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DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) Development, Deployment, and Operations
RFC 5863

Document Type RFC - Informational (May 2010)
Authors Ellen Siegel , Dave Crocker , Phillip Hallam-Baker , Tony Hansen
Last updated 2015-10-14
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
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RFC 5863
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                         T. Hansen
Request for Comments: 5863                             AT&T Laboratories
Category: Informational                                        E. Siegel
ISSN: 2070-1721                                               Consultant
                                                         P. Hallam-Baker
                                             Default Deny Security, Inc.
                                                              D. Crocker
                                             Brandenburg InternetWorking
                                                                May 2010

                   DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)
                Development, Deployment, and Operations


   DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) allows an organization to claim
   responsibility for transmitting a message, in a way that can be
   validated by a recipient.  The organization can be the author's, the
   originating sending site, an intermediary, or one of their agents.  A
   message can contain multiple signatures, from the same or different
   organizations involved with the message.  DKIM defines a domain-level
   digital signature authentication framework for email, using public
   key cryptography and using the domain name service as its key server
   technology.  This permits verification of a responsible organization,
   as well as the integrity of the message content.  DKIM will also
   provide a mechanism that permits potential email signers to publish
   information about their email signing practices; this will permit
   email receivers to make additional assessments about messages.
   DKIM's authentication of email identity can assist in the global
   control of "spam" and "phishing".  This document provides
   implementation, deployment, operational, and migration considerations
   for DKIM.

Status of This Memo

   This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
   published for informational purposes.

   This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
   (IETF).  It represents the consensus of the IETF community.  It has
   received public review and has been approved for publication by the
   Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).  Not all documents
   approved by the IESG are a candidate for any level of Internet
   Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 5741.

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   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2010 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

   This document may contain material from IETF Documents or IETF
   Contributions published or made publicly available before November
   10, 2008.  The person(s) controlling the copyright in some of this
   material may not have granted the IETF Trust the right to allow
   modifications of such material outside the IETF Standards Process.
   Without obtaining an adequate license from the person(s) controlling
   the copyright in such materials, this document may not be modified
   outside the IETF Standards Process, and derivative works of it may
   not be created outside the IETF Standards Process, except to format
   it for publication as an RFC or to translate it into languages other
   than English.

Table of Contents

   1. Introduction ....................................................4
   2. Using DKIM as Part of Trust Assessment ..........................4
      2.1. A Systems View of Email Trust Assessment ...................4
      2.2. Choosing a DKIM Tag for the Assessment Identifier ..........6
      2.3. Choosing the Signing Domain Name ...........................8
      2.4. Recipient-Based Assessments ...............................10
      2.5. Filtering .................................................12
   3. DKIM Key Generation, Storage, and Management ...................15
      3.1. Private Key Management: Deployment and Ongoing
           Operations ................................................16
      3.2. Storing Public Keys: DNS Server Software Considerations ...17
      3.3. Per-User Signing Key Management Issues ....................18
      3.4. Third-Party Signer Key Management and Selector
           Administration ............................................19
      3.5. Key Pair / Selector Life Cycle Management .................19

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   4. Signing ........................................................21
      4.1. DNS Records ...............................................21
      4.2. Signing Module ............................................21
      4.3. Signing Policies and Practices ............................22
   5. Verifying ......................................................23
      5.1. Intended Scope of Use .....................................23
      5.2. Signature Scope ...........................................23
      5.3. Design Scope of Use .......................................24
      5.4. Inbound Mail Filtering ....................................24
      5.5. Messages Sent through Mailing Lists and Other
           Intermediaries ............................................25
      5.6. Generation, Transmission, and Use of Results Headers ......25
   6. Taxonomy of Signatures .........................................26
      6.1. Single Domain Signature ...................................26
      6.2. Parent Domain Signature ...................................27
      6.3. Third-Party Signature .....................................27
      6.4. Using Trusted Third-Party Senders .........................29
      6.5. Multiple Signatures .......................................30
   7. Example Usage Scenarios ........................................31
      7.1. Author's Organization - Simple ............................32
      7.2. Author's Organization - Differentiated Types of Mail ......32
      7.3. Author Domain Signing Practices ...........................32
      7.4. Delegated Signing .........................................34
      7.5. Independent Third-Party Service Providers .................35
      7.6. Mail Streams Based on Behavioral Assessment ...............35
      7.7. Agent or Mediator Signatures ..............................36
   8. Usage Considerations ...........................................36
      8.1. Non-Standard Submission and Delivery Scenarios ............36
      8.2. Protection of Internal Mail ...............................37
      8.3. Signature Granularity .....................................38
      8.4. Email Infrastructure Agents ...............................39
      8.5. Mail User Agent ...........................................40
   9. Security Considerations ........................................41
   10. Acknowledgements ..............................................41
   11. References ....................................................42
      11.1. Normative References .....................................42
      11.2. Informative References ...................................42
   Appendix A.  Migration Strategies .................................43
     A.1.  Migrating from DomainKeys .................................43
     A.2.  Migrating Hash Algorithms .................................48
     A.3.  Migrating Signing Algorithms ..............................49
   Appendix B.  General Coding Criteria for Cryptographic
                Applications .........................................50

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1.  Introduction

   DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) allows an organization to claim
   responsibility for transmitting a message, in a way that can be
   validated by a recipient.  This document provides practical tips for
   those who are developing DKIM software, mailing list managers,
   filtering strategies based on the output from DKIM verification, and
   DNS servers; those who are deploying DKIM software, keys, mailing
   list software, and migrating from DomainKeys [RFC4870]; and those who
   are responsible for the ongoing operations of an email infrastructure
   that has deployed DKIM.

   The reader is encouraged to read the DKIM Service Overview document
   [RFC5585] before this document.  More detailed guidance about DKIM
   and Author Domain Signing Practices (ADSP) can also be found in the
   protocol specifications [RFC4871], [RFC5617], and [RFC5672].

   The document is organized around the key concepts related to DKIM.
   Within each section, additional considerations specific to
   development, deployment, or ongoing operations are highlighted where
   appropriate.  The possibility of the use of DKIM results as input to
   a local reputation database is also discussed.

2.  Using DKIM as Part of Trust Assessment

2.1.  A Systems View of Email Trust Assessment

   DKIM participates in a trust-oriented enhancement to the Internet's
   email service, to facilitate message handling decisions, such as for
   delivery and for content display.  Trust-oriented message handling
   has substantial differences from the more established approaches that
   consider messages in terms of risk and abuse.  With trust, there is a
   collaborative exchange between a willing participant along the
   sending path and a willing participant at a recipient site.  In
   contrast, the risk model entails independent, unilateral action by
   the recipient site, in the face of a potentially unknown, hostile,
   and deceptive sender.  This translates into a very basic technical
   difference: in the face of unilateral action by the recipient and
   even antagonistic efforts by the sender, risk-oriented mechanisms are
   based on heuristics, that is, on guessing.  Guessing produces
   statistical results with some false negatives and some false
   positives.  For trust-based exchanges, the goal is the deterministic
   exchange of information.  For DKIM, that information is the one
   identifier that represents a stream of mail for which an independent
   assessment is sought (by the signer).

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   A trust-based service is built upon a validated Responsible
   Identifier that labels a stream of mail and is controlled by an
   identity (role, person, or organization).  The identity is
   acknowledging some degree of responsibility for the message stream.
   Given a basis for believing that an identifier is being used in an
   authorized manner, the recipient site can make and use an assessment
   of the associated identity.  An identity can use different
   identifiers, on the assumption that the different streams might
   produce different assessments.  For example, even the best-run
   marketing campaigns will tend to produce some complaints that can
   affect the reputation of the associated identifier, whereas a stream
   of transactional messages is likely to have a more pristine

   Determining that the identifier's use is valid is quite different
   from determining that the content of a message is valid.  The former
   means only that the identifier for the responsible role, person, or
   organization has been legitimately associated with a message.  The
   latter means that the content of the message can be believed and,
   typically, that the claimed author of the content is correct.  DKIM
   validates only the presence of the identifier used to sign the
   message.  Even when this identifier is validated, DKIM carries no
   implication that any of the message content, including the
   RFC5322.From field [RFC5322], is valid.  Surprisingly, this limit to
   the semantics of a DKIM signature applies even when the validated
   signing identifier is the same domain name as is used in the
   RFC5322.From field!  DKIM's only claim about message content is that
   the content cited in the DKIM-Signature: field's h= tag has been
   delivered without modification.  That is, it asserts message content
   integrity -- between signing and verifying -- not message content

   As shown in Figure 1, this enhancement is a communication between a
   responsible role, person, or organization that signs the message and
   a recipient organization that assesses its trust in the signer.  The
   recipient then makes handling decisions based on a collection of
   assessments, of which the DKIM mechanism is only a part.  In this
   model, as shown in Figure 1, validation is an intermediary step,
   having the sole task of passing a validated Responsible Identifier to
   the Identity Assessor.  The communication is of a single Responsible
   Identifier that the Responsible Identity wishes to have used by the
   Identity Assessor.  The Identifier is the sole, formal input and
   output value of DKIM signing.  The Identity Assessor uses this
   single, provided Identifier for consulting whatever assessment
   databases are deemed appropriate by the assessing entity.  In turn,
   output from the Identity Assessor is fed into a Handling Filter

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   engine that considers a range of factors, along with this single
   output value.  The range of factors can include ancillary information
   from the DKIM validation.

   Identity Assessment covers a range of possible functions.  It can be
   as simple as determining whether the identifier is a member of some
   list, such as authorized operators or participants in a group that
   might be of interest for recipient assessment.  Equally, it can
   indicate a degree of trust (reputation) that is to be afforded the
   actor using that identifier.  The extent to which the assessment
   affects the handling of the message is, of course, determined later,
   by the Handling Filter.

     +------+------+                            +------+------+
     |   Author    |                            |  Recipient  |
     +------+------+                            +------+------+
            |                                          ^
            |                                          |
            |                                   +------+------+
            |                                -->|  Handling   |<--
            |                                -->|   Filter    |<--
            |                                   +-------------+
            |                                          ^
            V                  Responsible             |
     +-------------+           Identifier       +------+------+
     | Responsible |. .       . . . . . . . . .>|  Identity   |
     |  Identity   |  .       .                 |  Assessor   |
     +------+------+  .       .                 +-------------+
            |         V       .                       ^ ^
            V         .       .                       | |
   +------------------.-------.--------------------+  | |
   | +------+------+  . . . > .   +-------------+  |  | |  +-----------+
   | | Identifier  |              | Identifier  +--|--+ +--+ Assessment|
   | |   Signer    +------------->| Validator   |  |       | Databases |
   | +-------------+              +-------------+  |       +-----------+
   |                 DKIM Service                  |

              Figure 1: Actors in a Trust Sequence Using DKIM

2.2.  Choosing a DKIM Tag for the Assessment Identifier

   The signer of a message needs to be able to provide precise data and
   know what that data will mean upon delivery to the Assessor.  If
   there is ambiguity in the choice that will be made on the recipient
   side, then the sender cannot know what basis for assessment will be
   used.  DKIM has three values that specify identification information
   and it is easy to confuse their use, although only one defines the

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   formal input and output of DKIM, with the other two being used for
   internal protocol functioning and adjunct purposes, such as auditing
   and debugging.

