FreeBSD email server - Part 4: Message authentication

#Tutorial #FreeBSD #Email #DKIM #SPF

Welcome to another part in the FreeBSD email server series. This time, we are going to setup some mechanisms to deal with message authentication. This practice will make other email providers accept your email messages and deliver them properly in the inbox of the receiving user, instead of their spam box.

We will do so using three of the most common practices: SPF, DKIM and DMARC.



The tools for DKIM are easily installed using pkg.

pkg install opendkim


Write the following configuration into /usr/local/etc/mail/opendkim.conf.

# logging
Syslog  yes

# permissions
UserID  postfix
UMask   007

# general settings
AutoRestart         yes
Background          yes
Canonicalization    relaxed/relaxed
DNSTimeout          5
Mode                sv
SignatureAlgorithm  rsa-sha256
SubDomains          no
X-Header            yes
OversignHeaders     From

# tables
KeyTable      /usr/local/etc/opendkim/key.table
SigningTable  /usr/local/etc/opendkim/signing.table

# socket
Socket  inet:8891@localhost

# domains
Domain    domain.tld.privkey
KeyFile   /usr/local/etc/opendkim/domain.tld
Selector  mail


Postfix needs to be instructed to sign the messages with a DKIM header using the opendkim service. You can do so by inserting the following configuration block somewhere around the end of /usr/local/etc/postfix/

# milters
milter_protocol = 2
milter_default_action = reject
smtpd_milters =

System service

OpenDKIM runs as a system service. As such, you will have to enable this service in rcinit. This is a simple step, achieved with the given command.

echo 'milteropendkim_enable="YES"' >> /etc/rc.conf.local

Do not forget to actually start the service when you are done with the tutorial!

Creating and using keys

In order to use DKIM, you will need to generate some keys to sign the messages with. You cannot use your Let’s Encrypt SSL keys for this. First, create a directory to house your domain’s keys.

mkdir -p /usr/local/etc/opendkim/keys/domain.tld
chown -R postfix:wheel $_

Next up, generate your first key.

opendkim-genkey -D /usr/local/etc/opendkim/keys -b 4096 -r -s $(date +%Y%m%d) -d domain.tld

I tend to use the current date for the key names so I can easily sort them by the most recent one.

Afterwards, you will have to add a line to two separate files to instruct DKIM to use this key for a certain domain when signing mail. These are fairly straightforward and can be done using a simple echo as well.

echo '*@domain.tld  domain.tld' >> /usr/local/etc/opendkim/signing.table
echo "domain.tld  domain.tld:$(date +%Y%m%d):/usr/local/etc/opendkim/keys/domain.tld/$(date +%Y%m%d).private" \
  >> /usr/local/etc/opendkim/key.table

Adding the DNS records

You may have already noticed that opendkim-genkey also creates a .txt file in addition to the private key. This text file contains the DNS record value you need to add for your domain’s DNS. Add the record to your DNS server, and simply wait for it to propagate.


SPF is simply a DNS record that shows which IPs are allowed to email for that domain.

Adding the DNS records

A simple example for an SPF record is the following. It allows mail to be sent in the domain’s name from any IP listed in the MX records.

v=spf1 mx -all


DMARC is, like SPF, a DNS record. It tells how to deal with messages coming from the server and where to report abuse of your server. Some of the larger email providers send out reports to the address given in the DMARC record so you can figure out whether someone is spamming from your servers, for example.

Adding the DNS records

A simple DMARC policy to get started with is to quarantine all emails that fail authentication. This means the emails will go into the receiving user’s spam box. In addition, abuse reports will be sent to the address defined in the rua.

v=DMARC1; p=quarantine; rua=mailto:abuse@domain.tld


These few simple measures will make receiving servers trust the authenticity of the mails you send. In effect, your messages will be much less likely to be marked as spam. However, you are a target of spam as well. How you can deal with that, will be available in the next part of this series.