How Setup or Configure Mail Server on GNU / Linux

How to set up a mail server on a GNU / Linux system

Step by step guide to install Postfix

Ubuntu + Postfix + Courier IMAP + MySQL + Amavisd-new + SpamAssassin + ClamAV + SASL + TLS + Squirrel Mail + Postgrey

Easy to follow how to on setting up a mail server with unlimited users and domains, with IMAP/Pop access, anti-spam, anti-virus, secure authentication, encrypted traffic, web mail interface and more.

Based on an Ubuntu distribution platform, but instructions are distro generic.



Hardware: A computer to be the server. Processor and memory requirements are low. Disk space is relevant to what mail you expect to keep, Range between <1gb>

Software: None, apart from an ubuntu cd or a pre installed system.

Skills: You do not need to be a guru, as it is not advanced. However some linux skills is desired, and knowledge of the risks of leaving ports exposed to the outside world.

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Dont take my word for it! Research others opinions and methods. Look at my references, look at's howtos, read the excellent books available (E.g. Kyle's or Hildebrandt's), search the web or read the proper documentation.

If you refer to this howto in your own document, or find usefull links, then let me know.





Courier IMAP
admin SPF

What software packages have/will I use and why.

  • OS: Ubuntu Linux

Ah the age old distro argument... Thankfully this set up should work on most distros. I used to base this howto on Mandrake(now Mandriva), and I started this new edition on a Gentoo box. But I don't have the patience for Gentoo, nor the money to stay with Mandriva Power editions. Why Ubuntu? Its free, simple and slick. As Ubuntu is derived from debian the installations used here will be apt-get based. Please refer to my other editions for details on RPM or source based installations.

  • MTA: Postfix

Simple, free and slick. Yup I am a sucker for anything that works easily. Postfix is powerfull, well established, but not too bloated, and is security concious from the start.

  • Pop/IMAP: Courier IMAP

My first mail server installtion was with Courier. I have not found a reason to change this as again it is simple, and free.

  • Database: MySQL

Although I use Firebird for my application development, (or Hibernate/C-JDBC hybrids), MySQL is well supported for the sort of lookups required in a mail server.

  • Content Check: Amavisd-new

Easy plug in solution for spam, virus checking etc.

  • Anti-Spam: SpamAssassin

Powerfull renowned spam fighting tool.

  • Anti-Virus: ClamAV

Free virus scanner that can be trusted and includes update daemon.

  • Authentication: Cyrus SASL

Secure and trusted crypthography technology for authentication of SMTP traffic.

  • PostGrey

Postgrey is an excellent little script to stop 99% of all spam. All it does is on first contact for specific from-to combinations, tells the sender server to try again in a little while, which most spammers cant afford to do. When proper servers try again after a few minutes it lets it through.

  • Encryption: TLS

Secure and trusted crypthography technology for encryption of SMTP traffic. Not too be confused with client encryption technology like GnuPG and S/MIME. They are covered in the extend section. Formerly referenced as SSL.

  • WebMail: SquirrelMail

Easy to set up php based web mail client.

Please see software links appendix for further information about these software packages. In that section there is more links to documentation or forums, and viable alternatives, downloadable packages, versions details etc.

Further software and tweaks are discussed in the extension section.

Also review other peoples opinion on these packages via my references.

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This section is different for every distribution and for every version.

This howto is based on Ubuntu and its base of debian which uses apt-get. Therefor this section uses apt packages to its fullest.

For other installation method please refer to the software and the software links and your own distribution for the documention for other ways of installing. My 2nd edition(outdated) has instructions for Mandriva, general RPM and tarball compiling.

To follow the rest of this howto, you need to ensure all your packages have been installed with the same modules, E.g MySQL lookup on postfix and sasl, php in apache etc.

I have set up mail servers using the 32bit and 64bit x86 platforms, however if all the packages are available then other, E.g. Mac platforms should work too.

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Upon installing Ubuntu you have a choice of which base system to install.

The default, ie the one chosen when you just hit enter when promted right at the start, is the basic desktop flavour.

Another useful one is the server base. It only includes the absolute minimum of packages, so is quite usefull if you are only to use it remotely. Since Breezy it also available as a smaller iso download, or by using the normal cd by hitting F1 instead of enter and writing server on the prompt.

This howto have been used with both bases, the server base will need some more dependancy packages thats all.

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When the base system is up and running you need to check your package repositories, ie where the system retrieves new software.

The install procedure usually leaves you with a /etc/apt/sources.list that includes the cd and the main and restricted and updates repositories.

That is fine for the absolute core packages involved in this mail server, however a full install requires the universal, and you might as well also include the multiverse and backports as well.

I also tend to disable the cd option, but that is up to you.

You will have to find a repository mirror close to your location from the archives, replace mine with your choice.

#deb cdrom:[Ubuntu 6.06 _Dapper Drake_ - Release i386 (20060601)]/ dapper main restricted deb dapper main restricted multiverse universe deb-src dapper main restricted multiverse universe deb dapper-updates main restricted multiverse universe deb-src dapper-updates main restricted multiverse universe deb dapper-security main restricted multiverse universe deb-src dapper-security main restricted multiverse universe deb dapper-backports main restricted multiverse universe deb-src dapper-backports main restricted multiverse universe ## EXTRAS #deb dapper-extras main universe multiverse restricted contrib ## MARILLAT #deb unstable main

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Here is a list of packages needed, and what they provide. Some are required by several of the software, some might not be needed if you are not fully following this howto. Please note the extended section require further packages.


  • shorewall
  • openssh-client
  • openssh-server

Ive included the Shorewall firewall. A firewall is not required, but recommended. Obviously you can use another firewall, but Ill assume you have chosen Shorewall. A SSH server is not required either, but essential if you need to administer or test the server remotely.


  • mysql-common
  • mysql-client
  • mysql-server
  • libmysqlclient12

MySQL 4 is required by many of the packages, so install it first.


  • openssl


  • libsasl2
  • libsasl2-modules
  • libsasl2-modules-sql
  • libauthen-sasl-cyrus-perl
  • libauthen-sasl-perl
  • libgsasl7

The SASL packages have changed for Breezy. Im investigating the differences. The * packages I have from hoary repositories.


  • postfix
  • postfix-tls
  • postfix-mysql

postfix-tls is as of breezy part of the postfix package, however if you are not using breezy then you must install postfix with included tls features.


  • courier-base
  • courier-authdaemon
  • courier-authmysql
  • courier-imap
  • courier-imap-ssl
  • courier-ssl

If you require pop access then you'd want to install the pop packages as well.


  • amavisd-new

Spam Assassin

  • spamassassin
  • spamc


  • clamav-base
  • libclamav1
  • clamav-daemon
  • clamav-freshclam


  • postgrey

There is also a postfix-gld however I am using the postgrey one till I fully tested the other.


  • squirrelmail
  • squirrelmail-locales
  • apache2
  • libapache2-mod-php4
  • php4-mysql
  • php4-pear
  • php4-cli

SquirrelMail webmail require a working apache web server, with php with mysql support. Note these web packages uses PHP4.


  • phpmyadmin

Like SquirrelMail, phpMyAdmin require a working apache server.

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Now you might not want to install all the packages in one go, perhaps better to group them by each software or a few together.

If you want to find additional packages, you can do a quick command line search for packages, by useing this command:

Please note you should run most of these commands via sudo. I just havent prepended all the commands with it.

apt-cache search postfix

To find out what you might already have installed:

dpkg --list | grep postfix

Then when you have the package list do this to install

# add -s to do a test run # or -d if you just want to download the packages and do the install later apt-get install package-name, another-package-name, etc

Some of the package installations will prompt you for input,

Postfix will ask you what type of server to create. I just say "Internet Site" as we will be changing most configs anyway. It will also ask for the fully qualified name of your server. The clamav installation may ask whether to create directories etc. Courier will ask to install web admin, which I dont't need, and that it will install TLS encryption which is good.

