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Email Authentication and Security – All You Need to Know

Shubham Dixit   Contributor
Published On October 19th, 2023 • 6 Min Read

email authentication and security

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Summary: Email is now a crucial part of our daily routines. It is a tool we rely on for messaging, doing business, and keeping in touch with families. Nonetheless, email is equally convenient which, in turn, also draws its attention to cyber attacks. To ensure that you are protected from such phished messages and spams, you need to learn proper email authentication protocols and security measures. Email authentication is the topic this article seeks to uncover. The process involves protocols, reasons for needing to authenticate emails, techniques of authenticating emails, and ensuring secure emails.

What Is Email Authentication?

An email authentication is just a digital passport of the emails. They also ensure it validates its authenticity and confirms it is not fake. This is like how a person would send a letter through email instead of via post office, where a signature or ID would be checked first before sending it to you. The email authentication provides assistance in a situation where a recipient or an email server can determine legitimacy from spoofed messages.

What Email Authentication is Important?

  • Protect Against Phishing: In most cases, phishing emails come as genuine sender emails. Through email authentication methods, your inbox is able to block malicious messages that are supposedly sent by a different person other than their original address to avoid confusion.
  • Prevent Spoofing: In email spoofing, the attackers forge the “from” of an email in order to cheat the recipient. The tricky thing is that email authentication protocols such as the DKIM and SPF should be used to preclude it.
  • Enhance Your Reputation: Email authentication improves email domain reputation. Therefore, this helps a great deal in achieving mail delivery and ensure your emails are delivered.

Email Authentication Protocols

The most important email authentication protocols that help to verify emails and also useful for email forensics investigation and make them more secure include. Let’s break down the main ones:

  • SPF (Sender Policy Framework): SPF verifies that the server sending an email has permission to send e-mails as part of a particular domain. This it does by comparing the sender’s IP addresses with the allowed IPs as specified within a domain’s DNS record set.
  • DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail): The email gets a digital signature in the form of the DKIM that is verifiable by the email servers of the recipients. It is a guarantee that the email has not changed on transit from sender to the recipient.
  • DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance): The use of DKIM complements SPF in the overall DMARC authentication framework. Secondly, it enables mail administrators to assign appropriate actions for messages that fail in authentication.

Email Authentication Methods

Let us now look at the “how” of email authentication protocols since we now understand the “why”. Here are some email authentication methods and protect it from cyber threats:

  • Implement SPF: List the permitted sending IP addresses in SPF records within your domain name system (DNS) settings. As such, this stage confirms whether an address of a sender will be verified by email servers.
  • Configure DKIM: Have digital signatures added through DKIM to your email system for outgoing emails. The email receiver’s email server verifies these signatures, ensuring that the message has not been edited in transit.
  • Deploy DMARC: DMARC, you can also direct mail servers how to handle emails which will not pass through authentications. It provides a complete approach on email security.
  • Use Secure Email Services: Use email services and platforms with integrated email authentication methods. However, these services usually come with extra security measures to ensure safety.

Email Authentication Code

An extra precaution known as email authentication code, which can be used on emails, can assist to enhance the overall security. The additional checking of the code ensures that the recipient is not mistaken about the origin of the email. Such email containing an email authentication code is highly trusted.

How to Check Email Authentication?

This means you can confirm if the email is genuine or not after receiving it. Here’s how to do email validation check:

  • Check for SPF: Open up the email’s header and locate Received-SPF. When there is success for SPF email validation check it should display “pass”. This means that the server of the sender has been assigned authority to deliver mails under the assumed domain.
  • Verify DKIM: Go through the DKIM-Signature section of the email’s header. It has an authentic mark that verifies using DKIM keys. It means that if valid, the email has been authenticated for integrity.
  • Use DMARC Policies: It may also happen that some emails have their DMARC policies attached. Make sure that DMARC is applied by the sender’s domain and decide what to do in case of failure of the authentication. DMARC policies explain why you should block or accept messages which are not coming from trusted domains.

How to Set Up Email Authentication?

To enhance your email security and ensure successful email authentication protocols, follow these steps:

  1. Specify which IP addresses can send mails on your behalf by adding SPF records to your domain’s DNs settings. Thus, it denies unauthenticated senders from spoofing your domain.
  2. Create DKIM keys and instruct your email system to affix signature in outgoing emails. DKIM ensures that this content is maintained securely and without any modifications in the process of sending this email.
  3. Specify rules for treating emails that bypass DMARC and SPF or DKIM policy verifiers by their respective domain names. Continuously monitor DMARC reports to fine-tuning your SPF/DMARC and responding to your invalid authentications.
  4. Ensure that your employees are trained in email security. Email security is possible only with knowledge.
  5. Make sure that all email accounts are protected by strong and unique passwords in order to avoid any case of phishing. Email security is also incomplete without including password security.
  6. Update your email systems, current virus protection, and malware program to combat ever changing threats. Addressing vulnerabilities include security updates.
  7. Protect email content by encrypting it in transit and in its storage, so that no one can eavesdrop on it. The key feature to consider with encryption is security of the content even after any interception.
  8. Watch out for strange activities in your emails that may reveal attempts at compromising them. Quick response may assist to neutralize possible threats.


Protecting your self against cyber criminals in todays digital world requires email authentication and security. Email authentication protocols such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are implemented to verify emails in order to curb phishing and spoofing attacks. Implementing these email authentication methods and email security best practices will guarantee a secure communication through e-mails for your inbox.