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A postfix/sendmail milter that determines/blocks the system user for local SMTP connections


On most multi-user systems, like webservers, users are allowed to send e-mail either through a local sendmail program, or by using the SMTP server on localhost. The problem with the latter method is that e-mails are not tagged with information about the actual sender. Should you have to deal with a malicious user or a compromised website that's sending spam through your local mailserver, it would be easier if you could simply check the mail headers and identify the culprit.

This is a milter that tries to figure out who the sender is for mail messages that enter the mailsystem through a local network interface ( or ::1). This is possible because milters are executed while the network connection is still open, and the details about the connection from the server end are known.

The information about the user is then added in the form of a mail header in the actual message.

How it works

A milter (short for MailfILTER) is a sort of plugin for MTA's like postfix or sendmail. Because it is invoked even while the message is being received, a milter can do some interesting stuff at early stages in receiving mail. Typically milters are used for signing mail, greylisting, traffic shaping and so on.

Our milter is a simple python script, but because it utilizes the python-milter library, it provides a fully working milter interface.

When a mail is being sent, as soon as a HELO is issued our script receives a notification of this, including on which interface and port the connection was made. Knowing the server part of the connection, the script uses the lsof unix-command to identify who is holding the other end of the connection. This information is then retained until later and a header is added to the mail that contains the user and program name that was found.

Additionally, it's possible to hard-code some usernames into the script and have all mail (that comes in through local SMTP) blocked for those users. Typically this is not recommended, but may turn out useful as a temporary solution while troubleshooting a compromised website.


This tool has only been tested with the Postfix software running on Debian, but it should also work with sendmail, and on any unix-like system that has either MTA and Python installed.

On my debian, it needs the following additional packages to be installed:

  • python-ipaddr
  • sudo


The first step would of course be downloading the file, and put it somewhere on the target machine. You should either run it with the same user-id as postfix, or run it as root and have the script use setgid+setuid to run it as that user.

Before you run it, open up the file and edit the 'Settings' part at the top of the file. The settings are these:

  • socketname: This is the socket-file you want to use. It must also be openable by the postfix program. That's why the script should run as postfix's user.
  • timeout: The socket timeout. I suppose 600 seconds should be more than enough, but you can set it higher if needed, or 0 if you want it to never timeout (which is not recommended).
  • run_as_user: Set this to a valid username and the script will automatically run as that user. Set it to None if it already runs with the right credentials. The credentials are important, because otherwise the postfix program will not be able to use the created socket.
  • blocked_mailusers: This is a list with usernames for whom all local SMTP-mail should be blocked.

Now, you need to allow the user to run lsof so it can figure out the right information. I'm using sudo for this. Edit the /etc/sudoers file (use sudovi on Debian to do this) and add the following line:

postfix ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD: /usr/bin/lsof

If your postfix user is any other than postfix, put the correct username there.

Now you should be able to run the milter: python

To activate it in Postfix, add the following line to /etc/postfix/

smtpd_milters = unix:/private/milter.sock

On my system, the socket location is relative to /var/spool/postfix/ so we don't specify the full path here.

Additionally, I like the following line because it doesn't break your Postfix should the milter not work for whatever reason:

milter_default_action = accept

That's it, now if the milter is running, restart postfix and you're done.


Replace user@localdomain with an actual user, and preferrably the from address too:

stefan@s00:~# telnet localhost smtp
Trying ::1...
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.
220 ESMTP Postfix (Debian/GNU)
helo localhost
mail from:
250 2.1.0 Ok
rcpt to: user@localdomain
250 2.1.5 Ok
354 End data with <CR><LF>.<CR><LF>
This is only a test.

Now, the resulting mail should have a header like this:

X-Sender-Process-Info: user=stefan program=telnet

If it doesn't work, check the postfix logs. Also, the should output some information about each mail that passes through it.


Comments and suggestions are welcome.


A postfix/sendmail milter that determines/blocks the system user for local SMTP connections






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