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Lies, Sweet Lies - Administration

Tired of the sixteen terabytes of spam that confront you everymorning? Looking for a way to automatically manage and filter youremail? Say hello to procmail, automated message processing that's socool, it makes you want to believe in magic again.

  1. Mail Management With Procmail
  2. Speaking Geek
  3. Putting The Pieces Together
  4. No Forwarding Address
  5. Lies, Sweet Lies
  6. I, Robot
  7. Tweaking The Engine
  8. Closing Time
By: Vikram Vaswani, (c) Melonfire
Rating: starstarstarstarstar / 7
January 16, 2003

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You might remember, from the previous page, that I said that once procmail executes the action line of a recipe, it stops processing further recipes and moves on to the next message.

Well...ummm...that was kinda a little white lie.

You see, it is possible to have procmail process a message as per the action line within a recipe, and then, instead of exiting, continue to process subsequent recipes to see if further matches exist. This is accomplished by adding the "c" flag (for "carbon copy") to the first line of a recipe. When procmail encounters this flag, it will first generate a copy of the email message; this copy is then processed as per the recipe, while the original message is passed on to subsequent recipes.

In order to better understand how this works, consider the following variant of the very first recipe in this article, which not only forwards a copy of every incoming message to another email address, but also backs it up to a mailbox named "BACKUP":
:0 c
In this case, every message intercepted by procmail first gets transferred to the "BACKUP" mailbox. Since the "c" flag is present on that recipe, procmail will also create a copy of the message and continue processing it. This message copy will then match the second recipe, and will get forwarded to the specified email address.

In case you'd prefer to have incoming mail stored in your local spool and also forwarded to another email address, try the following simple variant:
:0 c
In this case, incoming messages will get automatically forwarded to the specified email address, and procmail will also generate an extra copy because of the special "c" flag. Since the ".procmailrc" file contains only a single recipe, no further matches will exist and so the copy will be handled in the default manner - that is, delivery to the user's local mail spool. The end result: incoming messages are both stored locally and forwarded out of the system.

There are a number of other flags that can be used to alter procmail's default behaviour - take a look at the procmail manual pages for more information.{mospagebreak title=Canning The Spam} As you might imagine from the preceding discussion, procmail is a great tool to use if you're concerned about spam clogging your mailbox. The simplest solution here is to add a series of recipes to the beginning of your ".procmailrc" file, which can scan incoming email for known spammer addresses and automatically filter those messages out. As an example, consider the following set of recipes:
* ^From:.*angie76@spammer.com
* ^From:.*@known-bad-domain.com
* ^From:.*clouded_mind_99@hotmail.com
* ^Subject:.*make money fast
As I stated earlier, it's usually a good idea to place these recipes neat the top of your ".procmailrc" file, so that they are processed first.

If you get a large amount of spam, the technique above may seem inconvenient, as your ".procmailrc" file will rapidly grow in size as more and more spammers add your email address to their database. For convenience, you can either place these recipes in a separate file and include them into your ".procmailrc" (this technique is discussed a little further down) or you can create a so-called "black list" of known spammer addresses in a separate file, and have procmail scan through it looking for a match every time it receives email. This second technique is a little processor-intensive, but has the benefit of simplicity - it needs only a single recipe. Take a look:
* ? egrep -is -f /home/me/black-list.txt
The file "black-list.txt" is a simple list of email addresses, like so:
In this example, the "egrep" program is called by procmail to see if the message headers contain a known spammer's email address. If a match is found, the message is moved to the "SPAM" mailbox. This is a much simpler approach than the one described previously, as all you need to do is update your black list on a regular basis.

Another technique of dealing with spam is so-called "reverse filtering", which uses a "white list" of known addresses. In this case, mail is only delivered to your mailbox if it matches an address in the white list; all non-matching email is treated as spam and either transferred to a spam folder for later review, or summarily deleted. The following example demonstrates:
* !? egrep -is -f /home/me/white-list.txt

>>> More Site Administration Articles          >>> More By Vikram Vaswani, (c) Melonfire

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