Configuring SPF for qmail

March 15, 2020 Roberto Puzzanghera 0 comments

The Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an open standard specifying a technical method to prevent sender address forgery. More precisely, the current version of SPF — called SPFv1 or SPF Classic — protects the envelope sender address, which is used for the delivery of messages. See the box on the right for a quick explanation of the different types of sender addresses in e-mails.

  • Basic informations about SPF here

First of all you have to setup your SPF record. You can create it using this great wizard. Basically it will turn to be something like:

yourdomain.tld. IN TXT "v=spf1 mx a ip4:<your-ip>/32 ip4:<your-localnet>/24 include:alloweddomain.tld -all"

If your mx domain also appears in the name server's DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone) you should add such a TXT record in there as well, otherwise you will be exposed to spoofing, as spammers can always send you mail messages with your domain in the envelope.

SPF behavior of your mail server is controlled by the file /var/qmail/control/spfbehavior. You can specify a value between 0 and 6:

  • 0 disabled (Default). Never do SPF lookups, don't create Received-SPF headers
  • 1 selects 'annotate-only' mode,  where  qmail-smtpd  will  annotate  incoming  email with Received-SPF fields, but will not reject any messages. 
  • 2 will produce temporary failures on DNS lookup problems so you can make sure you always have meaningful Received-SPF headers. 
  • 3 selects  'reject'  mode,  where  incoming  mail  will be rejected if the SPF record says 'fail'. 
  • 4 selects a more stricter rejection mode, which is like 'reject' mode, except that incoming mail will also be rejected when the SPF record says 'softfail'. 
  • 5 will also reject when the SPF record says 'neutral'
  • 6 if no SPF records are available at all (or a syntax error was encountered).

You can override the value in /var/qmail/control/spfbehavior by setting the SPFBEHAVIOR environment variable (typically in /etc/tcprules.d/tcp.smtp or, if you’ve used these notes as your guide, in ~/vpopmail/etc/tcp.smtp).

Values higher than 3 are strongly discouraged. You probably will want to go with 2 or 3.


First of all, check the header of your incoming messages. For email senders who don’t have SPF enabled, you should find a Received-SPF header that looks something like this:

Received-SPF: none (0: domain at  does not designate permitted sender hosts)

For email senders who have SPF enabled, you’ll see a header that looks something like this:

Received-SPF: pass(0: SPF record at  designates x.x.x.x as permitted sender)

To run a rejection test, use the highest value (6 ) and restart qmail. Then, from a remote IP address, try telnetting into your mail server and sending a message using a fake email address:

> telnet 25
Trying [remote-IP]...
Connected to [remote-IP].
Escape character is '^]'.
mail from:
250 ok
rcpt to:
550 See[sender-IP]&receiver=0 (#5.7.1)
Connection closed by foreign host.

Remember to restore to 2 or 3 your /var/qmail/control/spfbehavior file.

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