Many of the packages also require further dependant packages. So the final package list is quite large.

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Now everything is installed it is time to configure each of the core applications used.

OS: Ubuntu

The most important setting, security wise, is to configure the firewall. This off course varies between firewalls, your usage. Shorewall main config files in /etc/shorewall that we are concerned with, are interfaces, hosts, zones, policy and rules.

Here is a typical basic zones file

#zone display comment loc Local Local network net Net Tinternet

Here is a typical interfaces file

net eth0 detect

Here is a typical hosts file

loc eth0:

Here is a typical policy file

fw loc ACCEPT fw net ACCEPT loc all DROP info net all DROP info all all REJECT info

Here is a typical rules file for a mail server

AllowPing loc fw AllowSSH loc fw #AllowSMTP loc fw #ACCEPT loc fw tcp 465,587 - #AllowIMAP loc fw #AllowPing net fw #AllowSSH loc fw #AllowSMTP net fw #ACCEPT net fw tcp 465,587 - #AllowIMAP net fw

SMTP access from everywhere is commented out, untill we are confident everything is working and secure. Also commented out for now is IMAP and TLS SMTP traffic untill we need it. You might enable SSH from the tinternet if you want.

Then edit /etc/default/shorewall and turn it on.

startup=1 #restart shorewall with /etc/init.d/shorewall restart

For more details on IP Tables and Shorewall, look up its website.

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MTA: Postfix

Postfix resides in /etc/postfix. Postfix is by default set up in a chroot jail. This is a security procedure and is very good feature.

However when setting up the server the chroot may be a problem, so keep it in mind if someting don't work. In there is a column which decides which modules are run within the jail restrictions. Hopefully you don't have to change these settings.

In you define how Postfix shall operate. Each distribution have different defaults for these settings, however most are similar, so you should not need to worry, but be aware of it. These default are defined in the postfix installation folder, which probably is somewhere in /usr. Most distributions also set up some suggested defaults in the Edit this file, note the suggestions and then comment them out.

First set your server name, this must match what you put in your domains DNS MX records.

myhostname =

Then decide what the greeting text will be. Enough info so it is usefull, but not divelge everything to potential hackers.

smtpd_banner = $myhostname ESMTP $mail_name

Next you need to decide whether to send all outgoing mail via another SMTP server, or send them yourself. I send via my ISP's server, so it has to worry about the queing etc. If you send it yourself then you are not reliant on 3rd party server. But you may risk more exposure and accidentally be blocked by spam blockers. And it is more work for your server. Also many servers block dynamic dns hosts, so you may find your server gets rejected. However choose whichever you are confortable with.

# leave blank to do it yourself relayhost = # or put it an accessible smtp server relayhost =

Next is network details. You will accept connection from anywhere, and you only trust this machine

inet_interfaces = all mynetworks_style = host

Next you can masquerade some outgoing addresses. Say your machine's name is "". You may not want outgoing mail to come from, as you'd prefer You can also state which domain not to masquerade. E.g. if you use a dynamic dns service, then your server address will be a subdomain. You can also specify which users not to masquerade.

masquerade_domains = ! masquerade_exceptions = root

As we will be using virtual domains, these need to be empty.

local_recipient_maps = mydestination =

Then will set a few numbers.

# how long if undelivered before sending warning update to sender delay_warning_time = 4h # will it be a permanent error or temporary unknown_local_recipient_reject_code = 450 # how long to keep message on queue before return as failed. # some have 3 days, I have 16 days as I am backup server for some people # whom go on holiday with their server switched off. maximal_queue_lifetime = 7d # max and min time in seconds between retries if connection failed minimal_backoff_time = 1000s maximal_backoff_time = 8000s # how long to wait when servers connect before receiving rest of data smtp_helo_timeout = 60s # how many address can be used in one message. # effective stopper to mass spammers, accidental copy in whole address list # but may restrict intentional mail shots. smtpd_recipient_limit = 16 # how many error before back off. smtpd_soft_error_limit = 3 # how many max errors before blocking it. smtpd_hard_error_limit = 12

Now we can specify some restrictions. Be carefull that each setting is on one line only.

# Requirements for the HELO statement smtpd_helo_restrictions = permit_mynetworks, warn_if_reject reject_non_fqdn_hostname, reject_invalid_hostname, permit # Requirements for the sender details smtpd_sender_restrictions = permit_mynetworks, warn_if_reject reject_non_fqdn_sender, reject_unknown_sender_domain, reject_unauth_pipelining, permit # Requirements for the connecting server smtpd_client_restrictions = reject_rbl_client, reject_rbl_client, reject_rbl_client, reject_rbl_client # Requirement for the recipient address smtpd_recipient_restrictions = reject_unauth_pipelining, permit_mynetworks, reject_non_fqdn_recipient, reject_unknown_recipient_domain, reject_unauth_destination, permit

In my client restrictions I specify some spam detection servers. These are call RBL: Real-time blackhole list. They check if the connecting server is a known open relay used by spammers. Some argue these should not be used in the postfix configuration, as there are some false positives. And SpamAssassin uses rbl checking, but as part of its scoring system, so it is not all black and white. I added som warn_if_reject parameters. They basically dont reject the email but warm if they would normally have. Which makes it a nice way to test features.

Further restrictions:

# require proper helo at connections smtpd_helo_required = yes # waste spammers time before rejecting them smtpd_delay_reject = yes disable_vrfy_command = yes

Next we need to set some maps and lookups for the virtual domains.

# not sure of the difference of the next two # but they are needed for local aliasing alias_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/aliases alias_database = hash:/etc/postfix/aliases # this specifies where the virtual mailbox folders will be located virtual_mailbox_base = /var/spool/mail/virtual # this is for the mailbox location for each user virtual_mailbox_maps = mysql:/etc/postfix/ # and their user id virtual_uid_maps = mysql:/etc/postfix/ # and group id virtual_gid_maps = mysql:/etc/postfix/ # and this is for aliases virtual_alias_maps = mysql:/etc/postfix/ # and this is for domain lookups virtual_mailbox_domains = mysql:/etc/postfix/ # this is how to connect to the domains (all virtual, but the option is there) # not used yet # transport_maps = mysql:/etc/postfix/

You need to set up an alias file. This is only used locally, and not by your own mail domains.

cp /etc/aliases /etc/postfix/aliases # may want to view the file to check if ok. # especially that the final alias, eg root goes # to a real person postalias /etc/postfix/aliases

Next you need to set up the folder where the virtual mail will be stored. This may have already been done by the apt-get. And also create the user whom will own the folders.

# to add if there is not a virtual user mkdir /var/spool/mail/virtual groupadd virtual -g 5000 useradd virtual -u 5000 -g 5000 chown -R virtual:virtual /var/spool/mail/virtual # to modify if a virtual user is already set groupmod -g 5000 virtual usermod -g virtual -u 5000 virtual chown -R virtual:virtual /var/spool/mail/virtual

Next we need to set up the files to access the lookups via the database. We will only set up a few now, and the rest later when/if needed:

Edit(create) /etc/postfix/

user=mail password=apassword dbname=maildb table=users select_field=maildir where_field=id hosts= additional_conditions = and enabled = 1

Edit /etc/postfix/

user=mail password=apassword dbname=maildb table=users select_field=uid where_field=id hosts=

Edit /etc/postfix/

user=mail password=apassword dbname=maildb table=users select_field=gid where_field=id hosts=

Edit /etc/postfix/

user=mail password=apassword dbname=maildb table=aliases select_field=destination where_field=mail hosts= additional_conditions = and enabled = 1

Edit /etc/postfix/

user=mail password=apassword dbname=maildb table=domains select_field=domain where_field=domain hosts= additional_conditions = and enabled = 1

As you can see the 3 first are very similar, only the select_field changes. If you specify an ip in hosts, (as opposed to 'localhost') then it will communicate over tcp and not the mysql socket. (chroot restriction)

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Database: MySQL

Next we need to setup all those lookups specified before.

