Andrew Richards
• The Free Stuff!


On this page: • Introduction   • License   • Status/Warranty   • Documentation   • Pre-requisites   • Download   • Installation   • Setup / Configuration   • Migrating from realrcptto   • Migrating from earlier versions   • Compatibility   • Gotchas   • Security   • Programming Notes   • Archives


This patchset adds a feature to qmail-smtpd's behaviour, enabled by an environment variable: Each recipient specified in the SMTP session (RCPT command) may be verified to see if it is a valid address on the system. A new daemon, qmail-verify is used by qmail-smtpd to determine if addresses are valid; qmail-smtpd communicates with qmail-verify using UDP. qmail-logmsg is a pre-requisite of this package. Note that there are security advisories for qmail-verify (see Security section below for details: If you're not running the latest version of qmail-verify you should update immediately.

This is an update to Paul Jarc's realrcptto patch. The major changes are:


Paul Jarc's code is used as a basis for this patchset. He raises no objections to this patch. In turn, he has used code from qmail (by Dan Bernstein), who has placed qmail in the public domain (see Dan's page on Information for Distributors).

Status / Warranty

No warranty, express or implied is given - USE THIS SOFTWARE ENTIRELY AT YOUR OWN RISK. You will need to satisfy yourself as to the suitability of this software before deploying it in a production environment.


The documentation for this package consists of this web page and the included man pages (the qmail-smtpd man page is an updated version of the original):


This package is for netqmail 1.06 patched with qmail-logmsg versions 1.1, 1.2 or 1.3 (preferred).


The current release, version 1.50, is available in plaintext or gzipped (.gz).

Note that this patch is included in the Debian qmail package / Ubuntu qmail package, derived from the distro's corresponding netqmail source package (links: Debian, Ubuntu).


For Debian and Ubuntu distros, just install the qmail package for that distro; note that that the fastforward patch mentioned below is included there too.

If instead you're working from source, proceed as follows:

Setup / Configuration

You need to setup a 'service' for qmail-verify.
You need to enable recipient verification in qmail-smtpd.

If you're comfortable with qmail, daemontools etc. you can probably just skim-read this section; if you need a bit more detail, then this section should provide it...

In detail:

Setting up qmail-verify as a 'service' (not necessary if using the Debian/Ubuntu qmail package which sets this up for you in /etc/qmail/qmail-verify):

Enabling recipient verification in qmail-smtpd:

Migrating from realrcptto

It is fairly straightforward to move between these two approaches to recipient verification.

For qmail-verify to do any recipient verification, the environment variable VERIFY must be setup as described elsewhere on this page.

Recipient verification with realrcptto (the version named qmail-1.03-realrcptto-2006.12.10.patch) is enabled by default. Additionally, QMAILRRTDENYALL can be used to modify its behaviour.

QMAILRRTDENYALL is similar to qmail-verify's VERIFY="DEFER" behaviour: Both cause refusal at the DATA stage.

If you're moving from realrcptto to qmail-verify, you should check your tcpserver cdb source file (if in use) (typically /etc/tcp.smtp):

Now rebuild the corresponding cdb file. Alternatively if you're not using a cdb file for tcpserver, you need to set VERIFY in the tcpserver / qmail-smtpd startup script instead. Remember to rebuild your cdb file having made these changes.

Migrating from earlier versions of qmail-verify

Pre- 1.30 versions of qmail-verify used VERIFY, VERIFYDEFER and VERIFYSVR to specify the required behaviour. From version 1.30 onwards VERIFY has been enhanced to include all the required information: VERIFYDEFER and VERIFYSVR are obsoleted.

Unfortunately the 'meaning' of VERIFY="" is different: This now indicates that verification is disabled, whereas previously this would have enabled verification. Thus when upgrading you need to adjust settings as follows - here is a sample cdb source file that's not yet adjusted:




which would change to,




Now rebuild the corresponding cdb file. Alternatively if you're not using a cdb file for tcpserver, you need to enable VERIFY in the tcpserver/qmail-smtpd startup script instead. Remember to rebuild your cdb file having made these changes.


Compatibility with qmail, netqmail: The qmail-verify patch v1.50 should apply cleanly to the following:

Compatibility with common patches: Some qmail patches may clash in qmail-smtpd.c, qmail-smtpd.8 or Makefile. Where this occurs (including SMTP AUTH patches, qmail-virusscan and qmail-dk) this will mean some work to finish off the patching by hand: This is however pretty straightforward - alternatively that's bread & butter work for qmail consultants such as the author.


If you're upgrading from an earlier version of qmail-verify the meaning of VERIFY has been changed, and VERIFYDEFER, VERIFYSVR are obsoleted, with their function handled by the value of VERIFY instead - see the upgrading notes.

If you have a qmail system using .qmail-default files for your domains, qmail-verify will consider all addresses in the domain 'valid' (since you have provided explicit delivery instructions for all the domain's addresses by using a .qmail-default file). This includes products such as vpopmail - which may have .qmail-default files like:

| /home/vpopmail/bin/vdelivermail '' bounce-no-mailbox

One workaround may be to remove .qmail-default files that are there purely to cause a bounce, instead leaving this task to qmail (and qmail-verify); but check that this doesn't confuse the back-end package.