   The salient values include the s=, d= and i= parameters in the DKIM-
   Signature: header field.  In order to achieve the end-to-end
   determinism needed for this collaborative exchange from the signer to
   the assessor, the core model needs to specify what the signer is
   required to provide to the assessor.  The update to RFC 4871
   [RFC5672] specifies:

      DKIM's primary task is to communicate from the Signer to a
      recipient-side Identity Assessor a single Signing Domain
      Identifier (SDID) that refers to a responsible identity.  DKIM MAY
      optionally provide a single responsible Agent or User Identifier
      (AUID)...  A receive-side DKIM verifier MUST communicate the
      Signing Domain Identifier (d=) to a consuming Identity Assessor
      module and MAY communicate the User Agent Identifier (i=) if
      present....  To the extent that a receiver attempts to intuit any
      structured semantics for either of the identifiers, this is a
      heuristic function that is outside the scope of DKIM's
      specification and semantics.

   The single, mandatory value that DKIM supplies as its output is:

      d= This specifies the "domain of the signing entity".  It is a
         domain name and is combined with the selector to form a DNS
         query.  A receive-side DKIM verifier needs to communicate the
         Signing Domain Identifier (d=) to a consuming Identity Assessor
         module and can also communicate the User Agent Identifier (i=)
         if present.

   The adjunct values are:

      s= This tag specifies the selector.  It is used to discriminate
         among different keys that can be used for the same d= domain
         name.  As discussed in Section 4.3 of [RFC5585], "If verifiers
         were to employ the selector as part of an assessment mechanism,
         then there would be no remaining mechanism for making a
         transition from an old, or compromised, key to a new one".
         Consequently, the selector is not appropriate for use as part
         or all of the identifier used to make assessments.

      i= This tag is optional and provides the "[t]he Agent or User
         Identifier (AUID) on behalf of which the SDID is taking
         responsibility" [RFC5672].  The identity can be in the syntax

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         of an entire email address or only a domain name.  The domain
         name can be the same as for d= or it can be a sub-name of the
         d= name.

         NOTE: Although the i= identity has the syntax of an email
         address, it is not required to have those semantics.  That is,
         "the identity of the user" need not be the same as the user's
         mailbox.  For example, the signer might wish to use i= to
         encode user-related audit information, such as how they were
         accessing the service at the time of message posting.
         Therefore, it is not possible to conclude anything from the i=
         string's (dis)similarity to email addresses elsewhere in the

   So, i= can have any of these properties:

      *  Be a valid domain when it is the same as d=

      *  Appear to be a subdomain of d= but might not even exist

      *  Look like a mailbox address but might have different semantics
         and therefore not function as a valid email address

      *  Be unique for each message, such as indicating access details
         of the user for the specific posting

   This underscores why the tag needs to be treated as being opaque,
   since it can represent any semantics, known only to the signer.

   Hence, i= serves well as a token that is usable like a Web cookie,
   for return to the signing Administrative Management Domain (ADMD) --
   such as for auditing and debugging.  Of course in some scenarios the
   i= string might provide a useful adjunct value for additional
   (heuristic) processing by the Handling Filter.

2.3.  Choosing the Signing Domain Name

   A DKIM signing entity can serve different roles, such as being the
   author of content, the operator of the mail service, or the operator
   of a reputation service that also provides signing services on behalf
   of its customers.  In these different roles, the basis for
   distinguishing among portions of email traffic can vary.  For an
   entity creating DKIM signatures, it is likely that different portions
   of its mail will warrant different levels of trust.  For example:

      *  Mail is sent for different purposes, such as marketing versus
         transactional, and recipients demonstrate different patterns of
         acceptance between these.

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      *  For an operator of an email service, there often are distinct
         sub-populations of users warranting different levels of trust
         or privilege, such as paid versus free users, or users engaged
         in direct correspondence versus users sending bulk mail.

      *  Mail originating outside an operator's system, such as when it
         is redistributed by a mailing-list service run by the operator,
         will warrant a different reputation from mail submitted by
         users authenticated with the operator.

   It is therefore likely to be useful for a signer to use different d=
   subdomain names, for different message traffic streams, so that
   receivers can make differential assessments.  However, too much
   differentiation -- that is, too fine a granularity of signing domains
   -- makes it difficult for the receiver to discern a sufficiently
   stable pattern of traffic for developing an accurate and reliable
   assessment.  So the differentiation needs to achieve a balance.
   Generally, in a trust system, legitimate signers have an incentive to
   pick a small stable set of identities, so that recipients and others
   can attribute reputations to them.  The set of these identities a
   receiver trusts is likely to be quite a bit smaller than the set it
   views as risky.

   The challenge in using additional layers of subdomains is whether the
   extra granularity will be useful for the Assessor.  In fact,
   excessive levels invite ambiguity: if the Assessor does not take
   advantage of the added granularity in the entire domain name that is
   provided, they might unilaterally decide to use only some rightmost
   part of the identifier.  The signer cannot know what portion will be
   used.  That ambiguity would move the use of DKIM back to the realm of
   heuristics, rather than the deterministic processing that is its

   Hence, the challenge is to determine a useful scheme for labeling
   different traffic streams.  The most obvious choices are among
   different types of content and/or different types of authors.
   Although stability is essential, it is likely that the choices will
   change, over time, so the scheme needs to be flexible.

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   For those originating message content, the most likely choice of
   subdomain naming scheme will by based upon type of content, which can
   use content-oriented labels or service-oriented labels.  For example:


   where the choices are best dictated by whether they provide the
   Identity Assessor with the ability to discriminate usefully among
   streams of mail that demonstrate significantly different degrees of
   recipient acceptance or safety.  Again, the danger in providing too
   fine a granularity is that related message streams that are labeled
   separately will not benefit from an aggregate reputation.

   For those operating messaging services on behalf of a variety of
   customers, an obvious scheme to use has a different subdomain label
   for each customer.  For example:


   However, it can also be appropriate to label by the class of service
   or class of customer, such as:


   Prior to using domain names for distinguishing among sources of data,
   IP Addresses have been the basis for distinction.  Service operators
   typically have done this by dedicating specific outbound IP Addresses
   to specific mail streams -- typically to specific customers.  For
   example, a university might want to distinguish mail from the
   administration, versus mail from the student dorms.  In order to make
   the adoption of a DKIM-based service easier, it can be reasonable to
   translate the same partitioning of traffic, using domain names in
   place of the different IP Addresses.

2.4.  Recipient-Based Assessments

   DKIM gives the recipient site's Identity Assessor a verifiable
   identifier to use for analysis.  Although the mechanism does not make
   claims that the signer is a Good Actor or a Bad Actor, it does make

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   it possible to know that use of the identifier is valid.  This is in
   marked contrast with schemes that do not have authentication.
   Without verification, it is not possible to know whether the
   identifier -- whether taken from the RFC5322.From field, the
   RFC5321.MailFrom command, or the like -- is being used by an
   authorized agent.  DKIM solves this problem.  Hence, with DKIM, the
   Assessor can know that two messages with the same DKIM d= identifier
   are, in fact, signed by the same person or organization.  This
   permits a far more stable and accurate assessment of mail traffic
   using that identifier.

   DKIM is distinctive, in that it provides an identifier that is not
   necessarily related to any other identifier in the message.  Hence,
   the signer might be the author's ADMD, one of the operators along the
   transit path, or a reputation service being used by one of those
   handling services.  In fact, a message can have multiple signatures,
   possibly by any number of these actors.

   As discussed above, the choice of identifiers needs to be based on
   differences that the signer thinks will be useful for the recipient
   Assessor.  Over time, industry practices establish norms for these

      Absent such norms, it is best for signers to distinguish among
      streams that have significant differences, while consuming the
      smallest number of identifiers possible.  This will limit the
      burden on recipient Assessors.

   A common view about a DKIM signature is that it carries a degree of
   assurance about some or all of the message contents, and in
   particular, that the RFC5322.From field is likely to be valid.  In
   fact, DKIM makes assurances only about the integrity of the data and
   not about its validity.  Still, presumptions of the RFC5322.From
   field validity remain a concern.  Hence, a signer using a domain name
   that is unrelated to the domain name in the RFC5322.From field can
   reasonably expect that the disparity will warrant some curiosity, at
   least until signing by independent operators has produced some
   established practice among recipient Assessors.

   With the identifier(s) supplied by DKIM, the Assessor can consult an
   independent assessment service about the entity associated with the
   identifier(s).  Another possibility is that the Assessor can develop
   its own reputation rating for the identifier(s).  That is, over time,
   the Assessor can observe the stream of messages associated with the
   identifier(s) developing a reaction to associated content.  For
   example, if there is a high percentage of user complaints regarding

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   signed mail with a d= value of "", the Assessor
   might include that fact in the vector of data it provides to the
   Handling Filter.  This is also discussed briefly in Section 5.4.

2.5.  Filtering

   The assessment of the signing identifier is given to a Handling
   Filter that is defined by local policies, according to a potentially
   wide range of different factors and weightings.  This section
   discusses some of the kinds of choices and weightings that are
   plausible and the differential actions that might be performed.
   Because authenticated domain names represent a collaborative sequence
   between signer and Assessor, actions can sometimes reasonably include
   contacting the signer.

   The discussion focuses on variations in Organizational Trust versus
   Message Stream Risk, that is, the degree of positive assessment of a
   DKIM-signing organization, and the potential danger present in the
   message stream signed by that organization.  While it might seem that
   higher trust automatically means lower risk, the experience with
   real-world operations provides examples of every combination of the
   two factors, as shown in Figure 2.  For each axis, only three levels
   of granularity are listed, in order to keep discussion manageable.
   In real-world filtering engines, finer-grained distinctions are
   typically needed, and there typically are more axes.  For example,
   there are different types of risk, so that an engine might
   distinguish between spam risk versus virus risk and take different
   actions based on which type of problematic content is present.  For
   spam, the potential damage from a false negative is small, whereas
   the damage from a false positive is high.  For a virus, the potential
   danger from a false negative is extremely high, while the likelihood
   of a false positive when using modern detection tools is extremely
   low.  However, for the discussion here, "risk" is taken as a single

   The DKIM d= identifier is independent of any other identifier in a
   message and can be a subdomain of the name owned by the signer.  This
   permits the use of fine-grained and stable distinctions between
   different types of message streams, such as between transactional
   messages and marketing messages from the same organization.  Hence,
   the use of DKIM might permit a richer filtering model than has
   typically been possible for mail-receiving engines.

   Note that the realities of today's public Internet Mail environment
   necessitate having a baseline handling model that is quite
   suspicious.  Hence, "strong" filtering rules really are the starting
   point, as indicated for the UNKNOWN cell.