First you need to create a user to use in MySQL. Then you need to create the database. And unless you already have done this, make sure you have set a password for the root user!

# If not already done... mysqladmin -u root password new_password # log in as root mysql -u root -p # then enter password for the root account when prompted Enter password: # then we create the mail database create database maildb; # then we create a new user: "mail" GRANT SELECT,INSERT,UPDATE,DELETE,CREATE,DROP ON maildb.* TO 'mail'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED by 'apassword'; GRANT SELECT,INSERT,UPDATE,DELETE,CREATE,DROP ON maildb.* TO 'mail'@'%' IDENTIFIED by 'apassword'; exit;

You need to create these tables:

  • aliases
  • domains
  • users

We will create more later on for further extensions, but only these are relevant now.

# log in to mysql as the new mail user mysql -u mail -p maildb # enter the newly created password Enter password: #then run this commands to create the tables; CREATE TABLE `aliases` ( `pkid` smallint(3) NOT NULL auto_increment, `mail` varchar(120) NOT NULL default '', `destination` varchar(120) NOT NULL default '', `enabled` tinyint(1) NOT NULL default '1', PRIMARY KEY (`pkid`), UNIQUE KEY `mail` (`mail`) ) ; CREATE TABLE `domains` ( `pkid` smallint(6) NOT NULL auto_increment, `domain` varchar(120) NOT NULL default '', `transport` varchar(120) NOT NULL default 'virtual:', `enabled` tinyint(1) NOT NULL default '1', PRIMARY KEY (`pkid`) ) ; CREATE TABLE `users` ( `id` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `name` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `uid` smallint(5) unsigned NOT NULL default '5000', `gid` smallint(5) unsigned NOT NULL default '5000', `home` varchar(255) NOT NULL default '/var/spool/mail/virtual', `maildir` varchar(255) NOT NULL default 'blah/', `enabled` tinyint(3) unsigned NOT NULL default '1', `change_password` tinyint(3) unsigned NOT NULL default '1', `clear` varchar(128) NOT NULL default 'ChangeMe', `crypt` varchar(128) NOT NULL default 'sdtrusfX0Jj66', `quota` varchar(255) NOT NULL default '', `procmailrc` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `spamassassinrc` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', PRIMARY KEY (`id`), UNIQUE KEY `id` (`id`) ) ;

The last few fields are not required, but usefull if you extend later.

Next is to edit the my.cnf file. In Ubuntu/debian this is created by default. In Mandrake I had to manually create a blank one in /etc. In ubuntu edit /etc/mysql/my.cnf

## In Hoary you needed to comment out this line #skip-networking ## however in breezy this has changed to bind-address = ## which is fine ## Make sure this is set log = /var/log/mysql/mysql.log ## Then in a few weeks comment it out ## when everything is working, as it slows mysql down

By this you have enable net access to MySQL, but you still control whom connects to it with your firewall and user settings in MySQL. You may be able to just connect straight to the socket which is more secure.

# restart MySQL to make sure # its picking up the new settings. sudo /etc/init.d/mysql restart

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Pop/IMAP: Courier IMAP

Edit /etc/courier/authdaemonrc, and change the module line to this:


Edit authmysqlrc and make sure these setting lines are set correctly. Empty spaces at the end of lines are a common mistake.

MYSQL_SERVER localhost MYSQL_USERNAME mail MYSQL_PASSWORD apassword MYSQL_PORT 0 MYSQL_OPT 0 MYSQL_DATABASE maildb MYSQL_USER_TABLE users # comment out this field, # as I now longer use the encrypted pw options #MYSQL_CRYPT_PWFIELD crypt MYSQL_CLEAR_PWFIELD clear MYSQL_UID_FIELD uid MYSQL_GID_FIELD gid MYSQL_LOGIN_FIELD id MYSQL_HOME_FIELD home MYSQL_NAME_FIELD name MYSQL_MAILDIR_FIELD concat(home,'/',maildir) MYSQL_WHERE_CLAUSE enabled=1

Edit imapd

# set how many connections to use per person. Easy to underestimate if you have 6 mailboxes set up. MAXPERIP=20 # high debug to start with DEBUG_LOGIN=2 IMAPDSTART=YES

Then edit the same in the pop and ssl options, if you are going to use them.

If you have followed these steps properly, you should now have a working mail server. You can skip down to the data and then test stage to see if your server works as intended. It is not secure and is suceptable to spam, so do follow the other steps soon, but it is nice to find out that it works!

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Content Checks: Amavisd-new

As of dapper release this is now seperated across several config files in /etc/amavis/conf.d. If you have an old setup, rename /etc/amavis/amavis.conf to eg amavis.conf.disabled Quick edit is to add your changes to a 50user file within /etc/amavis/conf.d. Thanks to Donald Goodman for the 50-user tip. More information in the wiki
The important configurations are:

$mydomain ''; $daemon_user= 'virtual'; $daemon_group= 'virtual'; @local_domains_acl = qw(.); $inet_socket_port = 10024; $forward_method = 'smtp:'; # @bypass_virus_checks_acl = qw( . ); # @bypass_spam_checks_acl = qw( . ); # I also change these $TEMPBASE = "$MYHOME/tmp"; # Whilst debugging $log_level = 2; $warnbannedrecip = 1; $warn_offsite = 1; $warnvirusrecip = 1; $spam_quarantine_to = "spam-quarantine\@$mydomain"; $virus_quarantine_to = "virus-quarantine\@$mydomain"; $sa_local_tests_only = 0;

Then in av_scanner section you enable/disable the virus scanners you are going to use. We will be using ClamAV, so comment out all lines between @av_scanners( and its closing bracket. Do the same for @av_scanners_backup. Then in @av_scanner uncomment Clam lines, (maybe lines 1232 to 1235).

Then you need to check that the $TEMPBASE folder exists and is ownder by the $daemon_user. The same goes for the virusfolder.

# You may have to do this cd /var/lib/amavis mkdir tmp chown virtual:virtual tmp chown virtual:virtual virusmails # and maybe this chown -R virtual:virtual /var/run/amavis

The init script for amavis insist on the ownership of these being the "proper" amavis user and group. As we need it to be the virtual pair, we need to edit the /etc/init.d/amavis script. (Unless someone has a sweeter, more correct way.)

#edit about line 31 #chown -c -h "$1:$2" "$4" chown -c -h "virtual:virtual" "$4"

Next thing is to specify how to connect to the content check plugin.

Edit in /etc/postfix, The changes I have made from the default is modifying two lines then addding three more services. (Please note lines starting with -o needs to be either tabbed or double spaced as they belong to line above it. )

#smtp inet n - n - - smtpd smtp inet n - - - - smtpd -o cleanup_service_name=pre-cleanup #cleanup unix n - - - 0 cleanup cleanup unix n - - - 0 cleanup -o mime_header_checks= -o nested_header_checks= -o body_checks= -o header_checks= amavis unix - - - - 2 smtp -o smtp_data_done_timeout=1200 -o smtp_send_xforward_command=yes inet n - - - - smtpd -o content_filter= -o local_recipient_maps= -o relay_recipient_maps= -o smtpd_restriction_classes= -o smtpd_client_restrictions= -o smtpd_helo_restrictions= -o smtpd_sender_restrictions= -o smtpd_recipient_restrictions=permit_mynetworks,reject -o strict_rfc821_envelopes=yes -o mynetworks= -o smtpd_error_sleep_time=0 -o smtpd_soft_error_limit=1001 -o smtpd_hard_error_limit=1001 pre-cleanup unix n - - - 0 cleanup -o virtual_alias_maps= -o canonical_maps= -o sender_canonical_maps= -o recipient_canonical_maps= -o masquerade_domains=

Then edit in /etc/postfix and add these lines.

content_filter = amavis:[]:10024 #receieve_override_options = no_address_mappings

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Anti-Virus: ClamAV

ClamAV do not need a lot of setting up. You need to make sure it is run by the same user as the amavisd-new. And then you may configure the fresclam option, which makes sure you have the latest virus definitions.