Sean Newton gives an update here regarding vpopmail & qmail-admin: I just discovered yesterday that qmailadmin is one of the apps that cares a lot about .qmail-default files: It errors out when attempting to administer domains if it doesn't see a .qmail-default file. The fix was a few tweaks to user.c to make it treat the absence of .qmail-default as being equivalent to having read one that said " bounce-no-mailbox\n". The space and the \n are both significant. - find his patch for user.c here - "this will render a qmailadmin-1.2.11 tarball perfectly qmail-verify happy."


Here are some notes relating to security with this patchset, these notes are unlikely to be exhaustive:

There are 2 vulnerabilities in the earlier versions of qmail-verify (fixed in the current version v1.50):

Please see the advisories linked to above for a good explanation of how these can be exploited (and therefore why you should upgrade to the current version immediately). Both of these issues are fixed in the current version of qmail-verify, discovered and fixed courtesy of Qualys.

It is conceivable that an attacker or spammer could abuse a system patched using this patchset to mount dictionary attacks to determine which email addresses exist on the system. To vary how a qmail-verify patched system responds, you should make sure you understand the difference between immediate and DEFERred recipient verification and set your system appropriately. Immediate verification is likely to be more attractive to an attacker/spammer.

On the other hand, with this patchset you have a greater degree of certainty that messages in the queue for local users are destined for real mailboxes, which also helps to minimise backscatter.

This patchset deliberately splits the functionality of the original realrcptto patch such that the address verification part runs as a separate daemon, qmail-verify (running as root), with qmail-smtpd still able to run as user qmaild. This also means that the changes to qmail-smtpd are minimal.

There is no attempt made to check that the replies to the queries to qmail-verify are genuine: It is conceivable that an attacker might wish to generate spoof UDP replies to tell qmail-smtpd that an address is valid. For this to occur, the attacker would either need to be a 'local' user to generate such 'replies' on the loopback interface (default configuration), or qmail-verify would need to be running on an external interface. In the latter case it should be possible to block the qmail-verify port at a firewall.

All that said however, such an attack is of limited use, since qmail will still bounce the message at delivery time for an invalid recipient.

Programming Notes

Changes to qmail-smtpd.c are minimal, this along with the desire to keep qmail-smtpd running as user qmaild forming the rationale behind updating the realrcptto patch.

Although now fixed in this version 1.50, when I originally wrote qmail-verify I hadn't fully considered the consequences of moving the code into an entirely separate daemon resulting in the 2 vulnerabilities mentioned in Security above: In particular not calling control_init() and not changing the effective UID/GID to the mailbox owner when calling stat().

Although initially using pipes to split the functionality, this was replaced with a UDP client/server setup (with help from John Levine) which was simpler, cleaner and more flexible in how it can be deployed.

In the interests of future extensibility there are a couple of new files with new functions that may be of use to other similar "call-out" type features. These files are sockbits.h, sockbits.c, udpbits.h, udpbits.c, the new functions being query_skt() and connect_udp(). With this structure it should also be more straightforward to replace UDP with (say) Unix domain sockets if that is preferred, either for qmail-verify functionality or for other call-out functions.

qmail-verify.c has some commented-out debug statements, primarily to show - if desired - where in the code qmail-verify decides that an address is valid or not.

qmail-verify.h has ADDR_NOK_TEMP defined, although at present this is not used. This is for possible future use, to indicate that an address is temporarily invalid.

John Levine added code to show the "Controlling user" which is useful for logging esp. from qmail-verify (it can also be enabled in verifyrcpt.c, you'll need to add e.g. eout statements). This doesn't trim trailing 'extension' components to the address, relating to .qmail-example files - evident when using virtual domains.


This link will take you to the newest version (or the top of this page if you're already there).

Note that all prior versions have security vulnerabilities: Please update to the current version immediately to address these. More information in the security section.

Version 1.16 was withdrawn (see below). Version 1.22 is here. Version 1.30 is here. Version 1.32 is here.

All versions up to version 1.32 have 2 security vulnerabilities as discovered by Qualys. These are addressed in version 1.50: The version number jumps like this to indicate a significant change.

Version 1.50 includes the fixes from Qualys already described, and a corrected & updated qmail-verify.8 man page.

The only change from version 1.31 to 1.32 is to reset flagdenyany so that the qmail-verify result is discarded if the client issues a RSET.

The changes from version 1.30 to 1.31 are to fix broken code parsing the VERIFY value (thank you to Manvendra Bhangui): Although they may work by accident on most systems, scan_ip_port() and verifyrcpt_init() were faulty.

The main changes from version 1.22 to 1.30 are the switch to a single environment variable VERIFY instead of VERIFY, VERIFYDEFER and VERIFYSVR, as well as adjusting some functions to make them the same as those in the greydaemon patch which minimises code complexity if both are used.

The first public release 1.16 was withdrawn having found bugs with how it read its environment variables - there seems no point in having this broken code in the public domain when the current version addresses this issue, with only a minor update to the functionality ("Controlling user" info).

This page last updated: AR, 19th May 2020.

This gratuitous space at the end ensures that the short-cuts to each section work properly