Hackers are now exploiting the power of generative AI tools like ChatGPT to write malicious codes and social engineering emails that closely mimic human-generated content, which looks genuine and has almost no red flags, leaving recipients more susceptible than ever to getting tricked.
But how does an SPF record fit in the picture?
Well, an SPF record is a vital part of the multi-legged email authentication process that helps prevent new-age phishing threats stemming from generative AI, machine learning, and cloud computing concepts.
What is SPF and How Does it Prevent New-Age Phishing Threats?
51% of the IT decision-makers in BlackBerry Global Research are anticipating a successful cyberattack credited to ChatGPT within 2023. However, proactive measures like the deployment and proper monitoring of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC can shield your email-sending domains to a great extent.
Earlier, it was easier to detect phishing emails just by reading them as they had grammatical mistakes, poor or unprofessional sentence formations, poor graphics, sentences creating a fake sense of urgency, etc. However, with the integration of ChatGPT and similar tools, malicious messages are devoid of that. This means it’s not that easy to catch phishing and spamming emails just by reading them. You need technical tools and protocols now, and that’s where SPF helps.
SPF is an email authentication protocol that allows domain owners to specify all the IP addresses (IPv4 and IPv6 ranged) and mail servers they identify as genuine and trust to send emails from. Any other sending sources are considered illegitimate, and therefore, emails sent from them either land in recipients’ spam folders or bounce back.
So, if a threat actor creates a fake email account using your business domain name, messages sent from that email address will not pass SPF authentication checks. Hence, recipients (who are possibly your customers, prospects, or employees) won’t get manipulated into sharing sensitive personal and financial details or downloading malware-injected files.
What is a DNS SPF Record?
A DNS SPF record is a TXT record produced by integrating SPF syntaxes (mechanism, modifiers, and qualifiers) and including all the IP addresses and mail servers permitted to send emails on behalf of your organization. Additionally, you can incorporate external vendors’ sending sources that are officially authorized to dispatch emails on behalf of your company.
An SPF syntax instructs recipients’ servers how to treat illegitimate emails coming from your domain. You can set your SPF records on a ‘Fail’ or ‘Softfail’- SPF Fail (indicated by the -all tag) direct a recipient’s mail server to reject the entry of such emails outright. SPF Softfail (indicated by the ~all tag) commands to mark such messages as suspicious and place them in the spam folder.
Is SPF Mandatory?
SPF is not a mandatory but a highly recommended email authentication protocol. It prevents exploitation of your email-sending domain and shields your business reputation by flagging fraudulent messages at recipients’ ends.
Is SPF Record Necesarry?
SPF record is necessary for SPF deployment. It includes all the legitimate IP addresses and mail servers, along with stipulations for receivers’ mailboxes. The SPF authentication process doesn’t begin until you create and add a valid SPF record to your domain’s DNS.
Where are SPF Records Located?
Domain owners are supposed to update SPF records on their domains’ DNS. This is where recipients’ mail servers locate them for the verification process.
What Should SPF Records Look Like?
Here’s an SPF record example-
TXT @ “v=spf1 a include: spf.google.com ~all”
The description of each element is as follows-
- TXT: Indicates that the SPF record is archived within the Domain Name System (DNS) as plain text.
- @: Serves as a stand-in for the present domain.
- v=spf1: Signifies that the DNS text record is an SPF record with a version number of 1.
- a: Signifies the authorization of a system listed in the ‘domain A’ record to transmit emails on behalf of the organization.
- include: Grants permission for a third party, such as Google in this instance, to dispatch emails on behalf of the domain.
- ~all: Implies that all emails will be permitted to traverse through, although suspicious emails will be subject to flagging.
How Do I Get My SPF Record?
This is one of the common questions that pop into the minds of readers once they understand what is an SPF record and how it works.
You can follow these steps to generate an SPF record.
Access Your Domain DNS Settings
Log into your domain registrar’s control panel or DNS hosting provider’s website.
Determine Your Official Sending Sources
Enlist all the mail servers authorized to dispatch and receive emails on behalf of your company. Don’t forget to include the sending sources of third-party vendors or email service providers (Google Workspace, Office 365, etc.).
Create an SPF Record
Use an online SPF record generator and develop a valid record. Ensure there are no errors.
Define SPF Mechanisms
SPF mechanisms specify which servers are authorized to send emails using your domain name. Common mechanisms include:
- a: Allows the specified domain name’s hostnames to send mail.
- mx: Allows the IP addresses of your domain’s MX (Mail Exchange) records to send mail.
- include: Allows you to include SPF records from other domains.
- ip4 and ip6: Specify specific IP addresses or IP ranges allowed to send mail.
- all: Indicates the final policy if none of the specified mechanisms pass.
Testing and Validation
Use SPF record-checking tools to know and fix existing SPF errors that could otherwise cause validation and authentication issues.
Publish the SPF Record
Once you are sure that you have created an error-free SPF record, save the changes in your DNS settings. It may take a while for DNS to reflect and propagate the changes.
Monitor and Maintain
Monitor and update your SPF records to fix errors and remove or add sending sources.
SPF, DKIM, and DMARC Stand as Steadfast Guardians for IT-Driven Companies
The digital landscape is ever-evolving, and IT-driven companies are at the forefront of the battle against modern cyber menace. With the swift progression of artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, and cloud computing, the stakes are higher than ever.
Image sourced from cyberpanel.net
But SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are the sentinels offering the following benefits with their digital muskets-
Spoofing and Phishing Mitigation
AI-generated phishing emails have become incredibly convincing, lacking obvious red flags and making recipients highly vulnerable to deception. They sound so professional and convincing that victims fall into the trap. SPF, DKIM, and DMARC collectively look at the technical side of emails and figure out senders’ legitimacy through their email addresses.
Enhanced Email Authentication Layers
SPF is just one layer of email authentication. Combining SPF with other mechanisms like DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) can provide stronger protection against email-based threats, including advanced phishing attacks.
Protection from Cloud-Based Email Vulnerabilities
Many email-sending services are offering cloud-based procedures that are speedy and eliminate the issue of limited space on the device or account. SPF records help specify these new-aged sources as valid and authorized, ensuring genuine emails sent from your domain land in the primary inboxes of your target audience.
Productive Marketing Efforts
Email marketing is one of the most fruitful forms of digital marketing. But the results will only reflect if your emails land in the inboxes instead of spam folders or get rejected. Integrating email authentication protocols improves your domain’s email delivery rate, meaning most genuine messages will make their way into inboxes only.
AutoSPF’s Role in the Battle Against New-Age Phishing Threats
Now, as hinted above, an SPF record should be devoid of any errors. There are multiple causes leading to an erroneous SPF TXT record, and AutoSPF helps deal with the most common one- exceeding the limit of a maximum of 10 DNS lookups.
AutoSPF condenses your record by replacing all domains with their IP addresses, eliminating the need for lookups. You just have to add a single include in your SPF record that points to our server, and we take care of the rest.
So, what are you waiting for? Create a free account and get started.