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Postfix: The Definitive Guide by Kyle D. Dent

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Chapter 13. Transport Layer Security

Transport Layer Security, or TLS (formerly known as SSL), enhances TCP communications by adding encryption for privacy and message integrity. RFC 3207 defines an extension to SMTP known as STARTTLS. Its primary purpose is to provide privacy in peer-to-peer communications. It can also give you assurances that your mail is not being delivered to a rogue system posing as the server you think you’re sending mail to. Another useful application is in combination with SASL, to protect plaintext passwords that would otherwise be sent in the clear.

One nice benefit of TLS is that you can obtain the privacy and assurances of reliable server identification without a previous arrangement between systems. Strong authentication is also possible if your users’ email clients support it. By using client certificates, which are cryptographically signed identifiers (see sidebar), your mail server can be sure that connecting clients are indeed who they claim to be. You can use client certificates in place of or in conjunction with SASL authentication discussed in Chapter 12. There is administrative overhead in managing client certificates and assisting users in configuring their email clients to use them, while using TLS just to encrypt authentication credentials is fairly easy to set up.

It is important to note, however, that TLS is not meant to protect the contents of email messages. When you encrypt the transmission between a client and server, everything (including ...

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