Configuring Postfix SASL to authenticate against Courier Authlib

I ran across a system today that was using the VHCS control panel. It looks like the system wasn’t correctly configured to allow SMTP authentication. It uses Postfix as the MTA and Courier-IMAP for the Imap/POP3 server. It was populating the Courier-authentication database with email addresses and passwords to use for logging into the incoming mail server, but postfix wasn’t configured to use the same database for authenticating and providing an outgoing mail server.

This is what I had to do to get it working

Edit your system’s smtpd.conf file (/var/lib/sasl2/smtpd.conf for RedHat and derivatives. /etc/postfix/sasl/smtpd.conf for Debian and Ubuntu derivatives). And put in this content:

I think this is a default install looks like:

pwcheck_method: saslauthd
mech_list: PLAIN LOGIN

So change it to this:

pwcheck_method: authdaemond
mech_list: PLAIN LOGIN
authdaemond_path: /var/run/courier/authdaemon/socket

Of course, make sure that the authdaemond_path is correct for your system, and change as needed.

Then restart postfix and see if that works. You can use my SMTP Authentication String tool to get your encoded password and try it through telnet. Tail your mail log to see if it gets any errors.

On the system I was working on. Postfix was configured to chroot the smtpd processes (in /etc/postfix/ I got errors in the mail log that looked like this:

Jan 24 19:52:46 host postfix/smtpd[14528]: warning: SASL authentication failure: cannot connect to Courier authdaemond: No such file or directory
Jan 24 19:52:46 host postfix/smtpd[14528]: warning: SASL authentication failure: Password verification failed
Jan 24 19:52:46 host postfix/smtpd[14528]: warning: host.local[]: SASL plain authentication failed: generic failure

So, in that case, I simply hard-linked the courier authdaemon socket file inside of the chroot (/var/spool/postfix)

cd /var/spool/postfix
ln /var/run/courier/authdaemon/socket courier-authdaemon-socket

Then change the authdaemond_path to just ‘courier-authdaemon-socket’. Restart postfix and it should work

Getting a MySQL last insert_id from an ADOdb connection

The PHP ADOdb libraries are a database abstraction layer that tries to hide the database specific commands from the programmer.  It tries to allow the programmer to write code that will be portable between any backend database engine.  Since not all databases provide an insert id, ADOdb provides a wrapper for it in the form of it’s Insert_ID() function.

It implements it in a really ugly way though. Whenever you use it’s pseudo insert_id functions, it creates a _seq table with a single column and a single row. For example, if you are inserting something into a table named ‘users’, it will create a table named ‘users_seq’ with a single ‘id’ column. It generates one row in that column with an insert id that it calculates and increments on it’s own.

First off, that is really ugly. I hate having a whole bunch of extra tables in my database, and it makes it even worse that they only have a single value in them. I wish they would have implemented that differently, and made a single ‘_sequences’ table with two columns (table and id).   At least that would keep the tables to a minimum and centralize where all of the insert id’s are at.

The other bad part about it, is if you access the database with anything other than the ADOdb application, it is difficult to use this required structure. In most cases, things break and I get duplicate key constraints and it is just generally a pain.

So I’ve decided not to use it ever again. Its not likely that I’ll ever change the database anyway, so I might as well take advantage of the handy insert_id functionality already provided by MySQL.  Just do your queries as you would normally, including the ‘INSERTID’, and then you can retrieve the insert_id like in this example:

CREATE TABLE `users` (
  `id` int(10) unsigned NOT NULL auto_increment,
  `name` varchar(80) NOT NULL,
  `email` varchar(80) NOT NULL,
) ;
// I assume you know how to create a ADOdb object
$db ->query("
    INSERT INTO USERS (id, name, email) VALUES ('INSERTID', 'Joe User', '')
$user_id = $db->_connectionID->insert_id;

Performing post-output script processing in PHP

After several hours of researching end experimenting, I think I finally came up with a way for a PHP script to display a page, close the connection to the browser, and then to continue processing. The idea is that I can add some potentially lengthy processing to the script by executing it after the browser has closed the connection, but to a visitor, the page appears to load quickly.

I experimented with PHP’s register_shutdown_function, but that doesn’t really do what I need (unless running < PHP 4.0.3). Evidently PHP doesn’t have any way to close STDOUT, like other languages do.

The trick is in sending a Connection: close and Content-Length header. Once a client has received the specified number of bytes, it will close the connection, even though the script may continue. Unfortunately, that means that you need to know the length of the page before displaying it. That can be handled with output buffering, but does make the solution less than ideal.

