Certification & Security: Much More than Deliverability

Posted by Julia Babahina 

Return Path’s Certification program is the industry’s premier certified whitelist, offering benefits that include favorable reputation, increased deliverability, and preferential inbox placement, to name a few. But most in the industry don’t realize that Certification exists, in large part, because of our security monitoring. This valuable—often overlooked—service monitors and notifies customers of potential compromises and strengthens our mailbox provider relationships.

What does security mean to Certification and why is it important?
Prior to acceptance into Certification, we thoroughly review a customer’s email program and infrastructure. We evaluate open relays, rDNS, SPF records, signing DKIM, and a host of other checks. Once you become a customer, we monitor internal and external blacklist feeds (SURBL and Spamhaus). We also run proprietary security checks, using data we get from our mailbox provider partners, to identify unauthorized content that’s being sent across customers’ Certified IP addresses and domains. And while we expect our customers to maintain good sending practices and secure infrastructures, we also understand that compromises do happen.

The value of maintaining good security is clear. Good security decreases the risk of compromises, which often results in spam being sent on your IP addresses and domains. If your subscribers were to receive spam from your addresses or domains, it would negatively impact your email reputation, which inevitably leads to poor deliverability. It also affects your brand’s reputation and goodwill, which negatively impacts revenue. At the end of the day, it’s our mission to identify spikes in complaints, spam traps, blacklists, etc., and work with our Certification customers to resolve those issues.

What do we do if we detect a security compromise?
When there is unauthorized content sent via Certified IP addresses, we work to limit the impact to our clients’ email program, reduce performance recovery time, and minimize associated costs. Once we detect unauthorized content we initiate a response procedure to manage the potential compromise. We work alongside our customers to analyze spam messages. We review and verify the incident. We determine the cause and develop an action plan to fix the current issue and avoid future issues. And whenever possible, we help our Certification customers maintain business continuity. We then run non-intrusive vulnerability scans—with our customers’ consent—to identify and fix critical security vulnerabilities.  

How do we help clients avoid security issues?
We help our clients to prevent compromises by promoting thought leadership and knowledge about the best security practices. For example, last year we determined that website vulnerabilities are the most commonly exploited by hackers. These caused numerous webform abuses, brute force, and botnet attacks. To minimize the risk, we provided educational materials on website security basics. Also, we continuously update our internal knowledge center to make sure that your sales and service teams are best equipped in the time of blacklisting or security compromise. As a benefit to our clients, we conduct security audits to determine which security vulnerabilities can be exploited by hackers. This includes analysis of client suspension reports, open relay and rDNS checks, authentication best practices, and secure database checks.

Ensuring the security of your mainstream is critical to getting your mail to the intended inbox, which is why Return Path is dedicated to achieving this goal. Our security monitoring and enforcement allow us to build trust with our customers and mailbox providers, who ultimately control deliverability benefits.

For more information about the Return Path Certification program, please visit the Certification page on our website.

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About Julia Babahina

As a Compliance and Security Analyst for Return Path, Julia is responsible for the quality and security of the Certification Program. She is passionate about finding data-driven solutions for preventing and detecting clients' security breaches and spreading her knowledge about best sending and security practices. Julia holds a MSc in International Public Policy and is CompTIA Security+ Certified. In her spare time, she enjoys running and is a keen traveler.

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