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   The table indicates differential handling for each combination, such
   as how aggressive or broad-based the filtering could be.
   Aggressiveness affects the types of incorrect assessments that are
   likely.  So, the table distinguishes various characteristics,
   including: 1) whether an organization is unknown, known to be good
   actors, or known to be bad actors; and 2) the assessment of messages.
   It includes advice about the degree of filtering that might be done,
   and other message disposition.  Perhaps unexpectedly, it also lists a
   case in which the receiving site might wish to deliver problematic
   mail, rather than redirecting or deleting it.  The site might also
   wish to contact the signing organization and seek resolution of the

      | S T R E A M *   O R G A N I Z A T I O N A L   T R U S T     |
      | R I S K     *     Low            Medium           High      |
      |             +***************+***************+***************+
      | Low         * BENIGN:       | DILIGENT:     | PRISTINE      |
      |             *    Moderate   |    Mild       |    Accept     |
      |             *    filter     |    filter     |               |
      |             +---------------+---------------+---------------+
      | Medium      * UNKNOWN:      | TYPICAL:      | PROTECTED:    |
      |             *    Strong     |    Targeted   |    Accept &   |
      |             *    filter     |    filter     |    Contact    |
      |             +---------------+---------------+---------------+
      | High        * MALICIOUS:    | NEGLIGENT:    | COMPROMISED:  |
      |             *    Block &    |    Block      |    Block &    |
      |             *    Counter    |               |    Contact    |

          Figure 2: Trust versus Risk Handling Tradeoffs Example



      Stream Risk:  This is a measure of the recent history of a message
         stream and the severity of problems it has presented.

      Organizational Trust:  This combines longer-term history about
         possible stream problems from that organization, and its
         responsiveness to problem handling.

      CELLS (indicating reasonable responses)

         Labels for the cells are meant as a general assessment of an
         organization producing that type of mail stream under that

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      Benign:  There is some history of sending good messages, with very
         few harmful messages having been received.  This stream
         warrants filtering that does not search for problems very
         aggressively, in order to reduce the likelihood of false

      Diligent:  The stream has had a limited degree of problems and the
         organization is consistently successful at controlling their
         abuse issues and in a timely manner.

      Pristine:  There is a history of a clean message stream with no
         problems, from an organization with an excellent reputation.
         So, the filter primarily needs to ensure that messages are
         delivered; catching stray problem messages is a lesser concern.
         In other words, the paramount concern, here, is false


      Unknown:  There is no history with the organization.  Apply an
         aggressive level of "naive" filtering, given the nature of the
         public email environment.

      Typical:  The stream suffers significant abuse issues and the
         organization has demonstrated a record of having difficulties
         resolving them in a timely manner, in spite of legitimate
         efforts.  Unfortunately, this is the typical case for service
         providers with an easy and open subscription policy.

      Protected:  An organization with a good history and/or providing
         an important message stream for the receiving site is subject
         to a local policy that messages are not allowed to be blocked,
         but the stream is producing a problematic stream.  The receiver
         delivers messages, but works quickly with the organization to
         resolve the matter.


      Malicious:  A persistently problematic message stream is coming
         from an organization that appears to contribute to the problem.
         The stream will be blocked, but the organization's role is
         sufficiently troubling to warrant following up with others in
         the anti-abuse or legal communities, to constrain or end their

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      Negligent:  A persistently problematic message stream is coming
         from an organization that does not appear to be contributing to
         the problem, but also does not appear to be working to
         eliminate it.  At the least, the stream needs to be blocked.

      Compromised:  An organization with a good history has a stream
         that changes and becomes too problematic to be delivered.  The
         receiver blocks the stream and works quickly with the
         organization to resolve the matter.

3.  DKIM Key Generation, Storage, and Management

   By itself, verification of a digital signature only allows the
   verifier to conclude with a very high degree of certainty that the
   signature was created by a party with access to the corresponding
   private signing key.  It follows that a verifier requires means to
   (1) obtain the public key for the purpose of verification and (2)
   infer useful attributes of the key holder.

   In a traditional Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), the functions of
   key distribution and key accreditation are separated.  In DKIM
   [RFC4871], these functions are both performed through the DNS.

   In either case, the ability to infer semantics from a digital
   signature depends on the assumption that the corresponding private
   key is only accessible to a party with a particular set of
   attributes.  In a traditional PKI, a Trusted Third Party (TTP)
   vouches that the key holder has been validated with respect to a
   specified set of attributes.  The range of attributes that can be
   attested in such a scheme is thus limited only to the type of
   attributes that a TTP can establish effective processes for
   validating.  In DKIM, TTPs are not employed and the functions of key
   distribution and accreditation are combined.

   Consequently, there are only two types of inference that a signer can
   make from a key published in a DKIM key record:

   1.  That a party with the ability to control DNS records within a DNS
       zone intends to claim responsibility for messages signed using
       the corresponding private signature key.

   2.  That use of a specific key is restricted to the particular subset
       of messages identified by the selector.

   The ability to draw any useful conclusion from verification of a
   digital signature relies on the assumption that the corresponding
   private key is only accessible to a party with a particular set of

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   attributes.  In the case of DKIM, this means that the party that
   created the corresponding DKIM key record in the specific zone
   intended to claim responsibility for the signed message.

   Ideally, we would like to draw a stronger conclusion, that if we
   obtain a DKIM key record from the DNS zone, that the
   legitimate holder of the DNS zone claims responsibility
   for the signed message.  In order for this conclusion to be drawn, it
   is necessary for the verifier to assume that the operational security
   of the DNS zone and corresponding private key are adequate.

3.1.  Private Key Management: Deployment and Ongoing Operations

   Access to signing keys needs to be carefully managed to prevent use
   by unauthorized parties and to minimize the consequences if a
   compromise were to occur.

   While a DKIM signing key is used to sign messages on behalf of many
   mail users, the signing key itself needs to be under direct control
   of as few key holders as possible.  If a key holder were to leave the
   organization, all signing keys held by that key holder need to be
   withdrawn from service and, if appropriate, replaced.

   If key management hardware support is available, it needs to be used.
   If keys are stored in software, appropriate file control protections
   need to be employed, and any location in which the private key is
   stored in plaintext form needs to be excluded from regular backup
   processes and is best not accessible through any form of network
   including private local area networks.  Auditing software needs to be
   used periodically to verify that the permissions on the private key
   files remain secure.

   Wherever possible, a signature key needs to exist in exactly one
   location and be erased when no longer used.  Ideally, a signature key
   pair needs to be generated as close to the signing point as possible,
   and only the public key component transferred to another party.  If
   this is not possible, the private key needs to be transported in an
   encrypted format that protects the confidentiality of the signing
   key.  A shared directory on a local file system does not provide
   adequate security for distribution of signing keys in plaintext form.

   Key escrow schemes are not necessary and are best not used.  In the
   unlikely event of a signing key becoming lost, a new signature key
   pair can be generated as easily as recovery from a key escrow scheme.

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   To enable accountability and auditing:

   o  Responsibility for the security of a signing key needs to
      ultimately vest in a single named individual.

   o  Where multiple parties are authorized to sign messages, each
      signer needs to use a different key to enable accountability and

   Best practices for management of cryptographic keying material
   require keying material to be refreshed at regular intervals,
   particularly where key management is achieved through software.
   While this practice is highly desirable, it is of considerably less
   importance than the requirement to maintain the secrecy of the
   corresponding private key.  An operational practice in which the
   private key is stored in tamper-proof hardware and changed once a
   year is considerably more desirable than one in which the signature
   key is changed on an hourly basis but maintained in software.

3.2.  Storing Public Keys: DNS Server Software Considerations

   In order to use DKIM, a DNS domain holder requires (1) the ability to
   create the necessary DKIM DNS records and (2) sufficient operational
   security controls to prevent insertion of spurious DNS records by an

   DNS record management is often operated by an administrative staff
   that is different from those who operate an organization's email
   service.  In order to ensure that DKIM DNS records are accurate, this
   imposes a requirement for careful coordination between the two
   operations groups.  If the best practices for private key management
   described above are observed, such deployment is not a one-time
   event; DNS DKIM selectors will be changed over time as signing keys
   are terminated and replaced.

   At a minimum, a DNS server that handles queries for DKIM key records
   needs to allow the server administrators to add free-form TXT
   records.  It would be better if the DKIM records could be entered
   using a structured form, supporting the DKIM-specific fields.

   Ideally, DNS Security (DNSSEC) [RFC4034] needs to be employed in a
   configuration that provides protection against record insertion
   attacks and zone enumeration.  In the case that NextSECure version 3
   (NSEC3) [RFC5155] records are employed to prevent insertion attack,
   the OPT-OUT flag needs to be clear.  (See [RFC5155] section 6 for

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3.2.1.  Assignment of Selectors

   Selectors are assigned according to the administrative needs of the
   signing domain, such as for rolling over to a new key or for the
   delegation of the right to authenticate a portion of the namespace to
   a TTP.  Examples include:

   It is intended that assessments of DKIM identities be based on the
   domain name, and not include the selector.  While past practice of a
   signer can permit a verifier to infer additional properties of
   particular messages from the structure DKIM key selector, unannounced
   administrative changes such as a change of signing software can cause
   such heuristics to fail at any time.

3.3.  Per-User Signing Key Management Issues

   While a signer can establish business rules, such as the issue of
   individual signature keys for each end-user, DKIM makes no provision
   for communicating these to other parties.  Out-of-band distribution
   of such business rules is outside the scope of DKIM.  Consequently,
   there is no means by which external parties can make use of such keys
   to attribute messages with any greater granularity than a DNS domain.

   If per-user signing keys are assigned for internal purposes (e.g.,
   authenticating messages sent to an MTA (Mail Transfer Agent) for
   distribution), the following issues need to be considered before
   using such signatures as an alternative to traditional edge signing
   at the outbound MTA:

      External verifiers will be unable to make use of the additional
      signature granularity without access to additional information
      passed out of band with respect to [RFC4871].

      If the number of user keys is large, the efficiency of local
      caching of key records by verifiers will be lower.

      A large number of end users is be less likely to do an adequate
      job of managing private key data securely on their personal
      computers than is an administrator running an edge MTA.

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3.4.  Third-Party Signer Key Management and Selector Administration

   A DKIM key record only asserts that the holder of the corresponding
   domain name makes a claim of responsibility for messages signed under
   the corresponding key.  In some applications, such as bulk mail
   delivery, it is desirable to delegate use of the key.  That is, to
   allow a third party to sign on behalf of the domain holder.  The
   trust relationship is still established between the domain holder and
   the verifier, but the private signature key is held by a third party.

   Signature keys used by a third-party signer need to be kept entirely
   separate from those used by the domain holder and other third-party
   signers.  To limit potential exposure of the private key, the
   signature key pair needs to be generated by the third-party signer
   and the public component of the key transmitted to the domain holder,
   rather than have the domain holder generate the key pair and transmit
   the private component to the third-party signer.

   Domain holders needs to adopt a least-privilege approach and grant
   third-party signers the minimum access necessary to perform the
   desired function.  Limiting the access granted to third-party signers
   serves to protect the interests of both parties.  The domain holder
   minimizes its security risk and the TTP signer avoids unnecessary

   In the most restrictive case, domain holders maintain full control
   over the creation of key records.  They can employ appropriate key
   record restrictions to enforce limits on the messages for which the
   third-party signer is able to sign.  If such restrictions are
   impractical, the domain holder needs to delegate a DNS subzone for
   publishing key records to the third-party signer.  It is best that
   the domain holder NOT allow a third-party signer unrestricted access
   to its DNS service for the purpose of publishing key records.

