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Building Trust 6 August 2014

Businesses and Government Failing Fight Against Spear Phishing and Deceptive Emails

SEATTLE—August 6, 2014—The Online Trust Alliance (OTA), the non-profit with the mission to enhance online trust, announced today the results of its 2014 Email Integrity Audit, including its Email Trust Scorecard. Out of emails from nearly 800 top consumer websites evaluated, OTA found only 8.3% passed and thus 91.7% failed.

OTA’s report revealed the overwhelming majority of businesses and government agencies are not following adequate steps to help ensure consumers and business partners can discern if emails coming from their domain are genuine or forged. The Scorecard measures the adoption of three critical email authentication protocols: Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC).

“When organizations implement specific protocols, the results are increased consumer protection from malicious and fraudulent email and strengthened brand reputation,” said OTA Executive Director and President Craig Spiezle. “Despite the obvious benefits, the majority of organizations have yet to adopt practices comprehensively, putting consumers and their brands at risk.”

The scorecard found emails purportedly to be from social media companies to be most trustworthy and federal agencies to be least, with all sectors failing significantly to adopt email security best practices. Specifically, the percentage of companies passing the 2014 Audit & Email Trust Audit  is broken down as follows:

  • 28 percent of the top 50 social media companies
  • 17 percent of the top 100 financial services companies
  • 14 percent of the top 100 Internet retail companies
  • 6 percent of the top 50 news companies
  • 6 percent of the top 500 Internet retailers
  • 4 percent of the top 50 U.S. government agencies

OTA Recommendations
By utilizing email authentication, organizations can help protect their brands and consumers from receiving forged email. Both DKIM and SPF are email authentication protocols designed to detect email spoofing by providing a mechanism to allow receiving mail servers to confirm the authenticity of the email. Building on SPF and DKIM protocols, DMARC adds a policy assertion providing receiving networks (ISPs and corporate networks) direction on how to handle messages that may fail authentication. Equally as important, DMARC provides a reporting mechanism back to the brand/domain owner.  Industry Support &Testimonials

“DMARC allowed us to dramatically reduce the number of emails forged to our users,” said Josh Aberant, Postmaster at Twitter. “That was a direct benefit to our users by blocking these impersonations.”

“Over 400 million Microsoft users worldwide are realizing the benefits of SPF, DKIM and DMARC. As email threats and spear phishing grow, every business should make email authentication a priority to help protect their consumers, their employees and their brands,” said John Scarrow, General Manager Safety Services, Microsoft Corporation.

“Implementing DMARC stopped nearly 25 million attempted attacks on our customers. Not only is DMARC shutting down spoofed domain attacks, but it has also cut the overall volume of daily attacks in half since 2012,” added Trent Adams, Senior Advisor on Email Security for PayPal and eBay Inc.

In addition to implementing SPF, DKIM and DMARC, OTA recommends adopting Transport Layer Security (TLS) technology and clear unsubscribe policies in order to enhance consumer trust. TLS is a protocol that encrypts and delivers mail securely thus helping prevent eavesdropping on and spoofing emails. See OTA best practices

 

About OTA: 

The Online Trust Alliance (OTA) is a non-profit with the mission to enhance online trust and user empowerment while promoting innovation and the vitality of the Internet. Its goal is to help educate businesses, policy makers and stakeholders while developing and advancing best practices and tools to enhance the protection of users’ security, privacy and identity. OTA supports collaborative public-private partnerships, benchmark reporting, and meaningful self-regulation and data stewardship. Its members and supporters include leaders spanning the public policy, technology, ecommerce, social networking, mobile, email and interactive marketing, financial, service provider, government agency and industry organization sectors.

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