Edit /etc/clamav/clamd.conf and change the user to the amavisd-new user or the other way round.

# User clamav User virtual

Then change ownership of its runtime folder

chown virtual:virtual /var/run/clamav

Edit freshclam.conf

# how frequent per day. default is once an hourwhich is a bit excesive. # once per day should do. Checks 1

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Anti-Spam: Spamassassin

SpamAssassin's default settings were fine, but you can tweak them at /etc/spamassassin/ and review the defauls at /usr/share/spamassassin/. E.g. you can in/decrease the levels needed before emails are marked as spam and before rejections.

Here is an example of my

skip_rbl_checks 0 use_razor2 0 use_dcc 0 use_pyzor 0 use_bayes 1 bayes_path /etc/spamassassin/bayes bayes_file_mode 0770

Once you have a collection of spam and non spam (200+ of each), you can train the Bayes filter in SpamAssassin with these emails. Review this on the SpamAssassin web site.

# E.g. like this sa-learn --showdots -C /etc/spamassassin --spam /var/spool/mail/virtual/quarantine/.spam/* sa-learn --showdots -C /etc/spamassassin --ham /var/spool/mail/virtual/mine/cur/*

If you notice too much spam is being let through, then do more tweaking. If you get too many false postives, ie real emails marked as spam, loosen the set up slightly. A properly configured SpamAssassin should catch 97% of all spam. With probably 1 in 1000 false positives.

The SpamAssassin site has a lot of information on setting it up. It is worth a good read through. Some usefull tips are automatic learning, cronjobs to learn user marked spam and ham, etc.

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Adding Postgrey to this mail set up is a breeze. Thanks for the emails I got on postgreys benefits and integration.

Ubuntu's extended repositories has a postgrey module, which installs the scripts and sets up a /etc/postgrey whitelist configuration. You can edit these files, but I don't bother. You may want to any back up mx server you use, if you do.

You do however need to edit to add reciepient restrictions:

#adding the postgrey policy: smtpd_recipient_restrictions = reject_unauth_pipelining, permit_mynetworks, reject_non_fqdn_recipient, reject_unknown_recipient_domain, reject_unauth_destination, check_policy_service inet:, permit

You can modify the default time before a server can try again. The default is 300 seconds, ie 5 minutes. I have mine set to 1 minute. Edit /etc/default/postgrey

POSTGREY_OPTS="--inet= --delay=60" #POSTGREY_TEXT="Your customized rejection message here"

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If the postgrey method becomes very popular, perhaps spammers will start to comply with it. However that will be years untill they do, if ever.

Meanwhile enjoy a spamless existence.

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Cyrus SASL provide a secure method of authenticating users. This type of authentication is required by two methods, one is by postfix when sending email and the other is by Courier when reading emails.

First we wil will deal with postfix. Add these lines to

# modify the existing smtpd_recipient_restrictions smtpd_recipient_restrictions = reject_unauth_pipelining, permit_mynetworks, permit_sasl_authenticated, reject_non_fqdn_recipient, reject_unauth_destination, check_policy_service inet:, permit # modify the existing smtpd_sender_restrictions smtpd_sender_restrictions = permit_sasl_authenticated, permit_mynetworks, reject_non_fqdn_sender, reject_unknown_sender_domain, reject_unauth_pipelining, permit # then add these smtpd_sasl_auth_enable = yes broken_sasl_auth_clients = yes smtpd_sasl_path = /etc/postfix/sasl:/usr/lib/sasl2 smtpd_sasl_security_options = noanonymous smtpd_sasl_local_domain =

Then we need to create the sasl configuration

# May already exist mkdir /etc/postfix/sasl # Then create the conf file. vi /etc/postfix/sasl/smtpd.conf pwcheck_method: auxprop auxprop_plugin: sql mech_list: plain login cram-md5 digest-md5 sql_engine: mysql sql_hostnames: sql_user: mail sql_passwd: apasswd sql_database: maildb sql_select: select clear from users where id='%u@%r' and enabled = 1

That is all that should be required for sending email.

Next is to configure Courier to authenticate via SASL as well.

In Ubuntu all this was preset so the only line I needed to modify / confirm in /etc/courier/imapd is:


If you need Pop, modify the pop file as well.

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SASL is secure authentication, but all the traffic is still in plain text. Enter encryption and TLS. TLS, an evolution of SSL, encrypts the traffic between the server and your email client for sending via postfix and reading via courier.

TLS is not client encryption, ie encrypting the content all the way between sender and recipient. For this type look up GNuPG and S/MIME in extensions.

First you need to create a certificate for postfix and one for courier. In postfix you need to do this for 3 year certificate:

cd /etc/postfix openssl req -new -outform PEM \ -out postfix.cert -newkey rsa:2048 -nodes -keyout postfix.key -keyform PEM -days 999 -x509

Then you need to add these to /etc/postfix/

smtpd_use_tls = yes smtpd_tls_cert_file = /etc/postfix/postfix.cert smtpd_tls_key_file = /etc/postfix/postfix.key smtpd_data_restrictions = reject_unauth_pipelining

Followed by adding or making sure these are in

# these may already be present in your file, # however I usually have to add them # also, this specific line used to use fifo, it now needs to use unix type tlsmgr unix - - n 300 1 tlsmgr smtps inet n - n - - smtpd -o smtpd_tls_wrappermode=yes -o smtpd_sasl_auth_enable=yes 587 inet n - n - - smtpd -o smtpd_enforce_tls=yes -o smtpd_sasl_auth_enable=yes

These ports are required for clients not able to use the STARTTLS option on plain port 25. Port 465 (the smtps line) is an unofficial workaround, so clients E.g. Novel Evolution, uses it untill they fix their software to work with STARTTLS.

The debian packages in Ubuntu creates certificate for courier for you. Otherwise do this (in case server name is not same as machine name):

openssl req -x509 -newkey rsa:1024 -keyout imapd.pem \ -out imapd.pem -nodes -days 999

Then edit /etc/courier/imapd-ssl and make sure this is path to the certificate.


This will enable secure traffic of emails via your clients and the server. As these are not signed certificates, some may be prompted to accept license. You could get people to import your certificates, if only a few is accessing you imap/smtp server, or purchase a signed one if you have a large number of users, especially if corporate. Outlook is known as stuburn to accept the certificates.

There are some issues with using SALS and TLS at the same time. Since all the traffic is encrypted with TLS, then the need for SASL is less when enforcing TLS.

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Webmail: SquirrelMail

The squirrel is php module from sourceforge. Once installed in a web root somewhere go to its parent folder. E.g. /var/www/. In Ubuntu it is installed in /usr/share, so do this first.

ln -s /usr/share/squirrelmail /var/www/squirrelmail

Next thing is to set up a url to access squirrel mail. You can either have it as a subfolder in an existing web site, or as I prefer as virtual host for itself. Edit wherever your specify virtual hosts on your system, ( e.g. /etc/httpd/conf/vhosts/ ). In Ubuntu edit this file: /etc/apache2/sites-available/webmail

ServerAdmin ServerName DocumentRoot /var/www/squirrelmail Options Indexes FollowSymLinks MultiViews AllowOverride AuthConfig Order allow,deny allow from all ErrorLog /var/log/apache2/error-webmail.log LogLevel warn CustomLog /var/log/apache2/access-webmail.log combined ServerSignature On

Then will enable and activate it.

ln -s /etc/apache2/sites-available/webmail /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/810-webmail # or as Florent recommends, use: a2ensite webmail # then activate the changes /etc/init.d/apache2 reload

The config folder is actually symblinked to /etc/squirrelmail so if you run several instances of squirrelmail you might want to create copies of it.

SquirrelMail is configured with 3 config files. config_default.php is well commented and is sets up the default values. Do not edit it.

config.php overrides the defaults. Do not edit this one either as it is created by the perl script.

