Am I right to say that DMARC has no way to say "all emails must be signed". My understanding here is that I can specify that I want DKIM to be either lax or strict - which I understand to mean that, if the message happens to be signed (consider email sent from example@b.com):

  • Lax: it's ok for the DKIM DNS TXT record to belong to a subdomain (example@a.b.com)
  • Strict: the DKIM DNS TXT record must must belong to the exact sending domain (example@b.com)

However, there are also then emails which either have no DKIM signature at all and other emails which might contain example@b.com in the FROM header but have an SMTP envelope from like example@some-mail-sending-service.com and do have a DKIM signature which is valid for some-mail-sending-service.com but not for b.com.

In both cases above, am I right to say that these are both "PASSES" in a sense. The former example has no invalid DKIM so it's just OK and the latter is actually an aligned DKIM pass for the envelope from so is also considered OK?

If I have a DMARC policy like:


Am I right to say that a malicious party will not be rejected for reasons relating to DKIM if they either:

  1. Use no DKIM at all.
  2. Send from a mail server which does use DKIM with a valid signature and uses an SMTP envelope.

In both above cases the DKIM policy of DMARC alone would not cause this email to be blocked?

1 Answer 1


I think you're mainly missing the 'alignment' which is required to get a DMARC compliant mail. This is what differentiates DMARC from the existing techniques.

Alignment means that DMARC requires you to setup authentication (SPF/DKIM) using the same* domain as the "From" domain. You mentioned alignment between the SPF domain (Envelope From) and the DKIM domain, however this does not apply.

So an attacker cannot get a mail to pass DMARC if they would:

  • use a 'From' header of your-company.com
  • sign the mail with a passing DKIM signature (d=attacker.com)
  • send with a passing Envelope From (/Return-Path) of attacker.com

*) Using the alignment mode you can specify if you'd like an exact match (Strict) or would like to allow a match of a subdomain (Relaxed)

Does this help you and answer your question?



DMARC Analyzer

  • Hi Michiel, it's great to have an authoritative source like yourself helping out here. I actively use the dmarcanalyzer.com tool. My concern here is 2 fold, 1) what happens if a message isn't signed at all using DKIM - is this considered by your site specifically as a "DMARC compliant message). Secondly, regardless of strict or lax policy in DMARC for DKIM (which I think is to do with whether the domain key TXT record comes from mysite.com (strict match) or sub.mysite.com (lax match) what happens if the mail is signed by a different domain with a key which is valid for that domain
    – David
    Oct 12, 2018 at 10:30
  • 1) If that message has a SPF pass result with an aligning domain, this message would be DMARC compliant. Otherwise it would not. 2) The DKIM domain is taken from the DKIM 'd=' parameter. This parameter also defines where ISPs should look for the key in question. selector._domainkey.d-parameter-domain.tld. If you use strict, these domains should have an exact match, if you use another domain the result will not 'align' and the message will not be DMARC compliant. If you use relaxed, the message will be aligned when you use a(/another) subdomain of the main domain. Does this help? Oct 15, 2018 at 6:42

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