Protecting Your Small Business Email Server: From DNSSEC to DMARC, DKIM, and SPF


As a small business owner, securing your email server should be a top priority. Cybercriminals constantly target email servers to access sensitive information, distribute malware, or commit fraud. Implementing DNSSEC, DMARC, DKIM, and SPF can help you protect your email server and maintain the integrity of your business communications. In this article, we will explore these security measures and discuss the pitfalls of direct mail forwarding that might cause false positive SPF results.

  1. DNSSEC: Domain Name System Security Extensions

DNSSEC is an essential security protocol that provides authentication and integrity to the Domain Name System (DNS). It ensures that the information you receive from DNS servers is authentic and unaltered. By implementing DNSSEC, you can protect your email server from DNS cache poisoning and other DNS-based attacks.

To enable DNSSEC:

  • Contact your domain registrar and ask them to enable DNSSEC for your domain.
  • Generate a key pair, consisting of a private and public key.
  • Create a DS record for your domain and submit it to your domain registrar.
  1. DMARC: Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance

DMARC is an email authentication protocol that helps protect your domain from unauthorized use, such as phishing and spoofing. It works by verifying that the sender's domain has published SPF and DKIM records, and by instructing receiving servers how to handle unauthenticated emails.

To implement DMARC:

  • Publish an SPF record for your domain.
  • Set up DKIM signing for your email server.
  • Create a DMARC policy record in your domain's DNS settings, specifying the enforcement level and reporting options.
  1. DKIM: DomainKeys Identified Mail

DKIM is an email authentication method that uses cryptographic signatures to verify the authenticity of an email message. By signing your outgoing emails with a private key, you can prove that the message was sent from your domain and has not been tampered with during transit.

To enable DKIM:

  • Generate a DKIM key pair for your domain.
  • Add the public key to your domain's DNS records as a TXT record.
  • Configure your email server to sign outgoing messages with the private key.
  1. SPF: Sender Policy Framework

SPF is an email authentication standard that allows domain owners to specify which IP addresses are authorized to send email on their behalf. This helps protect your domain from being used in spam and phishing campaigns.

To implement SPF:

  • Create an SPF record for your domain in the DNS settings, listing the authorized IP addresses.
  • Configure your email server to check SPF records for incoming messages and reject unauthorized senders.
  1. Pitfalls of Direct Mail Forwarding and SPF False Positives

Direct mail forwarding can sometimes cause SPF false positives. When an email is forwarded, the original sender's IP address is preserved, causing the receiving server to check the SPF record of the original sender. If the forwarding server's IP address is not authorized in the original sender's SPF record, the email may be marked as failed.

To avoid this issue:

  • Use a mail forwarding service that supports SRS (Sender Rewriting Scheme) to rewrite the return-path, ensuring SPF checks are performed correctly.
  • Add the forwarding server's IP address to the original sender's SPF record, if you have control over it.


Protecting your small business email server is crucial in today's digital landscape. By implementing DNSSEC, DMARC, DKIM, and SPF, you can significantly improve your email security and protect your business from cyber threats. Be cautious with direct mail forwarding, and take the necessary steps to avoid SPF false positives. With these measures in place, you can safeguard your email communications and focus on growing your business.

Before diving into the implementation of each security protocol, it's essential to understand their syntax. The following table provides sample syntax for DNSSEC, DMARC, DKIM, and SPF records. Please note that these are just examples, and you should replace the placeholders with your actual domain, IP addresses, and public keys. Additionally, you may need to adjust the TTL (time-to-live) values as needed. Once you're familiar with the syntax, you can start configuring your domain's DNS records to enhance your email server security.

Security Protocol Sample Syntax
DNSSEC 86400 IN DS 12345 8 2 0234567890ABCDEF1234567890ABCDEF1234567890
DMARC 86400 IN TXT "v=DMARC1; p=reject;"
DKIM 86400 IN TXT "v=DKIM1; k=rsa; p=PUBLIC_KEY_HERE"
SPF 86400 IN TXT "v=spf1 mx ip4: -all"

*Please note that these are sample syntaxes, and you should replace the placeholders with your actual domain, IP addresses, and public keys. You may also need to adjust the TTL (time-to-live) values as needed.

Below is a table that lists various DNS records and their sample syntax. These records are used for different purposes, such as pointing your domain to a web server, email server, or verifying domain ownership.

DNS Record Type Sample Syntax Purpose
A 86400 IN A Maps a domain to an IPv4 address
AAAA 86400 IN AAAA 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334 Maps a domain to an IPv6 address
CNAME 86400 IN CNAME Creates an alias for another domain
MX 86400 IN MX 10 Specifies the mail server for a domain
TXT 86400 IN TXT "v=spf1 mx ip4: -all" Stores text-based information for various purposes
SRV 86400 IN SRV 0 5 5060 Provides information about available services
NS 86400 IN NS Delegates a DNS zone to use specific name servers
PTR 86400 IN PTR Maps an IP address to a domain (reverse DNS)
SOA 86400 IN SOA (serial, refresh, retry, expire, minimum) Contains administrative information about a DNS zone