Here is an example that works for me using PHP 5.1.6.


$start_time = microtime(true);
function bclog($message)
    global $start_time;
    $fh = fopen('/tmp/logfile', 'a');
    $elapsed = microtime(true) - $start_time;
    fwrite($fh, "$elapsed - $message\n");

header('Content-type: text/plain');
header('Connection: close');

for ($i = 0; $i < 1024; $i++ ) {
    echo "#";
bclog("I'm done outputting my normal content");

// Figure the size of our content
$size = ob_get_length();
// And send the content-length header
header("Content-Length: $size");

// Now flush all of our output buffers

bclog("Now I'm done with all of my post-processing - FYI, content length was $size");

If you hit that page in a browser, you will notice that the browser displays the content and is done right away. However, you can tail that logfile, and see something like this:

0.0002360343933 - I'm done outputting my normal content
5.0019490718842 - Now I'm done with all of my post-processing - FYI, content length was 1024

It is not an ideal solution, but I think that is about as good as it is going to get

Using Jailkit for chrooting shell accounts

I’ve toyed around with chrooting a shell account to a directory before, but never really done it before. Today a customer wanted it done, so I had a chance to figure it all out. I’ve considered the using chrooted ssh before, but that requires a patch to SSH. Today I came across jailkit which leaves SSH alone, but implements the chroot as the users shell. It seemed pretty straightforward, plus provides some utilities for creating the jail.

cd /usr/local/src
tar -xvzf jailkit-2.4.tar.gz
cd jailkit-2.4
./configure && make && make install

The tools were then available. Their examples said to put the jail environment, but I figured I might want to create per-user jails, so I created it in /home/jail-someuser like this:

jk_init -v -j /home/jail-someuser basicshell editors extendedshell netutils ssh sftp scp

That creates the directory and copies all of the specified programs into place inside the jail. In addition, it also copies all of necessary libraries as well – which is much easier than finding them with ldd.

Now, just create the actual user account and some directories for inside the jail:

mkdir /home/jail-someuser/home/someuser
useradd -d /home/jail-someuser/./home/someuser -s /usr/sbin/jk_chrootsh
chown someuser:someuser home/jail-someuser/./home/someuser
mkdir /home/jail-someuser/tmp
chmod a+rwx /home/jail-someuser/tmp

I was then able to log in by SSHing to the box as someuser. Upon logging in, I noticed that the default debian bash login script had some problems because the ‘id’ command wasn’t available. Also, vi wasn’t available, so I copied both of those programs those into the jail (fortunately their required libraries seem to already be there)

Overall it was pretty painless to install and get working. I’m quite impressed.

The new wave of HTTP referrer spam

I’ve noticed an increase in HTTP Referrer spam on my own web site and in some websites that I manage. See Wikipedia’s articles on the HTTP Referrer and Referrer spam for a definition of what exactly referrer spam is.

Wikipedia, and some other pages on the Internet that I found describing referrer spam say that the spammer’s intent is to end up on published web stats pages in order to create links to their site. I don’t think that is (or no longer is) the case.

I would argue that the real intent of these spammers is to get the website owner who is looking at the stats, to click on their links. Most users who have a blog or small website check their statistics often, and are really interested when they find a new site that appears to be linking to theirs. It is very likely that they will intentionally look at any new incoming links.

As evidence along this route, I just noticed that I got 4 hits on one of my sites with the following referrer:

I’m familiar with Amazon’s link structure and immediately noticed that it was an affiliate URL. If you hit that URL, then Amazon will attribute your click as coming from the spammer. Amazon will set a cookie that contains the spammers affiliate ID, and any purchase that you make at Amazon in the next 30 days will be credited to the spammer. They will then get a 4% commission on your purchases.

Obviously, not everybody buys something from Amazon once a month, but I’d bet that enough people do to make it worth the risk. Fortunately, it looks like Amazon has already caught on to this one, and that particular link just goes to an error page now.

That is a pretty deceitful and probably successful tactic for the spammer. Creating referrer spam is incredibly easy. I don’t think there is any great way to detect it either. I’ve seen some WordPress plugins and such that attempt to deal with it, but I don’t think there is much going on in this area yet.

My first thought would be to request the referred page and look for links to your site. That has some potential problems working reliably on a large scale though. Also, it might enable a sortof distributed denial of service by proxy attack.

Another possible way to fight referrer spam would involve a blacklist. t could contain both IP Addresses of known spammers, and the links that they are spamming. I found one called referrercop that looks like it is owned by Google now, so that may show some promise – although it doesn’t look like it has been updated recently.