Landing another blow against email phishing

Sunday, January 29, 2012 9:00 PM



Email phishing, in which someone tries to trick you into revealing personal information by sending fake emails that look legitimate, remains one of the biggest online threats. One of the most popular methods that scammers employ is something called domain spoofing. With this technique, someone sends a message that seems legitimate when you look at the “From” line even though it’s actually a fake. Email phishing is costing regular people and companies millions of dollars each year, if not more, and in response, Google and other companies have been talking about how we can move beyond the solutions we’ve developed individually over the years to make a real difference for the whole email industry.

Industry groups come and go, and it’s not always easy to tell at the beginning which ones are actually going to generate good solutions. When the right contributors come together to solve real problems, though, real things happen. That’s why we’re particularly optimistic about today’s announcement of DMARC.org, a passionate collection of companies focused on significantly cutting down on email phishing and other malicious mail.

Building upon the work of previous mail authentication standards like SPF and DKIM, DMARC is responding to domain spoofing and other phishing methods by creating a standard protocol by which we’ll be able to measure and enforce the authenticity of emails. With DMARC, large email senders can ensure that the email they send is being recognized by mail providers like Gmail as legitimate, as well as set policies so that mail providers can reject messages that try to spoof the senders’ addresses.

We’ve been active in the leadership of the DMARC group for almost two years, and now that Gmail and several other large mail senders and providers — namely Facebook, LinkedIn, and PayPal — are actively using the DMARC specification, the road is paved for more members of the email ecosystem to start getting a handle on phishing. Our recent data indicates that roughly 15% of non-spam messages in Gmail are already coming from domains protected by DMARC, which means Gmail users like you don’t need to worry about spoofed messages from these senders. The phishing potential plummets when the system just works, and that’s what DMARC provides.

If you’re a large email sender and you want to try out the DMARC specification, you can learn more at the DMARC website. Even if you’re not ready to take on the challenge of authenticating all your outbound mail just yet, there’s no reason to not sign up to start receiving reports of mail that fraudulently claims to originate from your address. With further adoption of DMARC, we can all look forward to a more trustworthy overall experience with email.
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