A.12. Accept Bounces Only for Real Users

As discussed in Accept Bounces Only for Real Users, there is now a loophole that prevents us from catching bogus Delivery Status Notification sent to system users and aliases, such as postmaster. Here we cover two alternate ways to ensure that bounces are only accepted for users that actually send outgoing mail.

A.12.1. Check for Recipient Mailbox

The first method is performed in the acl_rcpt_to ACL. Here, we check that the recipient address corresponds to a local mailbox:

  # Deny mail for users that do not have a mailbox (i.e. postmaster,
  # webmaster...) if no sender address is provided.  These users do
  # not send outgoing mail, so they should not receive returned mail.
    message     = This address never sends outgoing mail. \
                  You are responding to a forged sender address.
    log_message = bogus bounce for system user <$local_part@$domain>
    senders     = : postmaster@*
    domains     = +local_domains
    !mailbox check

Unfortunately, how we perform the mailbox check will depend on how you deliver your mail (as before, we extract the portion before the first "=" sign of the recipient address, to accomodate for Envelope Sender Signatures):

  • If mailboxes map to local user accounts on your server, we can check that the recipient name maps to a user ID that corresponds to "regular" users on your system, e.g. in the range 500 - 60000:

  set acl_m9 = ${extract{1}{=}{${lc:$local_part}}}
      set acl_m9 = ${extract{2}{:}{${lookup passwd {$acl_m9}{$value}}}{0}}
      condition  = ${if and {{>={$acl_m9}{500}} {<${acl_m9}{60000}}} {true}}

  • If you deliver mail to the Cyrus IMAP suite, you can use the provided mbpath command-line utility to check that the mailbox exists. You will want to make sure that the Exim user has permission to check for mailboxes (for instance, you may add it to the cyrus group: # adduser exim4 cyrus).

  set acl_m9 = ${extract{1}{=}{${lc:$local_part}}}
      condition  = ${run {/usr/sbin/mbpath -q -s user.$acl_m9} {true}}

  • If you forward all mail to a remote machine for delivery, you may need to perform a Recipient Callout Verification and let that machine decide whether to accept the mail. You need to keep the original envelope sender intact in the callout:

  verify = recipient/callout=use_sender

Since in the case of locally delivered mail, this mailbox check duplicates some of the logic that is performed in the routers, and since it is specific to the mail delivery mechanism on our site, it is perhaps a bit kludgy for the perfectionists among us. So we will now provide an alternate way.

A.12.2. Check for Empty Sender in Aliases Router

You probably have a router named system_aliases or similar, to redirect mail for users such as postmaster and mailer-demon. Typically, these aliases are not used in the sender address of outgoing mail. As such, you can ensure that incoming Delivery Status Notifications are not routed through it by adding the following condition to the router:

!senders = : postmaster@*

A sample aliases router may now look like this:

  driver         = redirect
  domains        = +local_domains
  !senders       = : postmaster@*
  data           = ${lookup{$local_part}lsearch{/etc/aliases}}
  user           = mail
  group          = mail
  file_transport = address_file
  pipe_transport = address_pipe

Although we now block bounces to some system aliases, other aliases were merely shadowing existing system users (such as "root", "daemon", etc). If you deliver local mail through the the accept driver, and use check_local_user to validate the recipient address, you may now find yourself routing mail directly to these system accounts.

To fix this problem, we now want to add an additional condition in the router that handles your local mail (e.g. local_user) to ensure that the recipient not only exists, but is a "regular" user. For instance, as above, we can check that the user ID is in the range 500 - 60000:

  condition  = ${if and {{>={$local_user_uid}{500}}\

A sample router for local delivery may now look like this:

  driver           = accept
  domains          = +local_domains
  condition        = ${if and {{>={$local_user_uid}{500}}\
  transport        = transport

Beware that if you implement this method, the reject response from your server in response to bogus bounce mail for system users will be the same as for unknown recipients (550 Unknown User in our case).

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