3.5.  Key Pair / Selector Life Cycle Management

   Deployments need to establish, document, and observe processes for
   managing the entire life cycle of an asymmetric key pair.

3.5.1.  Example Key Deployment Process

   When it is determined that a new key pair is required:

   1.  A Key Pair is generated by the signing device.

   2.  A proposed key selector record is generated and transmitted to
       the DNS administration infrastructure.

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   3.  The DNS administration infrastructure verifies the authenticity
       of the key selector registration request.  If accepted:

       1.  A key selector is assigned.

       2.  The corresponding key record is published in the DNS.

       3.  Wait for DNS updates to propagate (if necessary).

       4.  Report assigned key selector to signing device.

   4.  The signer verifies correct registration of the key record.

   5.  The signer begins generating signatures using the new key pair.

   6.  The signer terminates any private keys that are no longer
       required due to issue of replacement.

3.5.2.  Example Key Termination Process

   When it is determined that a private signature key is no longer

   1.  The signer stops using the private key for signature operations.

   2.  The signer deletes all records of the private key, including in-
       memory copies at the signing device.

   3.  The signer notifies the DNS administration infrastructure that
       the signing key is withdrawn from service and that the
       corresponding key records can be withdrawn from service at a
       specified future date.

   4.  The DNS administration infrastructure verifies the authenticity
       of the key selector termination request.  If accepted,

       1.  The key selector is scheduled for deletion at a future time
           determined by site policy.

       2.  Wait for deletion time to arrive.

       3.  The signer either publishes a revocation key selector with an
           empty public-key data (p=) field, or deletes the key selector
           record entirely.

   5.  As far as the verifier is concerned, there is no functional
       difference between verifying against a key selector with an empty
       p= field, and verifying against a missing key selector: both

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       result in a failed signature and the signature needs to be
       treated as if it had not been there.  However, there is a minor
       semantic difference: with the empty p= field, the signer is
       explicitly stating that the key has been revoked.  The empty p=
       record provides a gravestone for an old selector, making it less
       likely that the selector might be accidentally reused with a
       different public key.

4.  Signing

   Creating messages that have one or more DKIM signatures requires
   support in only two outbound email service components:

   o  A DNS Administrative interface that can create and maintain the
      relevant DNS names -- including names with underscores -- and
      resource records (RR).

   o  A trusted module, called the signing module, which is within the
      organization's outbound email handling service and which creates
      and adds the DKIM-Signature: header field(s) to the message.

   If the module creates more than one signature, there needs to be the
   appropriate means of telling it which one(s) to use.  If a large
   number of names are used for signing, it will help to have the
   administrative tool support a batch-processing mode.

4.1.  DNS Records

   A receiver attempting to verify a DKIM signature obtains the public
   key that is associated with the signature for that message.  The
   DKIM-Signature: header in the message contains the d= tag with the
   basic domain name doing the signing and serving as output to the
   Identity Assessor and the s= tag with the selector that is added to
   the name, for finding the specific public key.  Hence, the relevant
   <selector>._domainkey.<domain-name> DNS record needs to contain a
   DKIM-related RR that provides the public key information.

   The administrator of the zone containing the relevant domain name
   adds this information.  Initial DKIM DNS information is contained
   within TXT RRs.  DNS administrative software varies considerably in
   its abilities to support DKIM names, such as with underscores, and to
   add new types of DNS information.

4.2.  Signing Module

   The module doing signing can be placed anywhere within an
   organization's trusted Administrative Management Domain (ADMD);
   obvious choices include department-level posting agents, as well as

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   outbound boundary MTAs to the open Internet.  However, any other
   module, including the author's MUA (Mail User Agent), is potentially
   acceptable, as long as the signature survives any remaining handling
   within the ADMD.  Hence, the choice among the modules depends upon
   software development, administrative overhead, security exposures,
   and transit-handling tradeoffs.  One perspective that helps to
   resolve this choice is the difference between the increased
   flexibility, from placement at (or close to) the MUA, versus the
   streamlined administration and operation that is more easily obtained
   by implementing the mechanism "deeper" into the organization's email
   infrastructure, such as at its boundary MTA.

   Note the discussion in Section 2.2 concerning the use of the i= tag.

   The signing module uses the appropriate private key to create one or
   more signatures.  (See Section 6.5 for a discussion of multiple
   signatures.)  The means by which the signing module obtains the
   private key(s) is not specified by DKIM.  Given that DKIM is intended
   for use during email transit, rather than for long-term storage, it
   is expected that keys will be changed regularly.  For administrative
   convenience, it is best not to hard-code key information into

4.3.  Signing Policies and Practices

   Every organization (ADMD) will have its own policies and practices
   for deciding when to sign messages (message stream) and with what
   domain name, selector, and key.  Examples of particular message
   streams include all mail sent from the ADMD versus mail from
   particular types of user accounts versus mail having particular types
   of content.  Given this variability, and the likelihood that signing
   practices will change over time, it will be useful to have these
   decisions represented through run-time configuration information,
   rather than being hard-coded into the signing software.

   As noted in Section 2.3, the choice of signing name granularity
   requires balancing administrative convenience and utility for
   recipients.  Too much granularity is higher administrative overhead
   and might well attempt to impose more differential analysis on the
   recipient than they wish to support.  In such cases, they are likely
   to use only a super-name -- right-hand substring -- of the signing
   name.  When this occurs, the signer will not know what portion is
   being used; this then moves DKIM back to the non-deterministic world
   of heuristics, rather than the mechanistic world of signer/recipient
   collaboration that DKIM seeks.

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5.  Verifying

   A message recipient can verify a DKIM signature to determine if a
   claim of responsibility has been made for the message by a trusted

   Access control requires two components: authentication and
   authorization.  By design, verification of a DKIM signature only
   provides the authentication component of an access control decision
   and needs to be combined with additional sources of information such
   as reputation data to arrive at an access control decision.

5.1.  Intended Scope of Use

   DKIM requires that a message with a signature that is found to be
   invalid is to be treated as if the message had not been signed at

   If a DKIM signature fails to verify, it is entirely possible that the
   message is valid and that either there is a configuration error in
   the signer's system (e.g., a missing key record) or that the message
   was inadvertently modified in transit.  It is thus undesirable for
   mail infrastructure to treat messages with invalid signatures less
   favorably than those with no signatures whatsoever.  Contrariwise,
   creation of an invalid signature requires a trivial amount of effort
   on the part of an attacker.  If messages with invalid signatures were
   to be treated preferentially to messages with no signatures
   whatsoever, attackers will simply add invalid signature blocks to
   gain the preferential treatment.  It follows that messages with
   invalid signatures need to be treated no better and no worse than
   those with no signature at all.

5.2.  Signature Scope

   As with any other digital signature scheme, verifiers need to
   consider only the part of the message that is inside the scope of the
   message as being authenticated by the signature.

   For example, if the l= option is employed to specify a content length
   for the scope of the signature, only the part of the message that is
   within the scope of the content signature would be considered

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5.3.  Design Scope of Use

   Public key cryptography provides an exceptionally high degree of
   assurance, bordering on absolute certainty, that the party that
   created a valid digital signature had access to the private key
   corresponding to the public key indicated in the signature.

   In order to make useful conclusions from the verification of a valid
   digital signature, the verifier is obliged to make assumptions that
   fall far short of absolute certainty.  Consequently, mere validation
   of a DKIM signature does not represent proof positive that a valid
   claim of responsibility was made for it by the indicated party, that
   the message is authentic, or that the message is not abusive.  In

   o  The legitimate private key holder might have lost control of its
      private key.

   o  The legitimate domain holder might have lost control of the DNS
      server for the zone from which the key record was retrieved.

   o  The key record might not have been delivered from the legitimate
      DNS server for the zone from which the key record was retrieved.

   o  Ownership of the DNS zone might have changed.

   In practice, these limitations have little or no impact on the field
   of use for which DKIM is designed, but they can have a bearing if use
   is made of the DKIM message signature format or key retrieval
   mechanism in other specifications.

   In particular, the DKIM key retrieval mechanism is designed for ease
   of use and deployment rather than to provide a high assurance Public
   Key Infrastructure suitable for purposes that require robust non-
   repudiation such as establishing legally binding contracts.
   Developers seeking to extend DKIM beyond its design application need
   to consider replacing or supplementing the DNS key retrieval
   mechanism with one that is designed to meet the intended purposes.

5.4.  Inbound Mail Filtering

   DKIM is frequently employed in a mail filtering strategy to avoid
   performing content analysis on email originating from trusted
   sources.  Messages that carry a valid DKIM signature from a trusted
   source can be whitelisted, avoiding the need to perform computation
   and hence energy-intensive content analysis to determine the
   disposition of the message.

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   Mail sources can be determined to be trusted by means of previously
   observed behavior and/or reference to external reputation or
   accreditation services.  The precise means by which this is
   accomplished is outside the scope of DKIM.

5.4.1.  Non-Verifying Adaptive Spam Filtering Systems

   Adaptive (or learning) spam filtering mechanisms that are not capable
   of verifying DKIM signatures need to, at minimum, be configured to
   ignore DKIM header data entirely.

5.5.  Messages Sent through Mailing Lists and Other Intermediaries

   Intermediaries, such as mailing lists, pose a particular challenge
   for DKIM implementations, as the message processing steps performed
   by the intermediary can cause the message content to change in ways
   that prevent the signature passing verification.

   Such intermediaries are strongly encouraged to deploy DKIM signing so
   that a verifiable claim of responsibility remains available to
   parties attempting to verify the modified message.

5.6.  Generation, Transmission, and Use of Results Headers

   In many deployments, it is desirable to separate signature
   verification from the application relying on the verification.  A
   system can choose to relay information indicating the results of its
   message authentication efforts using various means; adding a "results
   header" to the message is one such mechanism [RFC5451].  For example,
   consider the cases where:

   o  The application relying on DKIM signature verification is not
      capable of performing the verification.

   o  The message can be modified after the signature verification is

   o  The signature key cannot be available by the time that the message
      is read.

   In such cases, it is important that the communication link between
   the signature verifier and the relying application be sufficiently
   secure to prevent insertion of a message that carries a bogus results

   An intermediary that generates results headers need to ensure that
   relying applications are able to distinguish valid results headers
   issued by the intermediary from those introduced by an attacker.  For

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   example, this can be accomplished by signing the results header.  At
   a minimum, results headers on incoming messages need to be removed if
   they purport to have been issued by the intermediary but cannot be
   verified as authentic.

   Further discussion on trusting the results as relayed from a verifier
   to something downstream can be found in [RFC5451].

6.  Taxonomy of Signatures

   As described in Section 2.1, a DKIM signature tells the signature
   verifier that the owner of a particular domain name accepts some
   responsibility for the message.  It does not, in and of itself,
   provide any information about the trustworthiness or behavior of that
   identity.  What it does provide is a verified identity to which such
   behavioral information can be associated, so that those who collect
   and use such information can be assured that it truly pertains to the
   identity in question.