Finally conf_local.php can be edited and it overrides the others.

To configure squirrelmail, run the perl script.


It is menu driven, and powerfull so be carefull. Also make sure there are no extra spaces before or after any settings. Chose option 9 from the menu, the database option. Then 1 to edit the dns for address book.

# Enter this mysql://username:password@

Then choose 3 for the preferences and enter the same.


There is also a global address option if you choose to use it. Press s to save the settings, and r to return to main menu. Press q to exit.

Here is copy of my config_local.php. Read the default file for explanations.

$org_name = "flurdy webmail"; $org_logo = ''; $org_logo_width = '212'; $org_logo_height = '108'; $org_title = "webmail by flurdy"; $provider_name = 'flurdy'; $provider_uri = ''; $smtp_auth_mech = 'none'; $default_use_javascript_addr_book = true; $hide_sm_attributions = true; $edit_identity = false; $edit_name = true; $imap_server_type = 'courier'; $default_folder_prefix = 'INBOX.'; $trash_folder = 'Trash'; $sent_folder = 'Sent'; $draft_folder = 'Drafts'; $show_prefix_option = false; $default_sub_of_inbox = false; $show_contain_subfolders_option = false; $delete_folder = true; $optional_delimiter = '.'; $force_username_lowercase = true; $allow_thread_sort = true; $allow_server_sort = true; $addrbook_dsn = 'mysql://username:password@localhost/database'; $prefs_dsn = 'mysql://username:password@localhost/database'; $addrbook_global_dsn = 'mysql://username:password@localhost/database'; $addrbook_global_writeable = false; $addrbook_global_listing = false; $theme_default = 18; $theme_css = '/themes/css/verdana-10.css';

Then you need to create these database tables, My previous editions included the squirrelmail specific tables in the main mail database. However I believe a cleaner setup is to have seperate squirrel user and database for its settings.

First create a new squirrel database user, or reuse the mail user. See the MySQL section for user creation details.

Then create a squirrel database or reuse the mail database. Make sure the user created above has usage access to this database. Again refer to the MySQL section.

Modify the config.php files to reflect this.

Then log into mysql to start creating these tables.

mysql -u username -p database # Then enter the password CREATE TABLE `address` ( `owner` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `nickname` varchar(16) NOT NULL default '', `firstname` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `lastname` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `email` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `label` varchar(255) default NULL, PRIMARY KEY (`owner`,`nickname`), KEY `firstname` (`firstname`,`lastname`) ) ; CREATE TABLE `userprefs` ( `user` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `prefkey` varchar(50) NOT NULL default '', `prefval` varchar(255) default NULL, `modified` timestamp(14) NOT NULL, PRIMARY KEY (`user`,`prefkey`) ) ; CREATE TABLE `global_abook` ( `owner` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `nickname` varchar(16) NOT NULL default '', `firstname` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `lastname` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `email` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `label` varchar(255) default NULL, PRIMARY KEY (`owner`,`nickname`), KEY `firstname` (`firstname`,`lastname`) );

Right then, as the squirrelmail suggested, you can try of this works later on by going to http://your-squirrelmail-location/src/configtest.php ( Please note you may not have any data or mail to test it with yet. so perhaps wait till test section. )

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PhpMyAdmin is an excellent MySQL administration gui. I use it to manage my mail settings, and can be used when setting up the MySQL database as well.

# cd into web root where phpMyAdmin is installed, e.g. /var/www # Again in Ubuntu a soft link is needed to /usr/share # this time however the apt-get has done it for you. (check though) # If the folder contains the version in its name. # do this for ease of access and if later upgrading ln -s phpMyAdmin1.6.2 phpMyAdmin

First of all once you have installed phpMyAdmin is the create a .htaccess file in its folder. Otherwise every Tom, Dick and Harry can mess your system up.

# either reuse an old .htpasswd file # or as below , create one when you add the first user htpasswd2 -c /path/to/htpasswd/file/outside/www/.htpasswd ausername # then enter desired passwd

Next you need to either create a .htaccess file or modify one, as Ubuntu comes with one included. I add these settings to my apache virtual host config file, but that is not neccessary. Make sure the apache config for this host has AllowOverrid All in its settings. Add these to /path/to/phpmyadmin/.htaccess. You may need to comment out some existing settings as well, but see which causes errors.

AuthType Basic AuthName "A Bit Hush and all that" AuthUserFile "/path/to/htpasswd/file/outside/www/.htpasswd" require valid-user

Next is to edit /path/to/phpmyadmin/ Set the $cfg['PmaAbsoluteUri'] to whatever address and path your phpMyAdmin is. Then set up what servers to connect to. You can add the root user for easy admin of the whole system, but that is a bit insecure. Adding a different user with full access is a better solution, if you require full admin through the gui. However for the mail admin, neither is required, all you need to add is the mail user.

$cfg['Servers'][$i]['host'] = 'localhost'; $cfg['Servers'][$i]['user'] = 'mail'; $cfg['Servers'][$i]['password'] = 'apassword'; $cfg['Servers'][$i]['only_db'] = 'maildb';


For a mail server to be used, people/machines will have to know how and where to connect to deliver mail for your domains.

You need to edit the MX records of your domains DNS. Whether you run your owm DNS server, or use a free DNS service. they mostly act the same, even though some has been fluffed up with a nice GUI.

domain.tld IN MX 10

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Add users and domains

So we got a fully set up mail server... Well no, there is no users, domains, no nothing!

Okay, first you need add some default data, some which are required, some which make sense.

Then we'll add your own users and domains.

First the required domains for local mail

# Use phpMyAdmin or command line mysql INSERT INTO domains (domain) VALUES ('localhost'), ('localhost.localdomain');

Then some default aliases. Some people say these are not needed, but I'd include them.

INSERT INTO aliases (mail,destination) VALUES ('postmaster@localhost','root@localhost'), ('sysadmin@localhost','root@localhost'), ('webmaster@localhost','root@localhost'), ('abuse@localhost','root@localhost'), ('root@localhost','root@localhost'), ('@localhost','root@localhost'), ('@localhost.localdomain','@localhost');

Then a root user.

INSERT INTO users (id,name,maildir,clear) VALUES ('root@localhost','root','root/','apassword');

Now lets add some proper data. Say you want this machine to handle data for the fictional domains of "", "" and "". Then say this machine's name is "". You also have two users called "Xandros" and "Vivita". You want all mail for whooper to go to xandros. There is also a "Karl" user, but he does want all mail forwarded to an external account.

INSERT INTO domains (domain) VALUES (''), (''), (''); INSERT INTO aliases (mail,destination) VALUES ('',''), ('',''), ('',''), ('',''), ('',''), ('','postmaster@localhost'), ('','abuse@localhost'), ('','postmaster@localhost'), ('','abuse@localhost'); INSERT INTO users (id,name,maildir,clear) VALUES ('','xandros','xandros/','apassword'), ('','vivita','vivita/','anotherpassword');

So what does each of these lines do? Well the domains are pretty straight forward. The users are as well, it requires four fields. ID is the email address of the user, and also its username when loggin in, described later on. NAME is optional description of the user. MAILDIR is the name of the folder inside /var/spool/mail/virtual. It must end in a /, otherwise it wont be used as a unix maildir format. CLEAR is the clear text password to use.

The alises are the interesting part. Lets start from a top down view. Say an email arrives addressed to "". Postfix looks up aliases and searches for a row where the mail field matches "". None does so it next searches for "", which is the way to specify catch all others for that domain. It finds one row and its destination is "". It then searches for "" and finds one, which destination is the same as the mail, therefor it is the final destination. It then tries to deliver this mail. The look up says is a local mail so it looks up users for a matching id and delivers it to its maildir.

Lets try "". First lookup does not find this user, but the next finds the catchall "". But its destination is another catchall, "". This means Postfix will look for "". This address is not found either, nor is a catchall for Therefor this address is not valid and the message will be bounced.

