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Python filtering architecture for the Courier MTA.

Project description

Courier pythonfilter

pythonfilter is a collection of useful filters for the Courier MTA,
and a framework for developing new filters in Python. If you are
interested in developing your own filters, see the "Hacking" section

pythonfilter can be used to filter spam and viruses, as well as
implement other local mail policies. The individual modules are
discussed below in the "Modules" section, and policy design is
discussed in the "Use" section.


o Courier -
o Python 2 or better -

Some modules have additional requirements. These modules are
o pyclamav (for "clamav") -
o pydns (for "dialback") -
o spf (for "spfcheck" and "whitelist_spf") -

pythonfilter uses Distutils to ease installation. The majority of
people should be able to install & run pythonfilter by entering:

python install

mkdir /var/lib/pythonfilter
chown daemon:daemon /var/lib/pythonfilter

ln -s /usr/bin/pythonfilter /usr/lib/courier/libexec/filters

filterctl start pythonfilter

The directory /var/lib/pythonfilter is required for persistent data
used by some of the filters. It should be owned by the user and group
as which Courier's mail daemon runs. Check MAILUSER and MAILGROUP in
your esmtpd configuration file.


auto_whitelist: examines messages to determine whether or not they
were sent by a local, authenticated user. When authenticated users
send mail, a record will be created detailing the relationship between
the message sender and recipients.

When messages are received that aren't sent by authenticated users,
the records are examined to determine whether or not all of the
recipients have "whitelisted" that sender as a result of their own
mail. If the all of the recipients have previously emailed the
sender, then this module will whitelist the message. No filters
listed after this one in pythonfilter.conf will be run on this
message. Note that this module does not whitelist the authenticated
sender, only the remote senders who have previously received mail from
authenticated senders.

whitelist_relayclients: examines messages to determine whether or not
they were sent from an IP address for which you relay. This
information is taken from Courier's "smtpaccess" database. If the
mail server relays for that IP, the message is whitelisted. No
filters listed after this one in pythonfilter.conf will be run on this

whitelist_auth: examines messages to determine whether or not they
were sent by a user with SMTP AUTH. If so, then the message is
exempt from further filtering in pythonfilter.

whitelist_block: examines messages to determine whether or not the
smtpaccess.dat file contains an empty BLOCK value for the sender's
address. If so, the message is exempt from further filtering in
pythonfilter. This can be used to whitelist IP addresses and
networks, and will also exempt those addresses from RBL blocking.

whitelist_dnswl: examines messages and looks up the sender's
address in a DNS based whitelist, like If the sender's
address is found, the message is exempt from further filtering in

whitelist_spf: examines messages to determine whether or not the
SPF records for the sender's domain approve their address. If so,
then the message is exempt from further filtering in pythonfilter.

attachments: checks message MIME parts against a regex listing
forbidden patterns in the filename or name Content-type parameters.

log_aliases: logs info about the alias used to reach recipients

clamav: scans each message MIME part with the ClamAV virus scanner.

localsenders: validates sender addresses, using authdaemon, if their
domains are locally hosted.

comeagain: issues a temporary failure notice if the sender has never
before tried to contact each recipient. This blocks most spam engines
and viruses. It's a simplified version of greylisting.

debug: prints debugging information to the mail log. This module is
primarily useful to developers. You can enable it to get some basic
information about the data given to pythonfilter, and to test that
pythonfilter is working. You might also modify the filter to print
out more details from the body or control files.

greylist: is a more complete implementation of the strategy described here:
In short, the greylist filter examines a message and creates tokens
representing the sender, recipient, and sender's IP address. If any
of those tokens are new, they are recorded, and the sender is given a
temporary failure notice. After a period of time has passed, those
tokens become valid, so that when the mail server re-sends the
message, the local server accepts it. Those tokens will be saved for
36 days to prevent delays in delivery, after the first one. Because
they do similar things, greylist and comeagain should not be used

You will find that some senders do not behave well enough to be
compatible with the basic assumptions of the greylisting technique.
It is recommended that you whitelist those senders using the
whitelist_block module. Information on known bad senders is at:
You could build the whitelist for those senders by:
# wget -O - '*checkout*/greylisting/schema/whitelist_ip.txt?rev=1.16' \
| grep '^[[:digit:]]' | sed -e 's/[[:blank:]].*\|$/\tallow,BLOCK/' \
> /etc/courier/smtpaccess/nogreylisting
# makesmtpaccess

noduplicates: If courier receives a message with multiple aliases that
expand to the same address, the message may be delivered to that
address multiple times. This module checks for, and removes the

nosuccessdsn: removes delivery status notification requests for
successful delivery. Some spammers request a notice when their mail
is delivered to a user's mailbox, apparently as a replacement for or
supplement to dictionary attacks for working addresses. This module
will only remove the instruction to notify the sender on delivery,
which thwarts that particular attack, and causes very little
disruption for legitimate messages.

deliveredto: checks for Delivered-To header with local domains. Any
messages containing such a header will be rejected.

privateaddr: can be used to restrict local addresses to specific
senders. This can be useful for aliases that don't have their own
protection mechanisms.

ratelimit: tracks the number of messages received from a remote host
during a specified time interval and issues temporary failure notices
to hosts that send too many messages.

spfcheck: checks the sender against SPF records. Since Courier now
supports SPF checking on its own, this module is deprecated. It may
be useful as a template for other SPF related checks, though.

dialback: checks the envelope sender's address to make sure that a
bounce or reply can be delivered. Mail from addresses that can't be
verified will be refused.

spamassassin: scans messages using "spamc". This requires that
SpamAssassin's daemon is running. Note that all mail will be filtered
under the settings for courier's user, which means that your users'
individual whitelists and thresholds won't be processed.

quota: checks the maildir quota for each local recipient, and temporarily
refuses messages if any recipient is over quota.

add_signature: examines the AUTH information for authenticated senders,
and adds a signature to the message body if the domain in the AUTH
information is listed in the "domains" dictionary. This dictionary can
be customized in the pythonfilter-modules.conf file. It should be a
mapping of domains to the paths of plain text files which will be used
as signatures.

noreceivedheaders: removes the first Received header from messages sent
by authenticated senders. This should effectively remove any
identifying information about those senders.


