Subtitle: The Evolution of Email Security

Jaxon Wildwood

Updated Thursday, February 1, 2024 at 8:09 AM CDT

Subtitle: The Evolution of Email Security

When email was first created, there was no consideration for abuse prevention or the possibility of fraudulent emails. The concept of "spoofing," or faking the sender data for an email, was not anticipated by email's initial designers. As a result, the first widely used email protocol, SMTP, maintained lax security measures but removed the requirement for access to the recipient's system.

However, over the years, measures such as SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance), and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) have been adopted to strengthen email security. These protocols aim to verify the authenticity of the sender's domain and prevent spoofing. SPF checks if an email is sent from an approved server associated with the sender's domain. If an email fails the SPF check, it is discarded and not even placed in the recipient's junk folder.

Despite these security measures, until all email services universally implement them, spoofing will remain possible. Even with improved security measures, the issue of "legitimate" servers and addresses using similar names to existing domains to deceive people remains a challenge.

One proposed solution is the implementation of a centralized verification system, similar to social media platforms. However, the email system is decentralized, making it challenging to implement such a system. Unlike social media platforms, there is no central authority or body that manages the email system.

Implementing a "verified" mark for legitimate companies raises questions about defining what constitutes a legitimate company. Moreover, it would be difficult to prevent the faking of a "verified" mark by scam companies in countries without relevant laws. Ensuring that all email programs simultaneously update to support a new verification mark would also be a significant challenge.

While backend services exist that perform similar verification processes, they do not guarantee the legitimacy of the company or the email itself. These backend services are utilized by major email providers and many enterprise organizations. The verification provided by these services is based on source domains, such as DNS and IPs, rather than confirming the legitimacy of the sender or email.

The lack of a visible "verified checkmark" for legitimate companies in emails is due to the limitations and decentralized nature of the email system. Email protocols and security measures have evolved over time, but fully eliminating spoofing and fraudulent emails remains a complex task. The issue of distinguishing legitimate emails from fraudulent ones requires a comprehensive and universally adopted solution.

Improving email security and preventing fraud is an ongoing effort that involves collaboration between email service providers, organizations, and individuals. As technology continues to advance, it is crucial to prioritize the development and implementation of robust email security measures to protect users from malicious activities.

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