Any mail arriving for "" or "", gets forward to an external address of "". So forwarding is simple. I tend to use a subdomain for all my friends addresses as easily I forget what their real addresses are, and I use different email clients all the time.

I also added the required aliases of postmaster and abuse to and The catchall for means they are not required for that domain. You can add them though if you do not want xandros to get the admin emails. Another usefull alias to add is root, as often you get admin mail from e.g cron jobs within those domains etc. Other often used aliases are info, sysadmin, support, sales, webmaster, mail, contact and all. But they are also honeypots for spam, so just include the ones you think you will need.

So to add a new domain to the system, You do this:

INSERT INTO domains (domain) VALUES ('domain.tld'); INSERT INTO aliases (mail,destination) VALUES ('@domain.tld','email@address'), ('postmaster@domain.tld','email@address'), ('abuse@domain.tld','email@address');

And to add a new user to the system, do this:

INSERT INTO users (id,name,maildir,clear) VALUES ('email@address','short description','foldername/','password'); INSERT INTO aliases (mail,destination) VALUES ('email@address','email@address');

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Common SQL

A selection of useful sql statements, if you are not using an admin/manager program to maintain your email domains and users.

Find domains without a catchall

#Remember some might be disabled SELECT dom.domain FROM domains dom LEFT JOIN aliases al ON CONCAT( '@', dom.domain ) = al.mail WHERE al.mail is null OR al.enabled = 0 ORDER BY dom.domain ASC

Find aliases for an invalid domain

SELECT al.* FROM aliases al LEFT JOIN domains dom ON dom.domain = SUBSTRING(al.mail,LOCATE('@',al.mail)+1) WHERE dom.domain is null OR dom.enabled = 0 ORDER BY al.mail ASC

Find all non local destination aliases

SELECT al.* FROM aliases al LEFT JOIN domains dom ON dom.domain = SUBSTRING(al.destination,LOCATE('@',al.destination)+1) WHERE dom.domain is null ORDER BY al.enabled, al.destination ASC, al.mail ASC

Find all aliases for a certain domain

SELECT al.* FROM aliases al WHERE SUBSTRING(al.mail,LOCATE('@',al.mail)+1) = 'domain.tld' ORDER BY al.enabled, al.mail ASC

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This is a small and simple section, but this will be the one you spend the longest on!

There will be spelling errors(by you and me), difference in setups, external factors etc, so this server is guaranteed not to work first time. Great eh?

But don't worry, we can quickly track down which section is at fault, and solve the issues one by one.

I hope you blocked external acces to your SMTP port (25) in your firewall setting. Otherwise you might have become an open relay for spammers. (Okay unlikely unless you have been running exposed for a few weeks). You will have to unblock it soon, but not yet. Lets first be 100% sure the system works, so only local access to SMTP should be allowed for now.

We will test each section bit by bit to black box certify each bit. First test that postfix delivery works (by exluding content checks and ignoring courier). We will check if it can connect to MySQL for its lookups, if maildir are created and if it can send messages. Then we'll re-enable content checks to see if they work. Then we start testing courier, see if it can access MySQL and if it shows the right mailboxes.

The easiest way to do the testing is with telnet. Turn on full debuggon, tail a few logs a lets get started.

# Making sure nothing is running /etc/init.d/courier stop /etc/init.d/postfix stop /etc/init.d/amavisd stop /etc/init.d/spamassassin stop /etc/init.d/clamav stop /etc/init.d/mysqld stop # Then to check if they really stopped ps aux netstat -tnp

Then we'll disable content cheks. In /etc/postfix/ uncomment/comment these lines like this:

smtp inet n - n - - smtpd #smtp inet n - - - - smtpd # -o cleanup_service_name=pre-cleanup cleanup unix n - - - 0 cleanup #cleanup unix n - - - 0 cleanup # -o mime_header_checks= # -o nested_header_checks= # -o body_checks= # -o header_checks=

Then in comment out this line:

#content_filter = amavis:[]:10024

Then we'll tail the mysql and postfix logs. (Paths might differ). It helps being in X windows, or ssh in from another machine, if no X server. Or just using different sessions (ctrl+alt+f1-6), as we will be tailling and editing in many sessions at once.

# In one window do this tail -f /var/log/mysql/mysql.log # then in another tail -f /var/log/ /etc/init.d/mysqld start # then /etc/init.d/postfix start # then check if postfix is listening on 25 and mysql on 3306 netstat -tnp

Okay up and running (hopefully).

First we will telnet in and try and send a message to a local user.

Then we will try and send to an external user via postfix.

# Lets try and send a message to # (replace with your own user in this setup, or use postmaster@localhost) telnet localhost 25 # reponse back: > > > # then open the hand shake with ehlo and the server name you are connecting from... EHLO mail.domain.tld > > > # then say who is the sender of this email MAIL FROM: > 250 Ok # then say who the mail is for RCPT TO: <> > 250 Ok data > 354 End data with . # enter message bodyand end with a line with only a full stop. blah blah blah more blah . > 250 Ok; queued as QWKJDKASAS # end the connection with quit > 221 BYE

The postfix log should then start showing up what is happening. If something happens in the mysql log, it means that connection if working.

Possible problems and solution can be:

  • Nothing happens when trying to connect via telnet.

Ports are not listening.

    • Check with "netstat -ptn" if postfix is listening.
    • Firewall blocks all smtp traffic.
    • You are testing from a different machine which cant reach the server.
  • Sender domain not accepted.

You must use a valid domain name and address when connecting via telnet.

    • Change the EHLO and MAIL FROM details when telneting.
    • DNS resolution might not work from server. check if it can ping etc.
  • Postfix queue says it has received the message. But noithing happens in the Mysql log.

Mysql connection is not working.

    • Check file permission in postfix folder
    • Chroot problem, set all services in to n in chroot column
    • Check if mysql socket exists
    • Try changing host in the postfix mysql files between localhost, and real ip. This will result in it trying socket and tcp alternatively.
    • Spelling mistake in postfix mysql files. (Extra spaces?)

When all these test are working fine, re-enable the content checks and try them all the tests again. This time you might have to tail the syslog as well. Possible problems can be:

  • User access problem.

Make sure its the same user which runs amavisd-new and ClamAV.

  • Can connect via postfix to amavisd-new.
    • Check ports settins in amavisd-new file and
  • Not sure if SpamAssassin is working

Then the next step is to test Courier-IMAP.

Again tail the maillog, syslog and mysql log. Turn on DEBULEVEL in /etc/courier/imap to 2.

telnet localhost 143 > > >

telnet 10024 Trying Connected to Escape character is '^]'. 220 [] ESMTP amavisd-new service ready

If a response then all is well. Otherwise check ownership of /var/run/amavisd. Perhaps change /etc/init.d/amavisd to make sure it chown to virtual:virtual

debug_peer_list =

Now if all okay internally, then you need to edit the firewall rules and re-enable smtp access from the net. Test from an external server if you have ssh access. Proper telnet testing will let you know quickly if something is wrong. When that process works okay, it is time to test with proper emails. Either use an external webmail service, e.g. gmail, or forward via external mail forwarding services.


Doing a full reboot to test if everything comes up as desired is probably a good idea as well.

Congratulations, you have a working mail server! Now send me a note to let me know about it.

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New test section in development, please use other.


Testing eh, it is virtually guaranteed no project works on the first go. But we need to box it off and find out if each section works one by one.

So first we stop everything, to then bring it up one by one as each test passes.

In theory nothing should be running, but some of the install packages might be started automatically.

/etc/init.d/apache2 stop /etc/init.d/courier-imap-ssl stop /etc/init.d/courier-imap stop /etc/init.d/courier-authdaemon stop /etc/init.d/courier stop /etc/init.d/postfix stop /etc/init.d/postgrey stop /etc/init.d/amavisd stop /etc/init.d/spamassassin stop /etc/init.d/clamav-daemon stop /etc/init.d/clamav-freshclam stop /etc/init.d/mysql stop

Check if any process above is still lingering and kill it.

ps aux | more

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Firewall (Shorewall)

If you setup the firewall as I advised in the configure chapter, then your box is pretty blocked off from the outside. If not then you might have been an open relay for spammers, but hopefully not.

