The before-queue content filtering feature described in this document limits the amount of mail that a site can handle. See the "Pros and Cons" section below for details.
As of version 2.1, the Postfix SMTP server can forward all incoming mail to a content filtering proxy server that inspects all mail BEFORE it is stored in the Postfix mail queue. It is roughly equivalent in capabilities to the approach described in MILTER_README, except that the latter uses a dedicated protocol instead of SMTP.
The before-queue content filter is meant to be used as follows:
Internet -> Postfix SMTP server -> Before queue filter -> Postfix SMTP server -> Postfix cleanup server -> Postfix queue -< smtp
The before-queue content filter is not to be confused with the approach described in the FILTER_README document, where mail is filtered AFTER it is stored in the Postfix mail queue.
This document describes the following topics:
As shown in the diagram above, the before-queue filter sits between two Postfix SMTP server processes.
The before-filter Postfix SMTP server accepts connections from the Internet and does the usual relay access control, SASL authentication, TLS negotiation, RBL lookups, rejecting non-existent sender or recipient addresses, etc.
The before-queue filter receives unfiltered mail content from Postfix and does one of the following:
Re-inject the mail back into Postfix via SMTP, perhaps after changing its content and/or destination.
Discard or quarantine the mail.
Reject the mail by sending a suitable SMTP status code back to Postfix. Postfix passes the status back to the remote SMTP client. This way, Postfix does not have to send a bounce message.
The after-filter Postfix SMTP server receives mail from the content filter. From then on Postfix processes the mail as usual.
The before-queue content filter described here works just like the after-queue content filter described in the FILTER_README document. In many cases you can use the same software, within the limitations as discussed in the "Pros and Cons" section below.
Pro: Postfix can reject mail before the incoming SMTP mail transfer completes, so that Postfix does not have to send rejected mail back to the sender (which is usually forged anyway). Mail that is not accepted remains the responsibility of the remote SMTP client.
Con: The smtpd(8) service before the smtpd_proxy_filter cannot support features that involve header or body access, or that involve queue file manipulation (i.e., anything that involves processing by the cleanup(8) service).
No support for HOLD actions in Postfix smtpd access(5) restrictions.
No support for smtpd_milters features that involve message header or body content.
No support for receive_override_options.
Instead, specify those features with the smtpd(8) service behind the smtpd_proxy_filter. In some cases, it may be possible to combine a before-filter PREPEND action that emits a unique pattern (for example containing the MTA domain name), with an after-filter header_checks action that does what you want, and with an smtp_header_checks IGNORE action that deletes the prepended header from transit mail.
Con: The remote SMTP client expects an SMTP reply within a deadline. As the system load increases, fewer and fewer CPU cycles remain available to answer within the deadline, and eventually you either have to stop accepting mail or you have to stop filtering mail. It is for this reason that the before-queue content filter limits the amount of mail that a site can handle.
Con: Content filtering software can use lots of memory resources. You have to reduce the number of simultaneous content filter processes so that a burst of mail will not drive your system into the ground.
With Postfix versions 2.7 and later, SMTP clients will experience an increase in the delay between the time the client sends "end-of-message" and the time the Postfix SMTP server replies (here, the number of before-filter SMTP server processes can be larger than the number of filter processes).
With Postfix versions before 2.7, SMTP clients will experience an increase in the delay before they can receive service (here, the number of before-filter SMTP server processes is always equal to the number of filter processes).
In the following example, the before-filter Postfix SMTP server gives mail to a content filter that listens on localhost port 10025. The after-filter Postfix SMTP server receives mail from the content filter via localhost port 10026. From then on mail is processed as usual.
The content filter itself is not described here. You can use any filter that is SMTP enabled. For non-SMTP capable content filtering software, Bennett Todd's SMTP proxy implements a nice Perl-based framework. See: https://web.archive.org/web/20151022025756/http://bent.latency.net/smtpprox/ or https://github.com/jnorell/smtpprox/
Internet -> Postfix SMTP server on port 25 -> filter on localhost port 10025 -> Postfix SMTP server on localhost port 10026 -> Postfix cleanup server -> Postfix incoming queue
This is configured by editing the master.cf file:
/etc/postfix/master.cf: # ============================================================= # service type private unpriv chroot wakeup maxproc command # (yes) (yes) (yes) (never) (100) # ============================================================= # # Before-filter SMTP server. Receive mail from the network and # pass it to the content filter on localhost port 10025. # smtp inet n - n - 20 smtpd -o smtpd_proxy_filter=127.0.0.1:10025 -o smtpd_client_connection_count_limit=10 # Postfix 2.7 and later performance feature. # -o smtpd_proxy_options=speed_adjust # # After-filter SMTP server. Receive mail from the content filter # on localhost port 10026. # 127.0.0.1:10026 inet n - n - - smtpd -o smtpd_authorized_xforward_hosts=127.0.0.0/8 -o smtpd_client_restrictions= -o smtpd_helo_restrictions= -o smtpd_sender_restrictions= # Postfix 2.10 and later: specify empty smtpd_relay_restrictions. -o smtpd_relay_restrictions= -o smtpd_recipient_restrictions=permit_mynetworks,reject -o smtpd_data_restrictions= -o mynetworks=127.0.0.0/8 -o receive_override_options=no_unknown_recipient_checks
Note: do not specify spaces around the "=" or "," characters.
