It is well known that financial institutions are an ideal target for cybercriminal. Despite this Credit unions still lag behind when it comes to configuring adequate cybersecurity for their email systems. This shortcoming leaves these bodies wide open or hackers who aim to get access to banking systems and financial data.

With a strong email security system in place internal employees and the financial institution’s customers are safeguarded from possible infiltration. It can prevent a phishing email tricking an account holder believing that they have received what looks like an email from the credit union. A spoofed message will be designed so that only a closer look will reveal that it is not genuine. Skilled cybercriminals are availing of email servers that don’t have any spam flags in place so they will be able to bypass basic security measures to land in a prospective victim’s inbox. Additionally there is a chance that the account holders use an email provider with poor spam detection, which means that the malicious message will not be quarantined.

However, if the account holder has good email filters, the malicious message will be marked as spam. As this is not, typically, the case cybercriminals are aware that their phishing messages will reach a good number of the intended recipients, potentially earning them thousands of dollars.

Credit unions require a minimum of Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) in order to tackle phishing messages. In order for this to be as successful as possible, both the recipient email system and the domain owner (the credit union) must configure DMARC.

There are two parts to a DMARC system: SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail). SPF is the IP addresses that are permitted to send email for the domain. The SPF entry is placed on the domain owner’s name server as a DNS record, from here it will prevent email spoofing. When email messages are issued with an unauthorized IP address, it is marked as a “failed” DMARC status and is not shared with the intended recipient. There is, however, an onus on the recipient’s email service to review the status and quarantine/delete the incoming message.

DKIM is a signature system that makes sure that cybercriminals have not altered a message. An encrypted signature is shared including the headers of the message using the recipient’s public key placed as a DNS entry at the host. The recipient’s mail server can then authenticate the recipient message to deduce if the signature is the same by encrypting the same message and comparing it to the resulting value. The resulting value should be the same if no content within the message has been changed.

It is often, incorrectly, believed that small businesses are not a valued target of phishers. However, Credit Unions are small financial institutions that can be perfect targets as they are known for not having a strong cybersecurity suite in place. DMARC rules will address the threat posed to these bodies. 

Phishing can be conducted at a low cost by hackers so it is crucial for organizations to focus their efforts on fighting it. Using DMARC will safeguard internal staff members and account holders who are being sent emails