Now we need to open up access the local network so you can test locally and remotely. However it is not ready for net access yet.

# uncomment these lines AllowPing loc fw AllowSMTP loc fw ACCEPT loc fw tcp 465,587 - AllowIMAP loc fw AllowWeb loc fw

Then restart shorewall

shorewall restart

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Database (MySQL)

MySQL should work fine after installation and configuration.

However as we go through the other sections, it is very usefull to tail the mysql query log file throught all the tests. This is an easy way to see if each application has its database settins configured correctly.

/etc/init.d/mysql start tail -f /var/log/mysql/mysql.log

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Plain MTA (Postfix)

The full configured Postfix is overstuffed with features. We need to disable all this to test the basics.

You should are already tailing the mysql log in one window, but now we need to tail the mail log file as well.

tail -f /var/log/mail.log

Basically we are reversing to the postfix config from the config section before we added the content checks, encryption etc.

I am not modifying /etc/postfix/, however you can comment out the lines we added in there as well.

However in

## comment out this line # content_filter = amavis:[]:10024 ## then replace these lines #smtpd_helo_restrictions = permit_mynetworks, # warn_if_reject reject_non_fqdn_hostname, reject_invalid_hostname, permit #smtpd_sender_restrictions = permit_sasl_authenticated, permit_mynetworks, # reject_non_fqdn_sender, reject_unknown_sender_domain, # reject_unauth_pipelining, permit #smtpd_client_restrictions = reject_rbl_client, # reject_rbl_client, reject_rbl_client, # reject_rbl_client #smtpd_recipient_restrictions = reject_unauth_pipelining, # permit_mynetworks, permit_sasl_authenticated, reject_non_fqdn_recipient, # reject_unknown_recipient_domain, reject_unauth_destination, # check_policy_service inet:, permit ## with these smtpd_helo_restrictions = permit_mynetworks, warn_if_reject reject_non_fqdn_hostname, reject_invalid_hostname, permit smtpd_sender_restrictions = permit_mynetworks, reject_non_fqdn_sender, reject_unknown_sender_domain, reject_unauth_pipelining, permit smtpd_client_restrictions = smtpd_recipient_restrictions = reject_unauth_pipelining, permit_mynetworks, reject_non_fqdn_recipient, reject_unknown_recipient_domain, reject_unauth_destination, permit ## comment out these lines #broken_sasl_auth_clients = yes #smtpd_sasl_auth_enable = yes #smtpd_sasl_path = /etc/postfix/sasl:/usr/lib/sasl2 #smtpd_sasl_security_options = noanonymous #smtpd_sasl_local_domain = #smtp_use_tls = yes #smtp_tls_cert_file = /etc/postfix/postfix.cert #smtp_tls_key_file = /etc/postfix/postfix.key #smtpd_use_tls = yes #smtpd_tls_cert_file = /etc/postfix/postfix.cert #smtpd_tls_key_file = /etc/postfix/postfix.key #smtpd_data_restrictions = reject_unauth_pipelining

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IMAP (Courier)

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Policy (PostGrey)

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Content Check (amavisd-new)

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Authentication (SASL)

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Encryption (TLS)

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Webmail (SquirrelMail)

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Common Problems


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By now you should have a fully working system. No point extending and complicating it untill then. What next? There are many ways to extend the server, to create your own powerfull customized version.

Some of these sections can be brief as they are not core to this howto.

Remote MX mail backup

With MX backup loosing emails are unlikely.

Normally if someone sends an email destined for you, their server will try and connect to your server. If it can't reach your server for whatever reason ( it is down, dns issues, there is network problems, or just too busy ), the other server will back off and try again in a bit. How many and for how long it will try again is determined by the sending server. Some of them are not very patience, and it will report undelivered after only a few attempts. So you would have lost that email.

If you had specified a backup MX, this email may not have been lost. Upon first failure to connect to your server, the sender would see if there is any alternative server to send to. So it connects to your backup mx server. This server spools and queues your message and will try at intervals to send the message to you. It too will though eventually give up.

What is the difference? Simple, you (or whoever controls the backup mx ) is in control how long and often to try connecting to your machine. So if you have a reasonable values and your server is not down for weeks, no mail is lost.

How to implement it? First edit the DNS records again, and add a backup mx with a higher value.

# your server details domain.tld IN MX 10 # new backup server domain.tld IN MX 20

Now presuming the other backup mx is a postfix server identical to this, or you are backuing up someone else's server; Go into mysql and create this tables:

CREATE TABLE `backups` ( `pkid` smallint(6) NOT NULL auto_increment, `domain` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `transport` varchar(128) NOT NULL default ':[]', `enabled` smallint(6) NOT NULL default '1', PRIMARY KEY (`pkid`), UNIQUE KEY `domain` (`domain`) );

Then still on the backup server, edit and add these:

relay_domains = mysql:/etc/postfix/ transport_maps = mysql:/etc/postfix/

You may choose to have this as the last line in the file, as you may use small cron jobs to modify this ip address, if you don't have a permanent static address. It should contain your IP addres, hence if you do not have a very static IP address, that you need to automatic editing if the postfix file.

proxy_interfaces =

If someone comes with a better way, then let me know.

Next create this file /etc/postfix/

user=mail password=apassword dbname=maildb table=backups select_field=domain where_field=domain hosts= additional_conditions = and enabled = 1

Next create this file /etc/postfix/

user=mail password=apassword dbname=maildb table=backups select_field=transport where_field=domain hosts= additional_conditions = and enabled = 1

You noticed I added a transport lookup. This is a field in both the domain and the backup tables. In domains it is used to determine how to deliver the email, ie either virtual (correct) or local (not used in this howto). When backing up servers, your also need to specify in the transport field how to connect to the correct servers.

Say you are backiup for a friends server,, for the domains of and So you should insert this into your backup table.

INSERT INTO backups (domain,transport) VALUES ('' , ':[]' ), ('' , ':[]' );

The :[] tells to connect directly to this server, not doing any more look ups for valid MX servers.

This shouls now work fine. Further tweaking of the queue values, review these and modify as appropiate. Shorter warning times are good for the sender, so that they realise the email has not arrived yet, but may also be annoying. Tradeoffs.. Look in the first configurations for ways to do so.

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Local file backup

Here is rough backup script to backup your configurations and mail folders. You may want to backup the folders seperatly as they can quickly grow to GBs. Adding this to a cronjob automates this process. Be aware that you should stop postfix and courier while backing up the mail folders. And that if they have grown large, that this may take some time.

tar czf mail-config.xxxxx.tgz /etc/postfic /etc/courier /etc/spamassassin /etc/clamav /etc/amavis /etc/mysql/my.cnf tar czf mail-fold.xxxx.tgz /var/spool/mail/virtual mysqldump -u mail -papassword -t maildb > data.sql mysqldump -u mail -papassword -d maildb > schema.sql tar czf schema.sql data.sql tar cf mail.xxxxx.tar mail-*.xxxxx.tgz

You may combine a full backup with a intermediate update of what has changed recently only.

tar --newer-mtime "2005-01-01"

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Sender ID & SPF


Further security features is using Microsoft's Sender ID or Pobox's SPF. I'd use SPF as there is much argument over Sender ID.

While SPF should limit who can send mail on behalf of your domains, ( so basically less spoofed spam addresses ), I do have some technical issues with SPF as the design of it is a bit iffy. That is because of the limitation of DNS and that it has to fit inside the limited TEXT part. No nice XML config file....

While Microsoft is not always entirely evil, as sometimes they do nice things and make some usefull software, I would prefer not to be locked into their Sender ID technology.

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Spam reporting


Reporting spam to Pyzor, Razor and SpamCop, for collaboration in spam fighting.

