What’s the Difference Between SPF DKIM and DMARC?

difference between spf dkim and dmarc

SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are free email authentication mechanisms used to ensure that senders are permitted to send email from a certain domain. Understanding these approaches is critical when integrating email functionality in applications to ensure that your email communications are correctly verified. Before starting with the differences, you should start with understanding spf dkim and dmarc

So, to offer you a better understanding, this post will look at DKIM, and DMARC, and SPF and examine their uses, similarities, and differences.

SPF Understanding

SPF: What is it exactly?

Sender Policy Framework, or SPF, is an acronym. It gives you the option to store a list of authorized IP addresses that are allowed to send emails to your clients on your behalf.

How does SPF operate?

The receiving end checks for a published SPF record checker whenever an email is sent. It searches the list of permitted addresses for the SPF record when one is found.  If there is a valid record, the validations are marked as “PASS.” If not, the email will be rejected and directed to the spam folder.

SPF Advantages

  • SPF authenticates your email, allowing harmful sources to be promptly discovered and labeled as spam.
  • It provides some comfort that the email is safe and reliable.
  • Having an SPF increases the reputation of your email.

SPF disadvantages

  • If someone else forwards an email sent from your domain, your IP address will not be included to Validate SPF Record. As a result, it may incorrectly identify as spam.
  • SPF authentication takes place on the specified Return-Path/mail from domain, rather than the address that most users see. As a result, an attacker might send the email from a domain they own while using a different sender address. A typical user would not bother checking the Return-Path/mail form, exposing themselves to a phishing attack.
  • Each SPF record can perform ten DNS lookups
  • SPF and DKIM protocols are used by a number of internal filtering algorithms that are built into mailbox providers to decide whether to send emails to the inbox, or spam folder or to be refused. However, if the authentication checks cannot be validated, SPF does not permit domain owners to advise MBPs on how to handle a message.

DKIM Understanding

What Is DKIM?

Domain Keys Identified Mail is known as DKIM. Since DKIM selector uses public-key cryptography rather than IP addresses, it is a more reliable authentication mechanism than SPF.

Email headers can be signed with DKIM signatures and verified with a public cryptographic key in an organization’s DNS records. The cryptographic key is made public and set up in the domain owner’s primary DNS record as a TXT record.

How does DKIM function?

A TXT record can be added to the DNS by both DKIM and SPF. For DKIM protocols, we must nevertheless create a public and private key. 

A private key for encrypting the email signature is contained in the message header when a new email is sent via the outgoing mail server. In a DNS TXT entry, the public key hash is maintained. When the email signature is received, it is decoded and compared with the public and private keys by the receiving party (incoming mail servers). It won’t be regarded as spam if the values are the same. 

DKIM Advantages

  • Since DKIM checker uses public-key cryptography rather than IP addresses, it is a more reliable authentication mechanism than SPF.
  • A protocol called SPF adds data to the message envelope. As a result, when you forward a message, the forwarding server can cut out some of the message’s envelope.
  • DKIM is a spam-filtering and spam-identification-ineffective email tagging technology.
  • DKIM, however, performs better when forwarded since the digital signature is preserved as a part of the email header and is sent together with the email message.
  • An email tagging system called DKIM lookup does not automatically detect or filter spam. It can, however, stop spammers from switching up message source addresses.

DKIM disadvantages

  • A number of internal filtering algorithms are built into Mailbox Providers to decide used the SPF and DKIM protocols if an email belongs in the inbox, spam folder, or should be rejected. However, if the authentication tests cannot be validated, SPF and DKIM do not provide domain owners to tell MBPs how to handle a message.
  • When the relaying or filtering application modifies the messages, there may be problems.
  • A malevolent individual has the ability to create an email from a trusted domain, have it DKIM-signed, and then send it to any mailbox. 

Senders can use DMARC service to help MBPs understand what to do if DKIM and SPF fail.

DMARC Understanding

DMARC: What is it?

A domain-based authentication, reporting, and conformance system called DMARC determine an email’s legitimacy based on SPF and DKIM. Because DMARC record checker uses both DKIM and SPF data to verify the sender of an email, it is incredibly effective. 

How does DMARC function?

The domain owner can indicate how MBPs should handle unauthenticated messages using DMARC, as was already discussed. This is achieved by some pre-established policies.

  • Policy = (p=none): The message is sent as usual and no action is taken.
  • According to policy = (p=quarantine), the message is sent to the spam, trash, or quarantine folder.
  • Policy = (p=reject), which returns the message

The SPF and DKIM protocols must be set up before using a DMARC check record. After passing a DMRAC test, you can essentially hide the following.

  • IP address verification in the SPF record.
  • Verification of a DKIM signature.
  • Verify that the From domain and Return-Path domain of the message is the same.

If the validation is unsuccessful, the relevant action is taken in accordance with the DMARC record’s set policy, and the resulting DMARC report is forwarded to the appropriate email address.

It is always advised to adhere to the DMARC policy since it demonstrates to ISPs that you are a legitimate sender who is prepared to take security measures to safeguard your reputation and identity. Not every ISP supports every kind of email validation. 

DMARC Advantages

  • Organizations and domain owners can use DMARC tool to get reports on the emails they send online.
  • Having control over your email inbox builds trust and gives the messages you send greater meaning.
  • Make sure that the network of DMARC-capable recipients can simply identify your email.

DMARC Disadvantages

  • Genuine messages may occasionally be blocked or labeled as spam.

Let us now  understand the difference between spf dkim and dmarc

Comparison of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC


  • While SPF enables email senders to designate which IP addresses are permitted to send mail, DKIM verifies emails using a digital signature and an encryption key.
  • SPF doesn’t employ an encryption technique, but DKIM employs one to generate a set of electronic keys.
  • A protocol called SPF adds data to the message envelope. As a result, when you forward a message, the forwarding server can cut out some of the message’s envelope. 


  • Without DMARC, SPF functions. However, relying solely on SPF won’t be sufficient as it may have a number of shortcomings.
  • Using DKIM or SPF data, DMARC verifies the email’s sender.
  • Domain owners are not given a way to report unsuccessful deliveries using SPF.


  • Working together with SPF and DKIM Records is DMARC. Therefore, if you want to establish a DMARC record, you must first set SPF and DKIM records.
  • DMARC is not necessary for DKIM. False negatives in DMARC are prevented, nevertheless, by combining DKIM with DMARC.
  • While DKIM attempts to determine whether or not mail is valid, DMARC makes recommendations for handling erroneous mail.


You must have comprehended SPF, DKIM, and DMARC in this article along with how to use each of them and how they compare to one another. Knowing how to use these three approaches will undoubtedly help you maximize your email deliveries while keeping them safe from threats.

Your domain is protected from email phishing by DMARC. With the help of our specialists and a strong analytical tool like GoDMARC, you can get to the DMARC Reject Stage much more quickly. You must check the DMARC pricing plans to understand the GODMARC policies. 


Q1. Is SPF functional without DMARC?

Yes. However, relying just on SPF won’t be enough as it could have a few drawbacks. But it becomes more potent and secure when used with DMARC security.

Q2. Does DMARC need DKIM?

No, DMARC is not necessary for DKIM. However, combining them minimizes false negatives in DMARC authentication.

Q3. SPF and DKIM are required by DMARC?

Yes. The SPF and DKIM authentication outcomes have a significant impact on the DMARC authentication outcome. 

-When SPF is supplied together with SPF identification alignment.

-When DKIM is supplied together with DKIM identifier alignment.

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