The before-filter SMTP server entry is a modified version of the default Postfix SMTP server entry that is normally configured at the top of the master.cf file:
The number of SMTP sessions is reduced from the default 100 to only 20. This prevents a burst of mail from running your system into the ground with too many content filter processes.
The "-o smtpd_client_connection_count_limit=10" prevents one SMTP client from using up all 20 SMTP server processes. This limit is not necessary if you receive all mail from a trusted relay host.
Note: this setting is available in Postfix version 2.2 and later. Earlier Postfix versions will ignore it.
The "-o smtpd_proxy_filter=127.0.0.1:10025" tells the before-filter SMTP server that it should give incoming mail to the content filter that listens on localhost TCP port 10025.
The "-o smtpd_proxy_options=speed_adjust" tells the before-filter SMTP server that it should receive an entire email message before it connects to a content filter. This reduces the number of simultaneous filter processes.
NOTE 1: When this option is turned on, a content filter must not selectively reject recipients of a multi-recipient message. Rejecting all recipients is OK, as is accepting all recipients.
NOTE 2: This feature increases the minimum amount of free queue space by $message_size_limit. The extra space is needed to save the message to a temporary file.
Postfix ≥ 2.3 supports both TCP and UNIX-domain filters. The above filter could be specified as "inet:127.0.0.1:10025". To specify a UNIX-domain filter, specify "unix:pathname". A relative pathname is interpreted relative to the Postfix queue directory.
The after-filter SMTP server is a new master.cf entry:
The "127.0.0.1:10026" makes the after-filter SMTP server listen on the localhost address only, without exposing it to the network. NEVER expose the after-filter SMTP server to the Internet :-)
The "-o smtpd_authorized_xforward_hosts=127.0.0.0/8" allows the after-filter SMTP server to receive remote SMTP client information from the before-filter SMTP server, so that the after-filter Postfix daemons log the remote SMTP client information instead of logging localhost[127.0.0.1].
The other after-filter SMTP server settings avoid duplication of work that is already done in the "before filter" SMTP server.
By default, the filter has 100 seconds to do its work. If it takes longer then Postfix gives up and reports an error to the remote SMTP client. You can increase this time limit (see the "Configuration parameters" section below) but doing so is pointless because you can't control when the remote SMTP client times out.
Parameters that control proxying:
smtpd_proxy_filter (syntax: host:port): The host and TCP port of the before-queue content filter. When no host or host: is specified here, localhost is assumed.
smtpd_proxy_timeout (default: 100s): Timeout for connecting to the before-queue content filter and for sending and receiving commands and data. All proxy errors are logged to the maillog file. For privacy reasons, all the remote SMTP client sees is "451 Error: queue file write error". It would not be right to disclose internal details to strangers.
smtpd_proxy_ehlo (default: $myhostname): The hostname to use when sending an EHLO command to the before-queue content filter.
The before-filter Postfix SMTP server connects to the content filter, delivers one message, and disconnects. While sending mail into the content filter, Postfix speaks ESMTP but uses no command pipelining. Postfix generates its own EHLO, XFORWARD (for logging the remote client IP address instead of localhost[127.0.0.1]), DATA and QUIT commands, and forwards unmodified copies of all the MAIL FROM and RCPT TO commands that the before-filter Postfix SMTP server didn't reject itself. Postfix sends no other SMTP commands.
The content filter should accept the same MAIL FROM and RCPT TO command syntax as the before-filter Postfix SMTP server, and should forward the commands without modification to the after-filter SMTP server. If the content filter or after-filter SMTP server does not support all the ESMTP features that the before-filter Postfix SMTP server supports, then the missing features must be turned off in the before-filter Postfix SMTP server with the smtpd_discard_ehlo_keywords parameter.
When the filter rejects content, it should send a negative SMTP response back to the before-filter Postfix SMTP server, and it should abort the connection with the after-filter Postfix SMTP server without completing the SMTP conversation with the after-filter Postfix SMTP server.