Knock, knock. Who's there?
E-mail Authentication The Criti
By Dave Lewis
We all know the "knock, knock" game. Since childhood we've been conditioned to expect a trick response whenever we hear those two words. "Knock, knock," and we're immediately on our guard. We anticipate the trickster, though we are often unable to second guess him.
Unfortunately, that's how we're now conditioned to regard e-mail when it comes knocking at our virtual doorway. We don't trust it. Is the e-mail really from my Aunt Bobbie or is it from a spammer posing as my Aunt Bobbie to sell me a solution for mid-life dysfunction? Is the e-mail really from my bank or is it from a phisher posing as my bank with the intent of thieving my identity? And if I dare open the door to find out—open the e-mail, click on a link or attachment - what happens then? Will my PC be irrevocably damaged or converted into a zombie?
The sad reality is that there are no foolproof ways to answer these questions today. Even those of us who consider ourselves to be e-mail professionals have been tricked. Yes, I do have an Aunt Bobbie. And, yes, I was tricked into opening spam that was purportedly from her. Perhaps worse, the legitimate e-mail I was expecting from my real Aunt Bobbie was filtered as spam by my ever-vigilant Internet service provider (ISP). Are my Aunt Bobbie experiences unique? Unfortunately, they are not. The same scenarios are replayed with millions of consumers every day.
Challenge for Direct Marketers
As direct marketers, we've been focused mainly on the deliverability of our e-mail messages for the past few years, and rightly so. As the ISPs have been inundated by spam - up to 85 percent of all e-mail received at some domains - they've responded with progressively more aggressive filtering to protect their members and servers. Some of our legitimate, permission-based e-mail has been caught in their spam filters too. It's been blocked at the ISP gateway, routed to the junk folder where it isn't likely to be seen and subjected to image or link suppression that erodes its effectiveness. To avoid such predicaments, we've shored up our practices, invested in ISP relations and applied a variety of other tactics to safeguard deliverability. Some of us have even abandoned proven direct marketing techniques for fear that certain words, fonts or colors might trigger anti-spam filters. Yet even when our e-mail does reach the inbox, it's still too often a spam-ridden environment that's not conducive to response from our customers. No wonder many e-mail marketers have seen their open and click rates tumble along with deliverability.