RBLs can help you combat SPAM.