New RFC grants DKIM improved status

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Sep 23, 2011

Email signing method now 'Draft Standard'.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has published a new RFC describing the DKIM protocol which sees its status advance from 'Proposed Standard' to 'Draft Standard'.

DKIM ('DomainKeys Identified Email') allows mail transfer agents (MTAs) to sign email messages that pass through them and also to verify a signature attached to an incoming email. The signatures, which use public key cryptography, are linked to domain names; the public keys are published via DNS.

A DKIM signature itself makes no claims about whether an email is spam or not. However, the strength of DKIM is that the link to the domain name in principle cannot be forged (unlike any other part of the email which can be) - and in the case of spam it usually is forged. Hence DKIM can be used to whitelist certain senders based on a domain name or, more generally, to help a spam filter make a decision based on a sender's reputation. As such, DKIM may improve spam filters' accuracy.

As DKIM's success depends greatly on how widely it is used, the improved status is good news for the protocol's many advocates. Among them is messaging anti-abuse organisation MAAWG, which has recommended the use of DKIM in its Sender Best Communication Practices.

The RFC, which has been given the number 6376, can be found here, with comments from email security company Cloudmark here.

At the same time, another RFC was published that provides guidance for the use of DKIM in scenarios that inlcude Mailing List Managers; this document is published as RFC 6377 here.

Posted on 23 September 2011 by Virus Bulletin

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