A Step by Step Guide to DMARC, SPF, DKIM Configuration of Office 365 and Domain

Feature Image

Sep 20 2023

Abhay Nawathey
by Abhay Nawathey
Linkdlin
blog

When utilizing a third-party application for email transmission, there may be no necessity to set up the SPF record for that specific app. The reason behind this is that the third-party app relies on your SMTP server for sending emails. As long as your SMTP server is properly configured and your IP addresses are incorporated within your SPF record, any emails dispatched through the third-party app will be deemed legitimate. 

For instance, consider the case where your domain is example.com, and you employ Clodura.AI as your email platform. Clodura.AI operates by utilizing your SMTP server to transmit emails. Consequently, it's unnecessary to configure an SPF record for Clodura.AI itself. Instead, the focus should be on configuring your own SPF record, ensuring that it encompasses the relevant IP addresses. 

Think of Clodura.AI in a similar vein as common email clients such as Outlook or webmail. These clients draft and deliver emails to your server. Consequently, there is no requirement for a separate SPF record for Clodura.AI in this context. The integrity of the emails sent through Clodura.AI is established through the proper configuration of your SMTP server and the inclusion of relevant IP addresses in your domain's SPF record. 

Let's take a closer look at A Step-by-Step Guide for Configuring DMARC in Office 365. 

Set up DMARC for inbound mail 

You don't need to take any action to establish DMARC for incoming emails in Microsoft 365. Everything is handled automatically. If you're curious about what occurs with emails that don't pass our DMARC verification, you can find out more by - How Microsoft 365 handles inbound email that fails DMARC. 

Set up DMARC for inbound mail

Set up DMARC for outbound mail from Microsoft 365 

If you use Microsoft 365 but you aren't using a custom domain (you use onmicrosoft.com), SPF is already set up for you and Microsoft 365 automatically generates a DKIM signature for your outgoing mail (for more information about this signature, see Default behavior for DKIM and Microsoft 365). To set up DMARC for your organization, you need to Form the DMARC TXT record for the onmicrosoft.com domain and publish it to DNS via  

Office 365 Admin Center > Settings > Domains > click on onmicrosoft.com domain > Add record. 

For those with a custom domain or employing on-premises Exchange servers in conjunction with Microsoft 365, configuring DMARC for outbound emails requires manual steps. The process of setting up DMARC for your custom domain encompasses the following actions: 

Step 1: Identify valid sources of mail for your domain 

If you've previously established SPF, you've already completed a similar task. However, there are additional factors to bear in mind when dealing with DMARC. To determine the origins of emails associated with your domain, it's important to address these two key questions: 

  • What IP addresses send messages from my domain? 
  • For mail sent from third parties on my behalf, will the 5321.MailFrom and 5322.From domains match? 
Set up DMARC for outbound mail from Microsoft 365

Step 2: Set up SPF for your domain 

Now that you have a list of all your valid senders you can follow the steps to Set up SPF to help prevent spoofing. 

For example, assuming contoso.com sends mail from Exchange Online, an on-premises Exchange server whose IP address is 192.168.0.1, and a web application whose IP address is 192.168.100.100, the SPF TXT record would look like this: 

contoso.com  IN  TXT  " v=spf1 ip4:192.168.0.1 ip4:192.168.100.100 include:spf.protection.outlook.com -all" 

As a best practice, ensure that your SPF TXT record takes into account third-party senders. 

Step 3: Set up DKIM for your custom domain 

After configuring SPF, the next step is to establish DKIM. DKIM enables the inclusion of a digital signature within the email message header. If you opt not to configure DKIM and instead permit Microsoft 365 to employ the default DKIM settings for your domain, it could lead to potential DMARC failures. This issue arises because the default DKIM configuration employs your original onmicrosoft.com domain as the 5321.MailFrom address, rather than your customized domain. This creates a disparity between the 5321.MailFrom and 5322.From addresses in all emails originating from your domain. 

In cases where you have third-party senders responsible for sending emails on your behalf, and these emails exhibit a mismatch between the 5321.MailFrom and 5322.From addresses, it can lead to DMARC failures for those specific emails. To prevent this, it's essential to configure DKIM specifically for your domain in collaboration with that third-party sender. This not only enables Microsoft 365 to authenticate emails from this third-party service but also allows other email services like Yahoo, Gmail, and Comcast to verify these emails as if they were sent directly from you. 

This practice is advantageous as it helps build trust in your domain among recipients, regardless of their email provider. Simultaneously, it ensures that Microsoft 365 doesn't flag these messages as spam due to spoofing because they successfully pass authentication checks for your domain. 

For instructions on setting up DKIM for your domain, including how to set up DKIM for third-party senders so they can spoof your domain, see Use DKIM to validate outbound email sent from your custom domain. 