   This section lays out a taxonomy of some of the different identities,
   or combinations of identities, that might usefully be represented by
   a DKIM signature.

6.1.  Single Domain Signature

   Perhaps the simplest case is when an organization signs its own
   outbound email using its own domain in the SDID [RFC5672] of the
   signature.  For example, Company A would sign the outbound mail from
   its employees with d=companyA.example.

   In the most straightforward configuration, the addresses in the
   RFC5322.From field would also be in the companyA.example domain, but
   that direct correlation is not required.

   A special case of the single domain signature is an author signature
   as defined by the Author Domain Signing Practices specification
   [RFC5617].  Author signatures are signatures from an author's
   organization that have an SDID value that matches that of an
   RFC5322.From address of the signed message.

   Although an author signature might, in some cases, be proof against
   spoofing the domain name of the RFC5322.From address, it is important
   to note that the DKIM and ADSP validation apply only to the exact
   address string and not to look-alike addresses or to the human-
   friendly "display-name" or names and addresses used within the body
   of the message.  That is, it only protects against the misuse of a
   precise address string within the RFC5322.From field and nothing
   else.  For example, a message from bob@domain.example with a valid

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   signature where d=d0main.example would fail an ADSP check because the
   signature domain, however similar, is distinct; however, a message
   from bob@d0main.example with a valid signature where d=d0main.example
   would pass an ADSP check, even though to a human it might be obvious
   that d0main.example is likely a malicious attempt to spoof the domain
   domain.example.  This example highlights that ADSP, like DKIM, is
   only able to validate a signing identifier: it still requires some
   external process to attach a meaningful reputation to that

6.2.  Parent Domain Signature

   Another approach that might be taken by an organization with multiple
   active subdomains is to apply the same (single) signature domain to
   mail from all subdomains.  In this case, the signature chosen would
   usually be the signature of a parent domain common to all subdomains.
   For example, mail from marketing.domain.example,
   sales.domain.example, and engineering.domain.example might all use a
   signature where d=domain.example.

   This approach has the virtue of simplicity, but it is important to
   consider the implications of such a choice.  As discussed in
   Section 2.3, if the type of mail sent from the different subdomains
   is significantly different or if there is reason to believe that the
   reputation of the subdomains would differ, then it can be a good idea
   to acknowledge this and provide distinct signatures for each of the
   subdomains (d=marketing.domain.example, sales.domain.example, etc.).
   However, if the mail and reputations are likely to be similar, then
   the simpler approach of using a single common parent domain in the
   signature can work well.

   Another approach to distinguishing the streams using a single DKIM
   key would be to leverage the AUID [RFC5672] (i= tag) in the DKIM
   signature to differentiate the mail streams.  For example, marketing
   email would be signed with i=@marketing.domain.example and

   It's important to remember, however, that under core DKIM semantics,
   the AUID is opaque to receivers.  That means that it will only be an
   effective differentiator if there is an out-of-band agreement about
   the i= semantics.

6.3.  Third-Party Signature

   A signature whose domain does not match the domain of the
   RFC5322.From address is sometimes referred to as a third-party
   signature.  In certain cases, even the parent domain signature

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   described above would be considered a third-party signature because
   it would not be an exact match for the domain in the RFC5322.From

   Although there is often heated debate about the value of third party
   signatures, it is important to note that the DKIM specification
   attaches no particular significance to the identity in a DKIM
   signature ([RFC4871], [RFC5672]).  The identity specified within the
   signature is the identity that is taking responsibility for the
   message, and it is only the interpretation of a given receiver that
   gives one identity more or less significance than another.  In
   particular, most independent reputation services assign trust based
   on the specific identifier string, not its "role": in general they
   make no distinction between, for example, an author signature and a
   third-party signature.

   For some, a signature unrelated to the author domain (the domain in
   the RFC5322.From address) is less valuable because there is an
   assumption that the presence of an author signature guarantees that
   the use of the address in the RFC5322.From header is authorized.

   For others, that relevance is tied strictly to the recorded
   behavioral data assigned to the identity in question, i.e., its trust
   assessment or reputation.  The reasoning here is that an identity
   with a good reputation is unlikely to maintain that good reputation
   if it is in the habit of vouching for messages that are unwanted or
   abusive; in fact, doing so will rapidly degrade its reputation so
   that future messages will no longer benefit from it.  It is therefore
   low risk to facilitate the delivery of messages that contain a valid
   signature of a domain with a strong positive reputation, independent
   of whether or not that domain is associated with the address in the
   RFC5322.From header field of the message.

   Third-party signatures encompass a wide range of identities.  Some of
   the more common are:

   Service Provider:  In cases where email is outsourced to an Email
      Service Provider (ESP), Internet Service Provider (ISP), or other
      type of service provider, that service provider can choose to
      DKIM-sign outbound mail with either its own identifier -- relying
      on its own, aggregate reputation -- or with a subdomain of the
      provider that is unique to the message author but still part of
      the provider's aggregate reputation.  Such service providers can
      also encompass delegated business functions such as benefit
      management, although these will more often be treated as trusted
      third-party senders (see below).

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   Parent Domain:  As discussed above, organizations choosing to apply a
      parent-domain signature to mail originating from subdomains can
      have their signatures treated as third party by some verifiers,
      depending on whether or not the "t=s" tag is used to constrain the
      parent signature to apply only to its own specific domain.  The
      default is to consider a parent-domain signature valid for its

   Reputation Provider:  Another possible category of third-party
      signature would be the identity of a third-party reputation
      provider.  Such a signature would indicate to receivers that the
      message was being vouched for by that third party.

6.4.  Using Trusted Third-Party Senders

   For most of the cases described so far, there has been an assumption
   that the signing agent was responsible for creating and maintaining
   its own DKIM signing infrastructure, including its own keys, and
   signing with its own identity.

   A different model arises when an organization uses a trusted third-
   party sender for certain key business functions, but still wants that
   email to benefit from the organization's own identity and reputation.
   In other words, the mail would come out of the trusted third party's
   mail servers, but the signature applied would be that of the
   controlling organization.

   This can be done by having the third party generate a key pair that
   is designated uniquely for use by that trusted third party and
   publishing the public key in the controlling organization's DNS
   domain, thus enabling the third party to sign mail using the
   signature of the controlling organization.  For example, if Company A
   outsources its employee benefits to a third party, it can use a
   special key pair that enables the benefits company to sign mail as
   "companyA.example".  Because the key pair is unique to that trusted
   third party, it is easy for Company A to revoke the authorization if
   necessary by simply removing the public key from the companyA.example

   A more cautious approach would be to create a dedicated subdomain
   (e.g., benefits.companyA.example) to segment the outsourced mail
   stream, and to publish the public key there; the signature would then
   use d=benefits.companyA.example.

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6.4.1.  DNS Delegation

   Another possibility for configuring trusted third-party access, as
   discussed in Section 3.4, is to have Company A use DNS delegation and
   have the designated subdomain managed directly by the trusted third
   party.  In this case, Company A would create a subdomain
   benefits.companya.example, and delegate the DNS management of that
   subdomain to the benefits company so it could maintain its own key
   records.  When revocation becomes necessary, Company A could simply
   remove the DNS delegation record.

6.5.  Multiple Signatures

   A simple configuration for DKIM-signed mail is to have a single
   signature on a given message.  This works well for domains that
   manage and send all of their own email from single sources, or for
   cases where multiple email streams exist but each has its own unique
   key pair.  It also represents the case in which only one of the
   participants in an email sequence is able to sign, no matter whether
   it represents the author or one of the operators.

   The examples thus far have considered the implications of using
   different identities in DKIM signatures, but have used only one such
   identity for any given message.  In some cases, it can make sense to
   have more than one identity claiming responsibility for the same

   There are a number of situations where applying more than one DKIM
   signature to the same message might make sense.  A few examples are:

   Companies with multiple subdomain identities:  A company that has
      multiple subdomains sending distinct categories of mail might
      choose to sign with distinct subdomain identities to enable each
      subdomain to manage its own identity.  However, it might also want
      to provide a common identity that cuts across all of the distinct
      subdomains.  For example, Company A can sign mail for its sales
      department with a signature where d=sales.companya.example and a
      second signature where d=companya.example

   Service Providers:  A service provider can, as described above,
      choose to sign outbound messages with either its own identity or
      an identity unique to each of its clients (possibly delegated).
      However, it can also do both: sign each outbound message with its
      own identity as well as with the identity of each individual
      client.  For example, ESP A might sign mail for its client Company
      B with its service provider signature d=espa.example, and a second
      client-specific signature where d= either companyb.example or
      companyb.espa.example.  The existence of the service provider

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      signature could, for example, help cover a new client while it
      establishes its own reputation, or help a very small volume client
      who might never reach a volume threshold sufficient to establish
      an individual reputation.

   Forwarders:  Forwarded mail poses a number of challenges to email
      authentication.  DKIM is relatively robust in the presence of
      forwarders as long as the signature is designed to avoid message
      parts that are likely to be modified; however, some forwarders do
      make modifications that can invalidate a DKIM signature.

      Some forwarders such as mailing lists or "forward article to a
      friend" services might choose to add their own signatures to
      outbound messages to vouch for them having legitimately originated
      from the designated service.  In this case, the signature would be
      added even in the presence of a preexisting signature, and both
      signatures would be relevant to the verifier.

      Any forwarder that modifies messages in ways that will break
      preexisting DKIM signatures needs to sign its forwarded messages.

   Reputation Providers:  Although third-party reputation providers
      today use a variety of protocols to communicate their information
      to receivers, it is possible that they, or other organizations
      willing to put their "seal of approval" on an email stream, might
      choose to use a DKIM signature to do it.  In nearly all cases,
      this "reputation" signature would be in addition to the author or
      originator signature.

   One important caveat to the use of multiple signatures is that there
   is currently no clear consensus among receivers on how they plan to
   handle them.  The opinions range from ignoring all but one signature
   (and the specification of which of them is verified differs from
   receiver to receiver), to verifying all signatures present and
   applying a weighted blend of the trust assessments for those
   identifiers, to verifying all signatures present and simply using the
   identifier that represents the most positive trust assessment.  It is
   likely that the industry will evolve to accept multiple signatures
   using either the second or third of these, but it can take some time
   before one approach becomes pervasive.

7.  Example Usage Scenarios

   Signatures are created by different types of email actors, based on
   different criteria, such as where the actor operates in the sequence
   from author to recipient, whether they want different messages to be
   evaluated under the same reputation or a different one, and so on.

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   This section provides some examples of usage scenarios for DKIM
   deployments; the selection is not intended to be exhaustive but to
   illustrate a set of key deployment considerations.

7.1.  Author's Organization - Simple

   The simplest DKIM configuration is to have some mail from a given
   organization (Company A) be signed with the same d= value (e.g.,
   d=companya.example).  If there is a desire to associate additional
   information, the AUID [RFC5672] value can become
   uniqueID@companya.example, or @uniqueID.companya.example.