More detail on SpamCop is here.

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White/Black Lists


You can implement white and black lists to explicitly allow or block domains and users.

You have already visited the option of a blackhole list of known open relays in the postfix configuration.

You can implement further lists inside Postfix or SpamAssassin. Amavisd-new already has a few well known white/black listed items in its config files. SpamAssissin also as a feture to automaticly learn white lists.

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Adding support for GnuPG and S/MIME increases indiviual security.

This is not implemented on the postfix server side, as this totally a client side option.

However SquirrelMail has a GnuPG option. It is a plugin that can be downloaded from their website. Which can then be enabled via SquirrelMail's config script.

Here is how to create a GnuPG key pair.

# check you have not already got a key gpg --list-keys # then create one gpg --gen-key

To import GnuPG into Evolution; in your settings/preferences edit your account settings and add you private key under the security tab. The private key is found via listing the GnuPG keys as above, then it is the 8 characters after the "sub 1024g/" bit of you key.

To use GnuPG with Thunderbird you need to install EnigMail.

S/MIME is another way to encrypt and/or sign messages. You can create you own certificate or use known organizations like Thawte. (Thawte was originally set up by the Ubuntu founder)

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Relocation notice

If people change addresses, a bounced message stating so if people send email to the old address is quite usefull. To implement this in postfix, frst create a lookup table in the database.

CREATE TABLE `relocated` ( `pkid` smallint(6) NOT NULL auto_increment, `oldadr` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `newadr` varchar(128) NOT NULL default '', `enabled` tinyint(1) NOT NULL default '1', PRIMARY KEY (`pkid`), UNIQUE KEY `oldadr` (`oldadr`) ) ;

Then add this to /etc/postfix/

relocated_maps = mysql:/etc/postfix/

The create this file /etc/postfix/

user=mail password=apassword dbname=maildb table=relocated select_field=newadr where_field=oldadr hosts=

Then if has changed address to

INSERT INTO relocated (oldadr,newadr)VALUES ('','');

If anyone sends an email to, they will get a message back stating he has changed address to

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If SASL didn't work, or you are using clients which dont support it, the Pop-Before-SMTP is an easy way around that issue, so that people externally can still securly send mail via your server.

Refer to my 2nd edition on Pop-before-SMTP setup.

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Admin software


Trying out a few admin software might make you life easier, if phpMyAdmin gets to crude. Quick search

More to come later.

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Auto Reply


Postfix have now features to auto reply to an email, while still delivering it to its alias.

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Block Addresses

If you use catch alls, which are usefull for some domains, then eventually some addresses will be target for spam. You can then either stop the catch all, or stop indivdual addresses.

By implementing a lookup and adding this restriction to smtpd_recipient_restrictions accomplises this.

check_recipient_access mysql:/etc/postfix/,

smtpd_recipient_restrictions = permit_mynetworks, permit_sasl_authenticated, \ check_recipient_access mysql:/etc/postfix/, \ reject_non_fqdn_recipient, reject_unauth_destination, \ check_relay_domains

Beware of the order is important here, if any options says ok before check_recipient_access it will ignore it.

Next create to lookup addresses. Either create a another table, or add a blocked field to aliases table.

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Throttle Output


For some users with restrictions on bandwidth, you may wish to control how much mail is sendt out. Postfix has long refused to implement these features, out of ideolocial beliefs that mail servers should not be restricted. However there are some ways around this. More to come later.

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Mail Lists

Rich Brown has written a howto on adding Mailman, a mail list program, to my howto. Click here to read it.

Do note it is not part of my howto, so do not contact me regarding it. And although I think it is fine, I can't guarantee it will work.

If you do need assistance or need to talk about it, contact Rich via his howto or use the forums for this howto.

If you want a simple mailling list, it can be implemented by simply seperating aliases in the destination field in the aliases table with a comma.

INSERT INTO aliases (mail,destination) VALUES ( '' , ',,jj@somewhere.tld' );

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If you have any suggestions to other ways of extending a postfix server, then fire off a mail to me via the contact form further down.

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Software Links

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Difference between Ubuntu versions

Here are the differences for this howto if you are using Ubuntu 5.04, 5.10 or 6.04. (Hoary, Breezy or Dapper)

Mainly this will be package names, and some changes in defaults.

This edition is based on Hoary while in development, however will be based on Breezy when finished.

Also some packages might not be available in 64bit or other platforms.

Changes for Ubuntu 5.04, Hoary Hedgehog:

The repositories used are hoary and not breezy. Version has changed, otherwise the same.

Changes for Ubuntu 5.10, Breezy Badger

All amavis configurations are in /etc/amavis/amavisd.conf

Changes for Ubuntu 6.06, Dapper Drake

All amavis configurations are in several files in /etc/amavis/conf.d/

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Here is a list of config files to assist you and some batch shell scripts to try and do the install steps for you.

None at this moment.

Please note, they are not guaranteed to work. You should review them to make sure they will work for you, and that I am not doing something bad, or misspelt or forgot something, and so that you understand how they work.

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If you problems, questions, comments regarding this howto, postfix or mail servers in general use either one of these forum threads:

They are threads on Ubuntu forums web site.
You have a high chance of a reply and a proper discussion about it if you post there as many people can answer.
The threads also include helpful many tips and previous answers.


If you have written extensions or can recommend links then I would like to hear from you.
I also do like to hear from people who are happy with this howto. Please then use the form below.


It is nice to hear from people, however I only check that mailbox once a month, if that,
so please dont't expect a reply, especially not a very quick reply.


( Remember, if it is a technical question,    then post in the forums.
If you send questions directly to me via the form, email or pm, they will unfortunetly mostly be ignored. )

If you really felt this howto was usefull, then here is my wish list:
Or use the Paypal donation button in the
Please note this document is free, as in beer and speech, using an open source
license, and I am not expecting many, if any, donations.

Form removed due to too much spam, and people ignoring my request to ask question in the forum and not by mail.
It may be reinstated once I've implemented a better form spam catcher.
this form if you have to, but questions will still be ignored... :)

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Task that needs to be done for this howto. And what state they are at.

Typically for everyone I complete, 3 more are added to the list...


  • High: find out if/why catchalls are sometimes not resolved untill after content checks. which is too late as cant reject non existant users.
  • Med: Split install and extend sections into: core, extended and further, by moving webmail to extended and half from extended into further.
  • High: resolve breezy bug:
    /etc/init.d/clamav-daemon: line 60: log_daemon_msg: command not found,br /> /etc/init.d/clamav-freshclam: line 151: log_daemon_msg: command not found
  • Med: Backup MX alias mirroring
    To stop back servers storing mail for non existant users.
  • Med: Explain backup MX risks
  • Med: Modify masquerade domains text
    As its not quite correct.
  • Low: Split command and properties code style sheets
  • Low: Self certification disadvantages
  • Low: Expand SPF section and explain concequenses
  • Low: Check /etc/mailname
  • Low: Sending email tips
  • Low: Server migration tips
  • Low: add mneylon's blog to references
  • Low: Get re-listed on


  • Med: Test smtp SASL tls from evolution
  • Low: Auto reply section

Partly done

  • Low: Upgrade section from hoary to breezy to dapper
  • Low: Extend reporting section
  • Low: Extend links section
  • Low: Throttle section
  • Low: Admin section
  • Low: White lists

Nearly done

  • Low: 64bit details
  • High: Test section

Done recently

  • Low: Add license section

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Change Log

  • 2006-06-17

Added cc by-sa image.

  • 2006-06-07

More tweaks from peoples comments mostly.

  • 2006-06-05

Removed some more breezy references. added license.

  • 2006-06-01

Started new dapper thread in ubuntu forums

  • 2006-05-25

Started edition5. Previous log

  • 2004-02

Started edition 1

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        more links to admin programs

        may include my mail web app

        may include more quota details

        may include simple setup script

        weed out breezy references

        to wiki it or not.



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