Set up DKIM for your custom domain

Step 4: Form the DMARC TXT record for your domain 

Although there are other syntax options that aren't mentioned here, these are the most commonly used options for Microsoft 365. Form the DMARC TXT record for your domain in the format: 

_dmarc.domain  TTL  IN  TXT  "v=DMARC1; p=policy; pct=100" 

Where: 

  • domain is the domain you want to protect. By default, the record protects mail from the domain and all subdomains. For example, if you specify _dmarc.contoso.com, then DMARC protects mail from the domain and all subdomains, such as housewares.contoso.com or plumbing.contoso.com. 
  • TTL should always be the equivalent of one hour. The unit used for TTL, either hours (1 hour), minutes (60 minutes), or seconds (3600 seconds), will vary depending on the registrar for your domain. 
  • pct=100 indicates that this rule should be used for 100% of email. 
  • policy specifies what policy you want the receiving server to follow if DMARC fails. You can set the policy to none, quarantine, or reject. 
  • For information about which options to use, become familiar with the concepts in Best practices for implementing DMARC in Microsoft 365.

Examples: 

a-step-by-step-guide-to-dmarc-spf-dkim-configuration-of-office-365-and-domain 

Once you've formed your record, you need to update the record at your domain registrar. 

Email Authentication: Real-world Insights and Solutions  

In addition to providing detailed instructions on configuring SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, it's valuable to include real-world examples or case studies that demonstrate the practical implications of implementing these protocols. By sharing success stories of organizations that have benefited from proper authentication protocols, readers can better understand the importance and impact of these measures. 

Example: 

Case Study: XYZ Company Improves Email Security with DMARC 

XYZ Company, a leading enterprise in the tech industry, recently implemented DMARC authentication for their email infrastructure. Prior to implementing DMARC, XYZ Company faced significant challenges with email phishing attacks and spoofed emails, which jeopardized their reputation and compromised their employees' security. 

By configuring DMARC correctly, XYZ Company was able to: 

  • Reduce Phishing Attacks: DMARC's strict enforcement policies helped XYZ Company identify and block phishing attempts targeting their domain, significantly reducing the risk of employees falling victim to malicious emails. 
  • Enhance Email Deliverability: With DMARC in place, XYZ Company's legitimate emails were authenticated and delivered with higher reliability, improving communication with clients and partners. 
  • Protect Brand Reputation: By preventing unauthorized use of their domain in phishing attacks, XYZ Company safeguarded their brand reputation and maintained trust with customers. 

Common Challenges and Solutions:

In the process of implementing SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, organizations may encounter various challenges.  

Here are some common issues and solutions: 

  • Complex Configuration: Configuring SPF, DKIM, and DMARC can be complex, especially for organizations with diverse email infrastructure. Utilizing automated tools or seeking assistance from email security experts can simplify the configuration process. 
  • Email Forwarding Issues: Organizations using email forwarding services may face challenges with SPF alignment. Implementing SPF "redirect" or "include" mechanisms can address these issues while ensuring email deliverability. 
  • Monitoring and Maintenance: Regular monitoring and maintenance of authentication protocols are essential to ensure continued effectiveness. Implementing automated monitoring solutions and staying informed about updates to email authentication standards can help organizations proactively manage their email security. 

To Wrap Up,

Mastering the configuration of DMARC, SPF, and DKIM in Office 365 and custom domains is essential for bolstering email security. Real-world examples highlight the tangible benefits, while addressing common challenges ensures a smoother implementation process. By prioritizing these authentication measures, businesses can safeguard their communication channels, protect against phishing attacks, and uphold the trust of their stakeholders in an increasingly digital world. 

FAQs 

Q. What is DMARC, SPF, and DKIM? 

DMARC, SPF, and DKIM are email authentication protocols that help protect against email spoofing and phishing attacks.

Q. Why is DMARC important for Office 365 and domain security? 

DMARC enhances email security by preventing unauthorized use of your domain for phishing and spoofing.

Q. How do I configure SPF for Office 365 and my domain? 

Configure SPF records to specify which mail servers are authorized to send emails on behalf of your domain.

Q. What is DKIM, and how do I set it up for Office 365? 

DKIM adds a digital signature to your emails; set it up in Office 365 to verify message authenticity. 

Q. What are the key steps for implementing DMARC for Office 365 and my domain? 

Implement DMARC by publishing a DMARC record, monitoring reports, and gradually enforcing email authentication policies. 

Abhay Nawathey
by Abhay Nawathey
Linkdlin

Abhay Nawathey is Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Clodura.AI.
He has more than 22 years of experience in technology creation and software development, having worked in various leadership roles for software companies.

clodura-email-banner