Sender Policy Framework (SPF) - Setup and help

All About Email Spoofing

Email spoofing is when the email header's "From:" line is modified to something other than the actual original sender. A common sign that your email address is being spoofed is getting tons of spam return messages (like Failure Notification or Mailer Daemon) for emails you never sent.

One of the features of a standard SMTP server is the ability to modify the email header to be from any address. This is a convenience built in so the address is easy to read (like "[email protected]"). This feature is often exploited by spammers trying to mask where they are sending from.

How Do I Stop Someone From Spoofing My Domain?

Unfortunately, it will not be possible to stop someone from using your email address as the from address. The reason for this is that the from address on an email works similarly to a physically mailed letter or package. You can physically put any from address on a letter sent via normal post office. The post office does not even check if the return address is real. It is similar with email.

There are methods to help alleviate the issue, that will be discussed below.

What Happens When an Email is Spoofed?

When emails are set to be from an email address on your domain and bounce, they are sent to our servers, attempting to deliver themselves to that mailbox. Generally, you will never see these emails; however, if the email spoofer happens to configure the "From:" header to be a real email box, the bounce will come back to your mailbox and you will receive the email.

Luckily spam filters and ISPs know that and do not penalize people based on the from address. They instead use IP addresses and other indicators to decide who to ban. So unless the spam is coming from your email account, server or hosting account, you would not be penalized for someone spoofing your email address. Individual users can still filter or block your email address, but modern spam filters do not work that way.

These email spoofers are tracked down from the server that is used to authenticate from originally. That server gets reported to ISPs and Email Realtime Black Lists (RBLs), and the spoofing emails stop.

How to Resolve the Email Spoofing

To resolve email spoofing there are two methods, creating a catchall or an SPF record. The catchall (Default Address) can resolve the issue only on a short term basis and is not recommended to be used otherwise. Creating an SPF record would be best for a long term solution as the DNS would catch unverified users trying to send email for your domain and prevent it from being sent out.

Partial Solution

If you have Default Address enabled, you can set every catchall to :fail: no such address here. This will stop you from getting the bounceback, but the real problem may not be solved.

If you do not have Default Address enabled, you will not need to worry about making this adjustment since our system is automatically set to return messages with the :fail: no such address here response.

Full Solution

You will need to create an SPF record to resolve the issue fully. An SPF record is an entry added to the DNS zone for a domain. This record verifies that a user has permission to send mail from a domain, preventing email from being spoofed for your domain.

Note: AEserver automatically creates an SPF record for all our web hosting accounts. You can check the existence of your SPF record at by selecting the DNS Records search and submitting your domain name. Then look for a TXT record with "v=spf1 ..." as the value.

How to Create an SPF Record in cPanel

Creating an SPF record will verify that a user has permission to send mail from a domain. This is used to prevent email spoofing for your domain. There are several methods for having this record created regardless of if you are using cPanel or WHM.

Please note that SPF records only work if your mail service authenticates outgoing emails. This also means that anyone who uses a mail server which does not respect SPF records will be able to send spoof emails. Currently, the SPF record is widely used by popular hosting and email companies such as AEserver, Google/Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.

Automatic SPF Record Creation

This is the easiest method for creating an SPF record in cPanel. It will also show whether or not an SPF record is already in place or not.

  1. Log into cPanel.
  2. In the Mail section, click the Email Authentication icon.
  3. Scroll Down to the section titled SPF.
  4. Click Enable.

Your SPF record will then be generated and added to the domains listed in your cPanel.

Manual SPF Record Creation

This method is intended for users who want to ensure that the SPF record is tailored to their preferences.

  1. Log into cPanel.
  2. In the Domains section, click the DNS Zone Editor icon.
  3. Select the desired domain name from the drop-down menu.
  4. Under Add a Record, enter the following information:
    • Name: type your domain name (without the www)
    • TTL: 14400
    • Type: TXT
    • Address: create this special code or use an SPF wizard to generate the code
  5. Click Add Record.

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