   In this scenario, Company A need only generate a single signing key
   and publish it under their top-level domain (companya.example); the
   signing module would then tailor the AUID value as needed at signing

7.2.  Author's Organization - Differentiated Types of Mail

   A slight variation of the one signature case is where Company A signs
   some of its mail, but it wants to differentiate among categories of
   its outbound mail by using different identifiers.  For example, it
   might choose to distinguish marketing, billing or transactional, and
   individual corporate email into marketing.companya.example,
   billing.companya.example, and companya.example, respectively, where
   each category is assigned a unique subdomain and unique signing keys.

7.3.  Author Domain Signing Practices

7.3.1.  Introduction

   Some domains might decide to sign all of their outgoing mail.  If all
   of the legitimate mail for a domain is signed, recipients can be more
   aggressive in their filtering of mail that uses the domain but does
   not have a valid signature from the domain; in such a configuration,
   the absence of a signature would be more significant than for the
   general case.  It might be desirable for such domains to be able to
   advertise their intent to other receivers: this is the topic of
   Author Domain Signing Practices (ADSP).

   Note that ADSP is not for everyone.  Sending domains that do not
   control all legitimate outbound mail purporting to be from their
   domain (i.e., with an RFC5322.From address in their domain) are
   likely to experience delivery problems with some percentage of that
   mail.  Administrators evaluating ADSP for their domains needs to
   carefully weigh the risk of phishing attacks against the likelihood
   of undelivered mail.

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   This section covers some examples of ADSP usage.  For the complete
   specification, see [RFC5617].

7.3.2.  A Few Definitions

   In the ADSP specification, an address in the RFC5322.From header
   field of a message is defined as an "Author Address", and an "Author
   Domain" is defined as anything to the right of the '@' in an author

   An "Author Signature" is thus any valid signature where the value of
   the SDID matches an author domain in the message.

   It is important to note that unlike the DKIM specification, which
   makes no correlation between the signature domain and any message
   headers, the ADSP specification applies only to the author domain.
   In essence, under ADSP, any non-author signatures are ignored
   (treated as if they are not present).

   Signers wishing to publish an Author Domain Signing Practices (ADSP)
   [RFC5617] record describing their signing practices will thus want to
   include an author signature on their outbound mail to avoid ADSP
   verification failures.

7.3.3.  Some ADSP Examples

   An organization (Company A) can specify its signing practices by
   publishing an ADSP record with "dkim=all" or "dkim=discardable".  In
   order to avoid misdelivery of its mail at receivers that are
   validating ADSP, Company A needs to first have done an exhaustive
   analysis to determine all sources of outbound mail from its domain
   (companyA.example) and ensure that they all have valid author
   signatures from that domain.

   For example, email with an RFC5322.From address of bob@
   companyA.example needs to have an author signature where the SDID
   value is "companyA.example" or it will fail an ADSP validation.

   Note that once an organization publishes an ADSP record using
   dkim=all or dkim=discardable, any email with an RFC5322.From address
   that uses the domain where the ADSP record is published that does not
   have a valid author signature is at risk of being misdelivered or
   discarded.  For example, if a message with an RFC5322.From address of
   newsletter@companyA.example has a signature with
   d=marketing.companyA.example, that message will fail the ADSP check
   because the signature would not be considered a valid author

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   Because the semantics of an ADSP author signature are more
   constrained than the semantics of a "pure" DKIM signature, it is
   important to make sure the nuances are well understood before
   deploying an ADSP record.  The ADSP specification [RFC5617] provides
   some fairly extensive lookup examples (in Appendix A) and usage
   examples (in Appendix B).

   In particular, in order to prevent mail from being negatively
   impacted or even discarded at the receiver, it is essential to
   perform a thorough survey of outbound mail from a domain before
   publishing an ADSP policy of anything stronger than "unknown".  This
   includes mail that might be sent from external sources that might not
   be authorized to use the domain signature, as well as mail that risks
   modification in transit that might invalidate an otherwise valid
   author signature (e.g., mailing lists, courtesy forwarders, and other
   paths that could add or modify headers or modify the message body).

7.4.  Delegated Signing

   An organization might choose to outsource certain key services to an
   independent company.  For example, Company A might outsource its
   benefits management, or Organization B might outsource its marketing

   If Company A wants to ensure that all of the mail sent on its behalf
   through the benefits providers email servers shares the Company A
   reputation, as discussed in Section 6.4, it can either publish keys
   designated for the use of the benefits provider under
   companyA.example (preferably under a designated subdomain of
   companyA.example), or it can delegate a subdomain (e.g.,
   benefits.companyA.example) to the provider and enable the provider to
   generate the keys and manage the DNS for the designated subdomain.

   In both of these cases, mail would be physically going out of the
   benefit provider's mail servers with a signature of, e.g.,
   d=benefits.companya.example.  Note that the RFC5322.From address is
   not constrained: it could be affiliated with either the benefits
   company (e.g., benefits-admin@benefitprovider.example, or
   benefits-provider@benefits.companya.example) or the companyA domain.

   Note that in both of the above scenarios, as discussed in
   Section 3.4, security concerns dictate that the keys be generated by
   the organization that plans to do the signing so that there is no
   need to transfer the private key.  In other words, the benefits
   provider would generate keys for both of the above scenarios.

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7.5.  Independent Third-Party Service Providers

   Another way to manage the service provider configuration would be to
   have the service provider sign the outgoing mail on behalf of its
   client, Company A, with its own (provider) identifier.  For example,
   an Email Service Provider (ESP A) might want to share its own mailing
   reputation with its clients, and might sign all outgoing mail from
   its clients with its own d= domain (e.g., d=espa.example).

   When the ESP wants to distinguish among its clients, it has two

   o  Share the SDID domain and use the AUID value to distinguish among
      the clients, e.g., a signature on behalf of client A would have
      d=espa.example and i=@clienta.espa.example (or

   o  Extend the SDID domain, so there is a unique value (and subdomain)
      for each client, e.g., a signature on behalf of client A would
      have d=clienta.espa.example.

   Note that this scenario and the delegation scenario are not mutually
   exclusive.  In some cases, it can be desirable to sign the same
   message with both the ESP and the ESP client identities.

7.6.  Mail Streams Based on Behavioral Assessment

   An ISP (ISP A) might want to assign signatures to outbound mail from
   its users according to each user's past sending behavior
   (reputation).  In other words, the ISP would segment its outbound
   traffic according to its own assessment of message quality, to aid
   recipients in differentiating among these different streams.  Since
   the semantics of behavioral assessments are not valid AUID values,
   ISP A (ispa.example) can configure subdomains corresponding to the
   assessment categories (e.g., good.ispa.example, neutral.ispa.example,
   bad.ispa.example), and use these subdomains in the d= value of the

   The signing module can also set the AUID value to have a unique user
   ID (distinct from the local-part of the user's email address), for
   example, user3456@neutral.domain.example.  Using a user ID that is
   distinct from a given email alias is useful in environments where a
   single user might register multiple email aliases.

   Note that in this case, the AUID values are only partially stable.
   They are stable in the sense that a given i= value will always
   represent the same identity, but they are unstable in the sense that

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   a given user can migrate among the assessment subdomains depending on
   their sending behavior (i.e., the same user might have multiple AUID
   values over the lifetime of a single account).

   In this scenario, ISP A can generate as many keys as there are
   assessment subdomains (SDID values), so that each assessment
   subdomain has its own key.  The signing module would then choose its
   signing key based on the assessment of the user whose mail was being
   signed, and if desired, include the user ID in the AUID of the
   signature.  As discussed earlier, the per-user granularity of the
   AUID can be ignored by verifiers; so organizations choosing to use it
   ought not rely on its use for receiver side filtering results.
   However, some organizations might also find the information useful
   for their own purposes in processing bounces or abuse reports.

7.7.  Agent or Mediator Signatures

   Another scenario is that of an agent, usually a re-mailer of some
   kind, that signs on behalf of the service or organization that it
   represents.  Some examples of agents might be a mailing list manager,
   or the "forward article to a friend" service that many online
   publications offer.  In most of these cases, the signature is
   asserting that the message originated with, or was relayed by, the
   service asserting responsibility.  In general, if the service is
   configured in such a way that its forwarding would break existing
   DKIM signatures, it needs to always add its own signature.

8.  Usage Considerations

8.1.  Non-Standard Submission and Delivery Scenarios

   The robustness of DKIM's verification mechanism is based on the fact
   that only authorized signing modules have access to the designated
   private key.  This has the side effect that email submission and
   delivery scenarios that originate or relay messages from outside the
   domain of the authorized signing module will not have access to that
   protected private key, and thus will be unable to attach the expected
   domain signature to those messages.  Such scenarios include mailing
   lists, courtesy forwarders, MTAs at hotels, hotspot networks used by
   traveling users, and other paths that could add or modify headers, or
   modify the message body.

   For example, assume Joe works for Company A and has an email address
   joe@companya.example.  Joe also has an ISP-1 account, and he uses ISP-1's multiple address feature to
   attach his work email address, joe@companya.example, to email from
   his ISP-1 account.  When Joe sends email from his ISP-1 account and
   uses joe@companya.example as his designated RFC5322.From address,

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   that email cannot have a signature with d=companya.example because
   the ISP-1 servers have no access to Company A's private key.  In
   ISP-1's case, it will have an ISP-1 signature, but for some other
   mail clients offering the same multiple address feature there might
   be no signature at all on the message.

   Another example might be the use of a forward article to a friend
   service.  Most instances of these services today allow someone to
   send an article with their email address in the RFC5322.From to their
   designated recipient.  If Joe used either of his two addresses
   (joe@companya.example or, the forwarder would
   be equally unable to sign with a corresponding domain.  As in the
   mail client case, the forwarder can either sign as its own domain or
   put no signature on the message.

   A third example is the use of privately configured forwarding.
   Assume that Joe has another account at ISP-2,,
   but he'd prefer to read his ISP-2 mail from his ISP-1 account.  He
   sets up his ISP-2 account to forward all incoming mail to  Assume alice@companyb.example sends an email.  Depending on how companyb.example
   configured its signature, and depending on whether or not ISP-2
   modifies messages that it forwards, it is possible that when Alice's
   message is received in Joe's ISP-1 account, the original signature
   will fail verification.

8.2.  Protection of Internal Mail

   One identity is particularly amenable to easy and accurate
   assessment: the organization's own identity.  Members of an
   organization tend to trust messages that purport to be from within
   that organization.  However, Internet Mail does not provide a
   straightforward means of determining whether such mail is, in fact,
   from within the organization.  DKIM can be used to remedy this
   exposure.  If the organization signs all of its mail, then its
   boundary MTAs can look for mail purporting to be from the
   organization that does not contain a verifiable signature.

   Such mail can, in most cases, be presumed to be spurious.  However,
   domain managers are advised to consider the ways that mail processing
   can modify messages in ways that will invalidate an existing DKIM
   signature: mailing lists, courtesy forwarders, and other paths that
   could add or modify headers or modify the message body (e.g., MTAs at
   hotels, hotspot networks used by traveling users, and other scenarios
   described in the previous section).  Such breakage is particularly
   relevant in the presence of Author Domain Signing Practices.

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8.3.  Signature Granularity

   Although DKIM's use of domain names is optimized for a scope of
   organization-level signing, it is possible to administer subdomains
   or otherwise adjust signatures in a way that supports per-user
   identification.  This user-level granularity can be specified in two
   ways: either by sharing the signing identity and specifying an
   extension to the i= value that has a per-user granularity or by
   creating and signing with unique per-user keys.