The TtlDb module has experimental support for PostgreSQL. This support
can be useful if you are clustering Courier servers and need a shared
storage for TtlDb.

To enable SQL support, open pythonfilter-modules.conf in your text
editor and locate the TtlDb section. Change "type" to 'psycopg2' for
PostgreSQL, and set appropriate values for the other settings.

type = 'psycopg2'
host = 'localhost'
port = '5432'
db = 'pythonfilter'
user = 'pythonfilter'
password = 'password'


pythonfilter's quarantine support allows filters to move a message
into the quarantine, rather than deliver it to the intended recipients.
Each recipient will, instead, get a notice with some basic details
about the message and instructions on releasing the message from the
quarantine. In most cases, you must make sure that Courier's
"enablefiltering" file does not include "local". If you filter local
mail, the filter which quarantined a message is likely to simply
quarantine it again when users attempt to release it.

The quarantine module needs a directory where it can store the data
and control files. You must create a directory writable by the user
as which Courier runs if you plan to use any module that quarantines

# mkdir /var/lib/pythonfilter/quarantine
# chown daemon:daemon /var/lib/pythonfilter/quarantine

The configuration file must contain the location of this directory,
as well as an indication of how long messages should be held in the
quarantine. Open pythonfilter-modules.conf in your text editor and
locate the Quarantine section.

siteid = '7d35f0b0-4a07-40a6-b513-f28bd50476d3'
dir = '/var/lib/pythonfilter/quarantine'
days = 14
notifyRecipient = 1
alsoNotify = ''
userRelease = 1

The siteid value is a randomly generated ID for your site. It helps
prevent forged requests to release items from the quarantine. On
Linux systems, the "uuidgen" program can be used to generate an ID.
If "uuidgen" isn't available, any string will do.

Set the dir value to the path which you created earlier. Set days
according to your preference for quarantine lifetime.

The alsoNotify value may be used to send a copy of all quarantine
notices to an admin account for review or tracking.

If you only want to notify users that their messages are quarantined,
but not to allow them to release the messages, set userRelease to 0,
and do not set up the dot-courier file for the quarantine address.
In this case, alsoNotify must be set, and users will be instructed to
reply to that address.

The notifyRecipient value can be set to 0 to disable notifying users
that messages have been quarantined. If there is an address specified
by the alsoNotify setting, that address will still be notified. If
notifyRecipient is set to 0, and no alsoNotify setting is available,
then quarantines will be completely silent.

After configuring the quaranting settings, you'll also need to create an
alias which users can use to release messages. The address given to
users will use the system's hostname or Courier's "me" configuration
file. See the man page for 'courier' for more information. That
hostname must appear in the "locals" configuration file. The alias
should be set up as a dot-courier file beginning with "quarantine",
followed by a hyphen and then the siteid, ending with "-default".
For example:


This file should contain a single delivery instruction:

| /usr/bin/pythonfilter-quarantine -release

Finally, you will need a scheduled job to clean out the quarantine
periodically. The job will delete the quarantine files and clean
up the database of IDs. Once a day, you should run:

/usr/bin/pythonfilter-quarantine -purge


The configuration file, /etc/pythonfilter.conf, is used to control
your local policy. Each line in the file which does not start with a
'#' character is assumed to be the name of a filter module.
pythonfilter will attempt to load each filter the order listed. Each
message that Courier receives from a source listed in its
"enablefiltering" file will be given to pythonfilter, which will then
run each filter in the same order.

If a filter indicates that a message should be allowed to pass through
the pythonfilter policy, as the whitelist modules do, then that
message won't be filtered by modules listed later in the configuration
file. A filter may also indicate temporary or permanent failure,
which will also stop further processing, and cause Courier to refuse
the message. If a filter returns no decision, filtering will

The local policy should list the filters it wants applied to all
messages first, followed by filters which whitelist trusted users, and
then filters which should be applied to untrusted senders. For
instance, this configuration would apply virus filtering to all users,
and greylist only senders who have not received messages from local


It is important that the auto_whitelist module, when used, is listed
before the whitelist_auth module. If whitelist_auth is listed first,
messages from authenticated senders won't be given to the
auto_whitelist module.

This example will apply virus filtering to all messages, rate limit
messages from all sources that don't authenticate themselves, and
prohibit bad attachments from sources that aren't either authenticated
or configured as a relayed client in Courier's "smtpaccess" database:


The configuration file, /etc/pythonfilter-modules.conf, can be used
to modify the behavior of some filters. Each filter which has some
behavior which can be modified will have a section present in the
configuration file with its default values listed. Uncomment the
section header and the values that you'd like to modify.

The values read from this configuration file will be passed to Python's
eval(), so they must be valid python expressions.


pythonfilter is distributed under the GNU General Public License
(GPL), as described in the COPYING file.

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