Hello DKIM, Good-bye Spam? - Advantages and Disadvantages of DKIM
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I’m going to start with an anecdotal illustration of the potential advantages of DKIM. We already use spam blocking technology here at Developer Shed. It catches almost everything, but certain spoofed addresses are particularly difficult to stop. With DKIM, we’d be able to tell right away that the address was spoofed, and the email wouldn’t even have to make it to our inboxes.
As use of DKIM becomes more widespread, spammers will be forced to use fewer and fewer domains. As I mentioned before, domains with legitimate DomainKeys will be easier to trace; therefore if they start abusing the system and permitting spam to go through, it will be much easier to see where it’s coming from. Also, once DKIM is more widely used, it should stop phishing attacks cold so long as the DomainKey can’t be forged.
So far, DKIM has been adopted by 48 percent of large online retailers. Unfortunately, a number of very large retailers have not yet adopted DKIM; these include Dell, Wal-Mart, Target, Gap, Macy’s and Circuit City. In one sense, it’s understandable why they have been slow to adopt the technology: it’s a little work to start using. Recipients only need to have email accounts with email providers that support DKIM, such as Yahoo! Mail and Google’s Gmail. But senders must generate a public/private key pair, add the public key to their DNS entry as a TXT record, and make the private key available to the MTA software.
One of DKIM’s advantages over an earlier version of the same technology is that it supports digital signatures by authorized third parties. This permits a legitimate sender of email newsletters, for example, to outsource the bulk mailing. It should also make it easier to maintain a legitimate signature when the email passes through several forwarders before arriving at its destination. Also, because of the way DKIM works, recipients can verify whether an email has been altered during transmission.
“DKIM can improve users’ trust in e-mail and, in doing so, make the Internet a safer and more useful tool,” noted Jim Fenton, a distinguished engineer in Cisco’s Technology Center and one of the authors of DKIM. “Cisco is proud of its role in helping lead the industry collaboration around this standard. Developing reputation-based and accreditation systems that incorporate this technology will create a safer online environment for users at work, at home and on the go.”
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