   A subdomain or local part in the i= tag needs to be treated as an
   opaque identifier and thus need not correspond directly to a DNS
   subdomain or be a specific user address.

   The primary way to sign with per-user keys requires each user to have
   a distinct DNS (sub)domain, where each distinct d= value has a key
   published.  (It is possible, although not advised, to publish the
   same key in more than one distinct domain.)

   It is technically possible to publish per-user keys within a single
   domain or subdomain by utilizing different selector values.  This is
   not advised and is unlikely to be treated uniquely by Assessors: the
   primary purpose of selectors is to facilitate key management, and the
   DKIM specification recommends against using them in determining or
   assessing identities.

   In most cases, it would be impractical to sign email on a per-user
   granularity.  Such an approach would be

   likely to be ignored:   In most cases today, if receivers are
      verifying DKIM signatures, they are in general taking the simplest
      possible approach.  In many cases, maintaining reputation
      information at a per-user granularity is not interesting to them,
      in large part because the per-user volume is too small to be
      useful or interesting.  So even if senders take on the complexity
      necessary to support per-user signatures, receivers are unlikely
      to retain anything more than the base domain reputation.

   difficult to manage:   Any scheme that involves maintenance of a
      significant number of public keys might require infrastructure
      enhancements or extensive administrative expertise.  For domains
      of any size, maintaining a valid per-user keypair, knowing when
      keys need to be revoked or added due to user attrition or
      onboarding, and the overhead of having the signing engine
      constantly swapping keys can create significant and often
      unnecessary management complexity.  It is also important to note

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      that there is no way within the scope of the DKIM specification
      for a receiver to infer that a sender intends a per-user

   As mentioned before, what might make sense, however, is to use the
   infrastructure that enables finer granularity in signatures to
   identify segments smaller than a domain but much larger than a per-
   user segmentation.  For example, a university might want to segment
   student, staff, and faculty mail into three distinct streams with
   differing reputations.  This can be done by creating separate
   subdomains for the desired segments, and either specifying the
   subdomains in the i= tag of the DKIM Signature or by adding
   subdomains to the d= tag and assigning and signing with different
   keys for each subdomain.

   For those who choose to represent user-level granularity in
   signatures, the performance and management considerations above
   suggest that it would be more effective to do so by specifying a
   local part or subdomain extension in the i= tag rather than by
   extending the d= domain and publishing individual keys.

8.4.  Email Infrastructure Agents

   It is expected that the most common venue for a DKIM implementation
   will be within the infrastructure of an organization's email service,
   such as a department or a boundary MTA.  What follows are some
   general recommendations for the Email Infrastructure.

      Outbound:   An MSA (Mail Submission Agent) or an outbound MTA used
         for mail submission needs to ensure that the message sent is in
         compliance with the advertised email sending policy.  It needs
         to also be able to generate an operator alert if it determines
         that the email messages do not comply with the published DKIM
         sending policy.

         An MSA needs to be aware that some MUAs might add their own
         signatures.  If the MSA needs to perform operations on a
         message to make it comply with its email sending policy, if at
         all possible, it needs to do so in a way that would not break
         those signatures.

         MUAs equipped with the ability to sign ought not to be
         encouraged.  In terms of security, MUAs are generally not under
         the direct control of those in responsible roles within an
         organization and are thus more vulnerable to attack and
         compromise, which would expose private signing keys to
         intruders and thus jeopardize the integrity and reputation of
         the organization.

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      Inbound:   When an organization deploys DKIM, it needs to make
         sure that its email infrastructure components that do not have
         primary roles in DKIM handling do not modify message in ways
         that prevent subsequent verification.

         An inbound MTA or an MDA can incorporate an indication of the
         verification results into the message, such as using an
         Authentication-Results header field [RFC5451].

      Intermediaries:   An email intermediary is both an inbound and
         outbound MTA.  Each of the requirements outlined in the
         sections relating to MTAs apply.  If the intermediary modifies
         a message in a way that breaks the signature, the intermediary.

         +  needs to deploy abuse filtering measures on the inbound
            mail, and

         +  probably also needs to remove all signatures that will be

         In addition, the intermediary can:

         +  verify the message signature prior to modification.

         +  incorporate an indication of the verification results into
            the message, such as using an Authentication-Results header
            field [RFC5451].

         +  sign the modified message including the verification results
            (e.g., the Authentication-Results header field).

8.5.  Mail User Agent

   The DKIM specification is expected to be used primarily between
   Boundary MTAs, or other infrastructure components of the originating
   and receiving ADMDs.  However, there is nothing in DKIM that is
   specific to those venues.  In particular, MUAs can also support DKIM
   signing and verifying directly.

      Outbound:  An MUA can support signing even if mail is to be
         relayed through an outbound MSA.  In this case, the signature
         applied by the MUA will be in addition to any signature added
         by the MSA.  However, the warnings in the previous section need
         to be taken into consideration.

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         Some user software goes beyond simple user functionality and
         also performs MSA and MTA functions.  When this is employed for
         sending directly to a receiving ADMD, the user software needs
         to be considered an outbound MTA.

      Inbound:  An MUA can rely on a report of a DKIM signature
         verification that took place at some point in the inbound MTA/
         MDA path (e.g., an Authentication-Results header field), or an
         MUA can perform DKIM signature verification directly.  A
         verifying MUA needs to allow for the case where mail has been
         modified in the inbound MTA path; if a signature fails, the
         message is to be treated the same as a message that does not
         have a signature.

         An MUA that looks for an Authentication-Results header field
         needs to be configurable to choose which Authentication-Results
         header fields are considered trustable.  The MUA developer is
         encouraged to re-read the Security Considerations of [RFC5451].

         DKIM requires that all verifiers treat messages with signatures
         that do not verify as if they are unsigned.

         If verification in the client is to be acceptable to users, it
         is essential that successful verification of a signature not
         result in a less than satisfactory user experience compared to
         leaving the message unsigned.  The mere presence of a verified
         DKIM signature cannot be used by itself by an MUA to indicate
         that a message is to be treated better than a message without a
         verified DKIM signature.  However, the fact that a DKIM
         signature was verified can be used as input into a reputation
         system (i.e., a whitelist of domains and users) for
         presentation of such indicators.

   It is common for components of an ADMD's email infrastructure to do
   violence to a message, such that a DKIM signature might be rendered
   invalid.  Hence, users of MUAs that support DKIM signing and/or
   verifying need a basis for knowing that their associated email
   infrastructure will not break a signature.

9.  Security Considerations

   The security considerations of the DKIM protocol are described in the
   DKIM base specification [RFC4871].

10.  Acknowledgements

   The effort of the DKIM Working Group is gratefully acknowledged.

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11.  References

11.1.  Normative References

   [RFC4871]  Allman, E., Callas, J., Delany, M., Libbey, M., Fenton,
              J., and M. Thomas, "DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)
              Signatures", RFC 4871, May 2007.

   [RFC5322]  Resnick, P., Ed., "Internet Message Format", RFC 5322,
              October 2008.

   [RFC5451]  Kucherawy, M., "Message Header Field for Indicating
              Message Authentication Status", RFC 5451, April 2009.

   [RFC5585]  Hansen, T., Crocker, D., and P. Hallam-Baker, "DomainKeys
              Identified Mail (DKIM) Service Overview", RFC 5585,
              July 2009.

   [RFC5617]  Allman, E., Fenton, J., Delany, M., and J. Levine,
              "DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) Author Domain Signing
              Practices (ADSP)", RFC 5617, August 2009.

   [RFC5672]  Crocker, D., "RFC 4871 DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)
              Signatures -- Update", RFC 5672, August 2009.

11.2.  Informative References

   [RFC4034]  Arends, R., Austein, R., Larson, M., Massey, D., and S.
              Rose, "Resource Records for the DNS Security Extensions",
              RFC 4034, March 2005.

   [RFC4870]  Delany, M., "Domain-Based Email Authentication Using
              Public Keys Advertised in the DNS (DomainKeys)", RFC 4870,
              May 2007.

   [RFC5155]  Laurie, B., Sisson, G., Arends, R., and D. Blacka, "DNS
              Security (DNSSEC) Hashed Authenticated Denial of
              Existence", RFC 5155, March 2008.

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Appendix A.  Migration Strategies

   There are three migration occasions worth noting in particular for

   1.  Migrating from DomainKeys to DKIM.

   2.  Migrating from a current hash algorithm to a new standardized
       hash algorithm.

   3.  Migrating from a current signing algorithm to a new standardized
       signing algorithm.

   The case of deploying a new key selector record is described
   elsewhere (Section 3.5).

   As with any migration, the steps required will be determined by who
   is doing the migration and their assessment of:

   o  the users of what they are generating, or

   o  the providers of what they are consuming.

   Signers and verifiers have different considerations.

A.1.  Migrating from DomainKeys

   DKIM replaces the earlier DomainKeys (DK) specification.  Selector
   files are mostly compatible between the two specifications.

A.1.1.  Signers

   A signer that currently signs with DK will go through various stages
   as it migrates to using DKIM, not all of which are required for all
   signers.  The real questions that a signer needs to ask are:

   1.  how many receivers or what types of receivers are *only* looking
       at the DK signatures and not the DKIM signatures, and

   2.  how much does the signer care about those receivers?

   If no one is looking at the DK signature any more, then it's no
   longer necessary to sign with DK.  Or if all "large players" are
   looking at DKIM in addition to or instead of DK, a signer can choose
   to stop signing with DK.

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   With respect to signing policies, a reasonable, initial approach is
   to use DKIM signatures in the same way that DomainKeys signatures are
   already being used.  In particular, the same selectors and DNS key
   records can be used for both, after verifying that they are
   compatible as discussed below.

   Each secondary step in all of the following scenarios is to be
   prefaced with the gating factor "test, then when comfortable with the
   previous step's results, continue".

   One migration strategy is to:

   o  ensure that the current selector DNS key record is compatible with
      both DK and DKIM

   o  sign messages with both DK and DKIM signatures

   o  when it's decided that DK signatures are no longer necessary, stop
      signing with DK

   Another migration strategy is to:

   o  add a new selector DNS key record only for DKIM signatures

   o  sign messages with both DK (using the old DNS key record) and DKIM
      signatures (using the new DNS key record)

   o  when it's decided that DK signatures are no longer necessary, stop
      signing with DK

   o  eventually remove the old DK selector DNS record

   A combined migration strategy is to:

   o  ensure that the current selector DNS key record is compatible with
      both DK and DKIM

   o  start signing messages with both DK and DKIM signatures

   o  add a new selector DNS key record for DKIM signatures

   o  switch the DKIM signatures to use the new selector

   o  when it's decided that DK signatures are no longer necessary, stop
      signing with DK

   o  eventually remove the old DK selector DNS record

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   Another migration strategy is to:

   o  add a new selector DNS key record for DKIM signatures

   o  do a flash cut and replace the DK signatures with DKIM signatures

   o  eventually remove the old DK selector DNS record

   Another migration strategy is to:

   o  ensure that the current selector DNS key record is compatible with
      both DK and DKIM

   o  do a flash cut and replace the DK signatures with DKIM signatures

   Note that when you have separate key records for DK and DKIM, you can
   use the same public key for both.

