Email security is a major concern for businesses today as cyberattacks and data breaches continue to rise. According to recent research, email-based attacks have increased by 667% following Covid-19 and account for nearly 28% of all malicious activity. What’s more, 94% of malware is delivered via email attachments or links in emails—making it essential that organizations protect their communications with secure solutions like SPF records.
In this article, we’ll explain:
- What is an SPF record?
- Drawbacks of SPF records
- Common misconceptions about SPF email authentication
- How to validate your SPF record and common reasons for SPF validation error
- Resources on how to set up an SPF record
What is an SPF record?
An SPF record, or Sender Policy Framework record, is a specific type of DNS (Domain Name System) record that helps prevent email fraud and spoofing. It allows the legitimate domain owner to specify which mail servers are authorized to send emails from their domain.
Using an SPF record will make your email much more secure, as it can help ensure that no one is sending emails from your domain without your permission.
Why You Should Set Up an SPF Record
An SPF record protects your domain from spoofing and phishing attempts. Below, we focus on various reasons why setting up an SPF record is important.
Helps Prevent Different Types of Email Attacks
Setting up an SPF record allows you to designate which email servers can send emails from your domain. This helps prevent email attacks such as spoofing, phishing, and spamming. Without an SPF record, malicious actors can easily send emails from your domain name, damaging your brand and reputation.
Improves Email Deliverability
Do you ever wonder "why my emails are going to spam?" This is because SPF records protect the delivery domains. SPFs protect your system from dangerous and malicious emails.
Having an SPF record also improves your email deliverability rate. Through SPF records, major ISPs such as Gmail and Yahoo can identify and filter out emails sent from unauthorized IPs and domains. This ensures that your messages are not marked as spam, which is especially important when rolling out an email outreach campaign.
Part of DMARC Policy Compliance
DMARC is an email authentication protocol that helps protect your domain from malicious actors. To fully comply with the DMARC policy, you must set up both SPF records and DKIM signatures. This can help ensure that any emails sent from your domain are authenticated, which further helps protect your domain from spoofing and phishing attempts.
Are There Cons to SPF email Authentication?
Yes, there are certain cons to SPF email authentication. These include:
- It only works if the receiver checks the message headers and verifies them against their list. That means you can’t guarantee that your legitimate emails will be delivered; if the receiver doesn’t verify those headers, they won’t get through.
- If you don’t maintain your SPF record properly, it can lead to legitimate emails being rejected.
- SPF authentication does not encrypt emails or any other type of data security. Consider a different email authentication form if you want added protection against malicious actors.
- SPF records can break plain message forwarding, sending a message from one user to another without changing the content. This happens when messages are forwarded from an email service provider (ESP) that is not on the SPF record.
Common Misconceptions About SPF Email Authentication
Although SPF email authentication is widely used and accepted as a great tool to fight spam, some people still have misconceptions about how it works.
SPF Does Not Provide Full Protection From Spam
SPF can help identify problematic senders and block some forms of spoofing, but it is not a full-proof solution for preventing spam. In some cases, malicious actors bypass SPF by sending from an authorized IP address or using multiple authenticated accounts to send spam.
SPF Alone Cannot Protect Against Spoofing
SPF authentication can help to identify spoofed emails, but on its own, it does not protect against spoofing. To prevent email spoofing, SPF authentication should be used with DKIM and DMARC authentication protocols.
DKIM Cannot Replace an SPF Record for Email Authentication
DKIM is a great way to add an extra layer of security regarding email authentication, but it cannot replace an SPF record. DKIM and SPF are important when authenticating emails, so they should be used together.
How to Validate Your SPF Record
Once you've created and installed an SPF record, it's important to validate your record and triple-check it to ensure it's correctly configured and identifies third-party senders authorized to use your domain.
Validating your SPF record is also essential to reduce soft and hard bounce rates to improve your deliverability, ultimately affecting the sender's reputation. Understand soft bounce vs. hard bounce to improve your sender reputation a crucial aspect for business owners.
Fortunately, there are online tools that help you validate your SPF record. You can also do it with your instantly dashboard.
Common Reasons for SPF Validation Errors
Here are the common reasons for SPF validation errors:
- Incorrectly formatted domain names
- Incorrectly configured SPF records
- Too many DNS lookups in an SPF record
- Invalid Macros
- IP address formatting or using non-existent IP addresses
- Using the PTR Mechanism
- Using outdated versions of DKIM and DMARC protocols
- No Record Termination
- Lack of DMARC alignment
- Unknown parts
Resources on How to Set Up an SPF Record
Check these links to understand setting up an SPF record:
- Google: Add your SPF record at your domain provider
- Microsoft: Set up SPF to help prevent spoofing
- Zoho: Sender Policy Framework
SPF records are an all-important integration for businesses heavily relying on email communication. It helps build trust, ensure deliverability and prevent spammers from using your domain in malicious activities.
- SPF records help prevent different email attacks, improve email deliverability, and are vital to DMARC policy compliance.
- It should be used with other email authentication methods like DKIM and DMARC.
- It is also important to validate your SPF record often to ensure it is correctly configured and up-to-date.
Setting up an SPF record will enhance your email deliverability rate, but how can you get the receiver to open it up without sounding too salesy? Use these email subject lines for sales emails to crank up your click-through rate.