The three free mechanisms to bolster your school email security

Email is a cornerstone of school communication. Yet, lurking among legitimate messages lie malicious ones: phishing attempts, forged identities, and malware-laden links. Protecting your school community from these threats requires a multi-layered approach, with email authentication forming the crucial first line of defence.

DMARC, DKIM, and SPF - the three amigos of email security

These free, globally recognised protocols work together to verify the legitimacy of incoming emails, shielding your system from spoofing, tampering, and compromise. Once set up, they work in the background to protect staff and students from harmful actors.

DMARC stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance. It acts as the rule book. It instructs email providers how to handle incoming emails that fail authentication, offering options like quarantining or rejecting them outright. It can also generate reports showing which incoming emails are allowed or denied access.

DKIM stands for Domain Keys Identified Mail. It serves as the digital signature by attaching a cryptographic stamp to emails. Checking the signature can ensure the incoming email hasn’t been tampered with during transit.

SPF stands for Sender Policy Framework. It acts as the gatekeeper. It verifies if the email originates from an authorised server, preventing spoofing attempts.

The three protocols work in sequence to combat nefarious incoming emails. SPF checks that the email comes from an authorised server registered to the sender. DKIM checks that the email wasn't changed and verifies the domain using digital signatures. DMARC defines how to handle outliers. If either SPF or DKIM identify a problem, the email system knows the email doesn't match the organisation's standards and acts according to the rules established by DMARC.

The three free mechanisms to bolster your school email security

Benefits of improved email security

Implementing these protocols delivers tangible benefits:

  • Shielded from phishing: DMARC thwarts emails that imitate trusted senders like banks or parents, safeguarding sensitive information.
  • Enhanced personal security: DKIM protects against forged emails from suppliers, colleagues, or other apparently trusted sources to prevent identity theft.
  • Malware block: Stopping fraudulent emails before they arrive at their intended recipient minimises the risk of malware infections through email links.
  • Transparent user experience: Best of all, these solutions operate seamlessly behind the scenes, requiring no user action once set up.

Simple steps with a big impact

While user awareness remains crucial, DMARC, DKIM, and SPF offer an indispensable layer of automated protection. RM provides a School Email Authentication and Configuration service to implement this essential protection for schools and trusts. By partnering with RM, you can implement these protocols swiftly and effectively, ensuring your school community enjoys safe and secure email communication.

Further reading

The three free mechanisms to bolster your school email security

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