A.1.1.1.  DNS Selector Key Records

   The first step in some of the above scenarios is ensuring that the
   selector DNS key records are compatible for both DK and DKIM.  The
   format of the DNS key record was intentionally meant to be backwardly
   compatible between the two systems, but not necessarily upwardly
   compatible.  DKIM has enhanced the DK DNS key record format by adding
   several optional parameters, which DK needs to ignore.  However,
   there is one critical difference between DK and DKIM DNS key records.
   The definitions of the "g" fields:

   g= granularity of the key:  In both DK and DKIM, this is an optional
      field that is used to constrain which sending address(es) can
      legitimately use this selector.  Unfortunately, the treatment of
      an empty field ("g=;") is different.  DKIM allows wildcards where
      DK does not.  For DK, an empty field is the same as a missing
      value, and is treated as allowing any sending address.  For DKIM,
      an empty field only matches an empty local part.  In DKIM, both a
      missing value and "g=*;" mean to allow any sending address.

      Also, in DomainKeys, the "g" field is required to match the
      address in "From:"/"Sender:", while in DKIM, it is required to
      match i=.  This might or might not affect transition.

      If your DK DNS key record has an empty "g" field in it ("g=;"),
      your best course of action is to modify the record to remove the
      empty field.  In that way, the DK semantics will remain the same,
      and the DKIM semantics will match.

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      If your DNS key record does not have an empty "g" field in it
      ("g=;"), it's probable that the record can be left alone.  But the
      best course of action would still be to make sure that it has a
      "v" field.  When the decision is made to stop supporting
      DomainKeys and to only support DKIM, it is important to verify
      that the "g" field is compatible with DKIM, and typically having
      "v=DKIM1;" in it.  It is strongly encouraged that if use of an
      empty "g" field in the DKIM selector, include the "v" field.

A.1.1.2.  Removing DomainKeys Signatures

   The principal use of DomainKeys is at boundary MTAs.  Because no
   operational transition is ever instantaneous, it is advisable to
   continue performing DomainKeys signing until it is determined that
   DomainKeys receive-side support is no longer used, or is sufficiently
   reduced.  That is, a signer needs to add a DKIM signature to a
   message that also has a DomainKeys signature and keep it there until
   they decide it is deemed no longer useful.  The signer can do its
   transitions in a straightforward manner, or more gradually.  Note
   that because digital signatures are not free, there is a cost to
   performing both signing algorithms, so signing with both algorithms
   ought not be needlessly prolonged.

   The tricky part is deciding when DK signatures are no longer
   necessary.  The real questions are: how many DomainKeys verifiers are
   there that do *not* also do DKIM verification, which of those are
   important, and how can you track their usage?  Most of the early
   adopters of DK verification have added DKIM verification, but not all
   yet.  If a verifier finds a message with both DK and DKIM, it can
   choose to verify both signatures, or just one or the other.

   Many DNS services offer tracking statistics so it can be determined
   how often a DNS record has been accessed.  By using separate DNS
   selector key records for your signatures, you can chart the use of
   your records over time, and watch the trends.  An additional
   distinguishing factor to track would take into account the verifiers
   that verify both the DK and DKIM signatures, and discount those from
   counts of DK selector usage.  When the number for DK selector access
   reaches a low-enough level, that's the time to consider discontinuing
   signing with DK.

   Note, this level of rigor is not required.  It is perfectly
   reasonable for a DK signer to decide to follow the "flash cut"
   scenario described above.

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A.1.2.  Verifiers

   As a verifier, several issues need to be considered:

A.1.2.1.  Ought DK signature verification be performed?

   At the time of writing, there is still a significant number of sites
   that are only producing DK signatures.  Over time, it is expected
   that this number will go to zero, but it might take several years.
   So it would be prudent for the foreseeable future for a verifier to
   look for and verify both DKIM and DK signatures.

A.1.2.2.  Ought both DK and DKIM signatures be evaluated on a single

   For a period of time, there will be sites that sign with both DK and
   DKIM.  A verifier receiving a message that has both types of
   signatures can verify both signatures, or just one.  One disadvantage
   of verifying both signatures is that signers will have a more
   difficult time deciding how many verifiers are still using their DK
   selectors.  One transition strategy is to verify the DKIM signature,
   then only verify the DK signature if the DKIM verification fails.

A.1.2.3.  DNS Selector Key Records

   The format of the DNS key record was intentionally meant to be
   backwardly compatible between DK and DKIM, but not necessarily
   upwardly compatible.  DKIM has enhanced the DK DNS key record format
   by adding several optional parameters, which DK needs to ignore.
   However, there is one key difference between DK and DKIM DNS key
   records.  The definitions of the g fields:

   g= granularity of the key:  In both DK and DKIM, this is an optional
      field that is used to constrain which sending address(es) can
      legitimately use this selector.  Unfortunately, the treatment of
      an empty field ("g=;") is different.  For DK, an empty field is
      the same as a missing value, and is treated as allowing any
      sending address.  For DKIM, an empty field only matches an empty
      local part.

   v= version of the selector  It is advised that a DKIM selector have
      "v=DKIM1;" at its beginning, but it is not required.

   If a DKIM verifier finds a selector record that has an empty "g"
   field ("g=;") and it does not have a "v" field ("v=DKIM1;") at its
   beginning, it is faced with deciding if this record was:

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   1.  from a DK signer that transitioned to supporting DKIM but forgot
       to remove the "g" field (so that it could be used by both DK and
       DKIM verifiers); or

   2.  from a DKIM signer that truly meant to use the empty "g" field
       but forgot to put in the "v" field.  It is advised that you treat
       such records using the first interpretation, and treat such
       records as if the signer did not have a "g" field in the record.

A.2.  Migrating Hash Algorithms

   [RFC4871] defines the use of two hash algorithms: SHA-1 and SHA-256.
   The security of all hash algorithms is constantly under attack, and
   SHA-1 has already shown weaknesses as of this writing.  Migrating
   from SHA-1 to SHA-256 is not an issue, because all verifiers are
   already required to support SHA-256.  But when it becomes necessary
   to replace SHA-256 with a more secure algorithm, there will be a
   migratory period.  In the following, "NEWHASH" is used to represent a
   new hash algorithm.  Section 4.1 of [RFC4871] briefly discusses this

A.2.1.  Signers

   As with migrating from DK to DKIM, migrating hash algorithms is
   dependent on the signer's best guess as to the utility of continuing
   to sign with the older algorithms and the expected support for the
   newer algorithm by verifiers.  The utility of continuing to sign with
   the older algorithms is also based on how broken the existing hash
   algorithms are considered and how important that is to the signers.

   One strategy is to wait until it's determined that there is a large
   enough base of verifiers available that support NEWHASH, and then
   flash cut to the new algorithm.

   Another strategy is to sign with both the old and new hash algorithms
   for a period of time.  This is particularly useful for testing the
   new code to support the new hash algorithm, as verifiers will
   continue to accept the signature for the older hash algorithm and
   ought to ignore any signature that fails because the code is slightly
   wrong.  Once the signer has determined that the new code is correct
   AND it's determined that there is a large enough base of verifiers
   available that support NEWHASH, the signer can flash cut to the new

   One advantage migrating hash algorithms has is that the selector can
   be completely compatible for all hash algorithms.  The key selector
   has an optional "h=" field that can be used to list the hash
   algorithms being used; it also is used to limit the algorithms that a

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   verifier will accept.  If the signer is not currently using the key
   selector "h=" field, no change is required.  If the signer is
   currently using the key selector "h=" field, NEWHASH will need to be
   added to the list, as in "h=sha256:NEWHASH;".  (When the signer is no
   longer using SHA-256, it can be removed from the "h=" list.)

A.2.2.  Verifiers

   When a new hash algorithm becomes standardized, it is best for a
   verifier to start supporting it as quickly as possible.

A.3.  Migrating Signing Algorithms

   [RFC4871] defines the use of the RSA signing algorithm.  Similar to
   hashes, signing algorithms are constantly under attack, and when it
   becomes necessary to replace RSA with a newer signing algorithm,
   there will be a migratory period.  In the following, "NEWALG" is used
   to represent a new signing algorithm.

A.3.1.  Signers

   As with the other migration issues discussed above, migrating signing
   algorithms is dependent on the signer's best guess as to the utility
   of continuing to sign with the older algorithms and the expected
   support for the newer algorithm by verifiers.  The utility of
   continuing to sign with the older algorithms is also based on how
   broken the existing signing algorithms are considered and how
   important that is to the signers.

   As before, the two basic strategies are to 1) wait until there is
   sufficient base of verifiers available that support NEWALG and then
   do a flash cut to NEWALG, and 2) use a phased approach by signing
   with both the old and new algorithms before removing support for the
   old algorithm.

   It is unlikely that a new algorithm would be able to use the same
   public key as "rsa", so using the same selector DNS record for both
   algorithms' keys is ruled out.  Therefore, in order to use the new
   algorithm, a new DNS selector record would need to be deployed in
   parallel with the existing DNS selector record for the existing
   algorithm.  The new DNS selector record would specify a different
   "k=" value to reflect the use of NEWALG.

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A.3.2.  Verifiers

   When a new hash algorithm becomes standardized, it is best for a
   verifier to start supporting it as quickly as possible.

Appendix B.  General Coding Criteria for Cryptographic Applications

   NOTE: This section could possibly be changed into a reference to
   something else, such as another RFC.

   Correct implementation of a cryptographic algorithm is a necessary
   but not a sufficient condition for the coding of cryptographic
   applications.  Coding of cryptographic libraries requires close
   attention to security considerations that are unique to cryptographic

   In addition to the usual security coding considerations, such as
   avoiding buffer or integer overflow and underflow, implementers need
   to pay close attention to management of cryptographic private keys
   and session keys, ensuring that these are correctly initialized and
   disposed of.

   Operating system mechanisms that permit the confidentiality of
   private keys to be protected against other processes ought to be used
   when available.  In particular, great care needs to be taken when
   releasing memory pages to the operating system to ensure that private
   key information is not disclosed to other processes.

   Certain implementations of public key algorithms such as RSA can be
   vulnerable to a timing analysis attack.

   Support for cryptographic hardware providing key management
   capabilities is strongly encouraged.  In addition to offering
   performance benefits, many cryptographic hardware devices provide
   robust and verifiable management of private keys.

   Fortunately, appropriately designed and coded cryptographic libraries
   are available for most operating system platforms under license terms
   compatible with commercial, open source and free software license
   terms.  Use of standard cryptographic libraries is strongly
   encouraged.  These have been extensively tested, reduce development
   time and support a wide range of cryptographic hardware.

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Authors' Addresses

   Tony Hansen
   AT&T Laboratories
   200 Laurel Ave. South
   Middletown, NJ  07748


   Ellen Siegel


   Phillip Hallam-Baker
   Default Deny Security, Inc.


   Dave Crocker
   Brandenburg InternetWorking
   675 Spruce Dr.
   Sunnyvale, CA  94086


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