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sendmail Cookbook by Craig Hunt

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Chapter 8. Securing the Mail Transport

Introduction

Chapter 7 contains recipes that use the AUTH SMTP extension to provide strong authentication of the end points in a mail exchange. In this chapter, the recipes use the SMTP STARTTLS extension for both strong authentication and encryption.

While encryption is one of the primary benefits of the SMTP STARTTLS extension, it is important to remember that this is not end-to-end encryption. Mail can take multiple hops before it is delivered. Some intervening hops may not use STARTTLS. Additionally, the mail message is still stored as clear text by both the sender and the recipient. STARTTLS only provides encryption for mail passing over a single hop between two sendmail systems configured for STARTTLS.

Chapter 7 explained how sendmail relied on the Simple Authentication and Security Layer (SASL) to provide the security tools necessary for AUTH authentication. STARTTLS relies on the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol for both authentication and encryption.

Transport Layer Security

TLS is an Internet standard protocol, defined in RFC 2246, The TLS Protocol Version 1.0. TLS is based on the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol that was originally developed by Netscape for web security. The manner in which TLS is used to secure mail transport is defined in RFC 2487, SMTP Service Extension for Secure SMTP over TLS. The SMTP extension that supports TLS is called STARTTLS. The receiving system advertises support for STARTTLS in its response ...

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