If you think DMARC – Domain Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance – is the solution to defend against email spoofing, impersonation or business email compromise attacks, you would be only partially correct. It helps but doesn’t by itself solve the entire problem.
Overall these social engineering heavy, impersonation type of email attacks have become a key go-to method for cybercriminals, helping them reap by some estimates billions of dollars of ill-gotten gains every year. Why are attackers so focused on these types of attacks? It is simple: The returns are good, the cost of entry is low, technical innovations aren’t needed, and the risk of getting caught is negligible.
DMARC, when used in conjunction with other DNS authentication capabilities such as DKIM and SPF, can help stop attackers from spoofing or hijacking the email domains of trusted senders, thus effectively taking away one method attackers use to fool their intended victims. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t support these security standards with the deployments of their email systems. The FTC recently released a study which confirmed this. However, using these email security standards alone will not sufficiently defend your organization from the full variety of malware-less impersonation attacks. Why not?
Unfortunately, attackers are creative. One way around DMARC/DKIM/SPF-oriented security controls is to register and use valid domains which are similar to, but not exactly the same as, your domain or the domain of one your trusted partners or customers. For example, using Mirnecast.com instead of the proper Mimecast.com as the sending domain for an attack against Mimecast or someone expecting an email from Mimecast. Notice the difference - rn .vs. m?
Mirnecast.com is a perfectly valid domain, the fact that it is quite similar to Mimecast.com is not an issue for email routing on the Internet, but is a big problem for a person who applies only a cursory glance to the sending domain and has no automated email security controls.
And, of course, there is nothing DMARC can do to stop attackers using free mail accounts to launch their attacks. Most organizations can’t broadly block emails from Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail because they are the source of many legitimate emails.
The best solution for protecting your organization from an email impersonation attack is to combine the use of DMARC, DKIM and SPF with Mimecast’s Targeted Threat Protection – Impersonation Protect, so inbound messages can be analyzed to determine their validity before being delivered to the users’ inbox. Inspecting the content of the email for keywords (wire transfer, W-2, credit card etc.) in combination with the validity and newness of the sending domain, the accuracy of the display and reply-to name, in conjunction with using DMARC and family of email security standards, can provide a strong defense against malware-less, email-borne impersonation attacks.
Unfortunately, most organizations have not adopted these types of sophisticated email security controls whether at the domain registry or individual mail inspection level. However, as more businesses adopt email security technologies such as DMARC/DKIM/SPF, the level of protection will increase for everyone on the Internet. Adding DMARC to Mimecast’s security portfolio helps our customers better protect their email domains as well as filter and flag any unauthenticated senders, which leads to improved security for all Mimecast customers.
February 28, 2017Our promise to the industry was to engage, educate and provide valuable insight into major cybersecurity issues facing organizations around the world.
Here is a small recap of what happened at RSA Conference, so you can feel like you were able to attend:
Moment 1: ‘Cyber Resilience Think Tank’ at the San Francisco NASDAQ Center
The Mimecast team hosted a great event at the San Francisco NASDAQ Center for an early morning ‘Think Tank’ lead by Mimecast’s CTO, Neil Murray, and moderated by Venable’s CEO, Ari Schwartz. Security thought leaders from various industries joined in one room to network and share the challenges organizations face today with cyber resilience. As organizations work to become adopt a more cyber resilient strategy there was consensus among the peers in the room that the diversity of the attack must equal the diversity of the defense.
Moment 2: Dark Reading Interview with Bob Adams
Lights, camera, action! What a moment for our very own senior cybersecurity strategist, Bob Adams, who was in front of the camera for an interview with Dark Reading. Bob highlighted the latest security gaps with internal email and the proposed solution, which Mimecast launched at the start of the show. He also discussed how to gain valuable insight into the attacks being missed by many incumbent email security solutions. Interested in watching? Click on the image to watch the full interview below
Moment 3: Live Hacks at the Mimecast Booth
Full house, no problem. Security experts Bob Adams, Julian Martin, and Matthew Gardiner demonstrated onsite ‘LIVE HACKS.’ The gist of the hacks incorporated social engineering attacks, phishing attacks and the ease at which a hacker can use email as a primary hacking mechanism to own the target’s system, gain bank information and take over someone’s video camera without them knowing. You can view the live Periscope video below if you would like to take a look for yourself.
Moment 4: Insights into the latest Cyber Threat Plaguing email
Who doesn’t like working on solving problems with clients? At the event, we got to meet with many customers and new prospects. Thank you, to everyone who stopped by the booth. We were able to share the latest email security threats we see organizations face daily. This included 421 unknown malware threats, all of which were missed by a number of incumbent email security solutions. Check out a summary of these threats in our latest Email Security Risk Assessment infographic we had posted in the booth here.