DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) is a tool that helps protect email domains from being used for spam or phishing. One of the key parts of DMARC is the feedback it provides to domain owners in the form of aggregate reports. Here’s a simple explanation.

What Are Aggregate Reports?

Aggregate reports are summaries of all the emails that a domain sends. They’re usually sent once a day, but they can be sent more often. These reports give domain owners a lot of useful information, like:

  • Which emails passed or failed the DMARC check
  • What DMARC policy was used
  • What happened to the emails (were they delivered, rejected, or treated as suspicious?)
  • What SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) identifiers were checked, and what the results were
  • Whether the SPF and DKIM identifiers matched the domain
  • Information about emails from subdomains
  • The sending and receiving domains
  • The number of successful authentications
  • The total number of messages received, even if they were blocked by other filters

Why Are Aggregate Reports Important?

Aggregate reports help domain owners understand what’s happening with their emails. They can see what legitimate emails they’re sending, what the authentication results are on those emails, and what forged emails receivers are getting. This helps them make better decisions about their DMARC policies and what steps they need to take to improve their email practices.

What Happens When the DMARC Policy Changes?

Domain owners can change their DMARC policy at any time. When this happens, the mail receiver might:

  • Send a single report that includes emails based on the old policy, or a mix of the old and new policies
  • Send multiple reports for the same period, one for each policy
  • Send a report that ends when the new policy was detected, regardless of the usual reporting interval

Domain owners should be aware of this and be prepared for mixed reports when they change their DMARC policy.

When Are Aggregate Reports Sent?

Aggregate reports are most useful when they all cover the same time period. This makes it easier to compare reports from different days or different mail receivers. So, mail receivers should try to stick to hour boundaries for their reporting periods. For example, a daily report could start at 00:00, and an hourly report could start at 00:00, 01:00, 02:00, and so on.

Mail receivers find out where to send the aggregate reports when they look up the DMARC policy for a domain. The “rua” tag in the policy tells them where to send the reports.

Remember, this is a simplified explanation. In reality, creating and interpreting DMARC aggregate reports involves a lot of complex processes and technologies. But hopefully, this gives you a basic understanding of how it works.

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