Make a list of trusted ARC Senders to trust legitimate indirect mailflows

Applies to

  • Exchange Online Protection
  • Microsoft Defender for Office 365 plan 1 and plan 2
  • Microsoft 365 Defender

Email authentication mechanisms like SPF, DKIM, DMARC are used to verify the senders of emails for the safety of email recipients, but some legitimate services may make changes to the email between the sender and recipient. In Microsoft 365 Defender, ARC will help reduce SPF, DKIM, and DMARC delivery failures that happen due to legitimate indirect mailflows.

Authenticated Received Chain (ARC) in Microsoft 365 Defender for Office

Services that modify message content in transit before delivery to your organization can invalidate DKIM email signatures and affect authentication of the message. When these intermediary services perform such actions, they can use ARC to provide details of the original authentication before the modifications occurred. Your organization can then trust these details to help with authenticating the message.

Trusted ARC sealers lets admins add a list of trusted intermediaries into the Microsoft 365 Defender portal. Trusted ARC sealers allows Microsoft to honor ARC signatures from these trusted intermediaries, preventing these legitimate messages from failing the authentication chain.

Note

Trusted ARC sealers is an admin-created list of intermediary domains who have implemented ARC sealing. When an email is routed to Office 365 through and ARC trusted intermediary of the Office 365 tenant, Microsoft validates the ARC signature, and, based on the ARC results, can honor authentication details provided.

When to use trusted ARC sealers?

A list of trusted ARC sealers is only needed where intermediaries are part of an organization's email flow and:

  1. May modify the email header or email contents.
  2. May cause authentication to fail for other reasons (example, by removing attachments).

By adding a trusted ARC sealer, Office 365 will validate and trust the authentication results that the sealer provides when delivering mail to your tenant in Office 365.

Administrators should add only legitimate services as trusted ARC sealers. Adding only services the organization expressly uses and knows will help messages that must first go through a service to pass email authentication checks, and prevent legitimate messages from being sent to Junk due to authentication failures.

Steps to add a trusted ARC sealer to Microsoft 365 Defender

Trusted ARC sealers in Microsoft 365 Defender portal shows all the ARC sealers acknowledged by and added to your tenant.

To add a new Trusted ARC sealer in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal:

  1. In the Microsoft 365 Defender portal at https://security.microsoft.com, go to Email & Collaboration > Policies & Rules > Threat policies > Email Authentication Settings in the Rules section > ARC . To go directly to the ARC page, use email authentication settings.

  2. If this is the first time you've added a trusted ARC sealer, click the Add button.

  3. Add trusted ARC sealers in the textbox shown.

    1. Notice that you're adding the domains (example fabrikam.com).
    2. The domain name you enter here must be a match to the domain shown in the domain 'd' tag in ARC-Seal and ARC-Message-Signature headers (on the email headers for the message).
    3. You can see these in the properties of the message in Outlook.

Steps to validate your trusted ARC sealer

If there's an ARC seal from a third party before the message reaches Microsoft 365 Defender, check the headers once the email is received and view the latest ARC headers.

In the last ARC-Authentication-Results header, check whether ARC validation is listed as pass.

An ARC header that lists an 'oda' of 1 indicates that previous ARC has been verified, the previous ARC sealer is trusted, and previous pass result can be used to override the current DMARC failure.

An ARC pass header showing oda=1

See the email authentication methods at the end of this header-block for the oda result.

ARC-Authentication-Results: i=2; mx.microsoft.com 1; spf=pass (sender ip is 40.107.65.78) smtp.rcpttodomain=microsoft.com smtp.mailfrom=sampledoamin.onmicrosoft.com; dmarc=bestguesspass action=none header.from=sampledoamin.onmicrosoft.com; dkim=none (message not signed); arc=pass (0 oda=1 ltdi=1 spf=[1,1,smtp.mailfrom=sampledoamin.onmicrosoft.com] dkim=[1,1,header.d=sampledoamin.onmicrosoft.com] dmarc=[1,1,header.from=sampledoamin.onmicrosoft.com])

To check whether the ARC result was used to override a DMARC failure, look for compauth result and a reason of code(130) in the header.

See the last entry in this header-block to find compauth and reason.

Authentication-Results: spf=fail (sender IP is 51.163.158.241) smtp.mailfrom=contoso.com; dkim=fail (body hash did not verify) header.d=contoso.com;dmarc=fail action=none header.from=contoso.com;compauth=pass reason=130

PowerShell steps to add or remove a trusted ARC sealer

Admins can also set up ARC configurations with Exchange Online PowerShell.

  1. Connect to Exchange Online PowerShell.

  2. Connect-ExchangeOnline.

  3. To add or update a domain into a trusted ARC sealer:
    Set-ArcConfig -Identity default -ArcTrustedSealers {a list of arc signing domains split by comma}
    or
    Set-ArcConfig -Identity {tenant name/tenanid}\default -ArcTrustedSealers {a list of arc signing domains split by comma}
    You need to provide identity parameter -Identity default when running Set-ArcConfig. The trusted sealers should be matched to the value of the 'd' tag in the ARC-Seal header.

  4. View the trusted ARC sealers:
    Get-ArcConfig or Get-ArcConfig - Organization {tenant name}

Trusted ARC sealer mailflow graphics

These diagrams contrast mailflow operations with and without a trusted ARC sealer, when using any of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC email authentication. In both graphics, there are legitimate services used by the company that must intervene in mailflow, sometimes violating email authentication standards by changing sending IPs, and writing to the email header. In the first case, the indirect mailflow traffic demonstrates the result before admins add a trusted ARC sealer.

In this graphic Contoso publishes SPF, DKIM, and DMARC as part of standard email security. A sender using SPF sends mail from inside contoso.com to fabrikam.com, and this mail passes through a third party service Contoso has hired, and that service modifies the sending IP address in the email header. The mail fails SPF due to the altered IP, and DKIM because the content was modified at a third party, during the DNS check at EOP. DMARC fails because of the SPF and DKIM failures. The message is sent to Junk, Quarantine, or Rejected.

Here, you see the same organization after leveraging the ability to create a trusted ARC sealer.

In the second graphic Contoso company had created a list of trusted ARC sealers. The same user sends a second mail from contoso.com to fabrikam.com. The third party service hired by Contoso modifies the IP address of the sender in the header of the mail. But this time the service has implemented ARC sealing, and because the tenant admin has already added the domain of the third party to trusted ARC sealers, the modification is accepted. SPF fails for the new IP address. DKIM fails because of the content modification. DMARC fails because of the earlier failures. But ARC recognizes the modifications, issues a Pass, and accepts the changes. Spoof also receives a pass. The message is sent to Inbox.

Next steps: After you set up ARC for Microsoft 365 Defender for Office

After setup, check your ARC Headers with Message Header Analyzer.

Review SPF, DKIM, DMARC, configuration steps.