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What Is Email Authentication?

Email authentication is one way of making the electronic marketplace more secure and improving consumer confidence in email. It simplifies and automates the process of identifying senders, and improves the likelihood that legitimate email will get through to the intended recipient.

Using a postal analogy, email authentication can assure the recipient that your return address, letterhead and personal signature are “authentic”; i.e., not faked. Authentication helps prove that you are who you claim to be and that you have the right to send email from your IP address – the first step in ensuring you and your offer are legitimate – not a spammer in disguise giving our industry a bad name. For a graphic that clearly illustrates the postal analogy, please refer to page 19 of DMA/Bigfoot Interactive (now Epsilon Interactive) White Paper on Authentication, Accreditation & Reputation, June 2005. http://www.the-dma.org/whitepapers/BI_DMA_AARWhitepaper.pdf.)

There are currently two major types of interoperable email authentication systems:

  1. IP-based Solutions like Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Sender ID Framework (SIDF) and
  2. Cryptographic Solutions like DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)

The goal of each is the same: to create a public record against which to validate email messages so that the legitimacy of senders can be verified. Both technologies work to verify that the sender is authorized to send mail from a particular IP address. Authentication makes it difficult to forge IP addresses or the cryptographic signatures utilized by email authentication systems.

A fundamental difference between IP-based and cryptographic authentication solutions is that cryptographic technology protects the integrity of the email contents, while IP-based technology verifies or proves that the sender is authorized by the domain owner to send the mail.

For more information and to evaluate the different types of authentication, click here