A content filter is a utility that scans the headers and body of an email message, and usually takes some action based on what it finds. The most common examples are anti-virus and anti-spam programs. Viruses are commonly spread within the contents of email messages, and if you cannot detect spam based on the connecting client or envelope information, you might have better luck by inspecting the actual contents of a message. Filters might change messages, redirect them, respond to them, or tag them for later processing by another tool.
In this chapter we'll look at content filtering at your mail server, although that may not always be your best option for filtering. MTA filtering is appropriate for filtering that should occur with all or nearly all messages. If you need filtering that is configurable by user, the MTA is not the best choice for it. Other types of filtering to consider are:
Mail delivery agent (MDA)
Configurable MDAs such as procmail or sieve allow users to manage their own delivery configuration files. Generally, MDAs expect your users to edit their own configuration files on the mail server system. If they don't have system accounts, you must provide another means for them to configure their filtering, such as through a web-based application.
Mail user agent (MUA)
You might also consider allowing your users to take advantage of filtering capabilities within their email clients. If their client packages support filtering, this is an excellent way to provide per-user filtering for virtual users that don't have system accounts on your mail server. It has the added advantage of moving processor- and memory-intensive scanning from the server out to multiple clients.
Postfix body and header checks
Postfix body and header checks can provide limited filtering. They cannot be configured by the user, but they are probably the simplest to implement. See Chapter 11 for information about setting them up.
A combination of MTA and MUA filters might make a nice compromise. The MTA filter can tag messages with a value to be read by users' MUA filters. Users can then configure their own filters to accept, reject, or categorize messages based on the tagged value.
An anti-virus filter is an excellent choice for MTA filtering. You can maintain it centrally and block viruses before they even enter your network. Actions that should occur for every message that enters your system are best handled by the MTA.
Postfix body and header checks, while powerful, can consider only one line of a message at a time, and they're always applied to all messages. They don't offer a convenient way to set up complex options for rejecting or redirecting messages. Anything more than simple filtering should probably not be handled within a general MTA like Postfix.
Postfix provides two approaches for configuring external filters: commands that accept the contents of email messages on their standard input or daemons that accept message contents via SMTP or LMTP. With commands, a new process is started for every message, which can be resource-intensive, particularly if the command has a high start-up cost. Daemon filters stay resident and have the potential for better performance using fewer system resources. The daemon method is somewhat more complicated to configure but provides a more robust solution.
General Configuration and Administration
Email and DNS
Local Delivery and POP/IMAP
Hosting Multiple Domains
Blocking Unsolicited Bulk Email
Transport Layer Security
Appendix A. Configuration Parameters
Appendix B. Postfix Commands
Appendix C. Compiling and Installing Postfix
Appendix D. Frequently Asked Questions