Your wife photos attached

For programmers, performing at least some system administration tasks is usually unavoidable. However, like most programmers, I hate dealing with the intricacies of keeping a server up and running properly.

So when my home mail server underwent a routine upgrade and stopped accepting logins, I ignored it for the time being. (The mail accounts it administered were way down on the priority list, which didn’t help in motivating a fix.)

Fast forward seven months. I finally got too fed up with the little warning icon in Mail alerting me to the fact that my authentication failed, and after three or four hours of digging I found the problem: a misconfiguration in courier-authlib, which handled login information being passed through the postfix system.

Despite not being all the way back up to par, the system worked enough for me to finagle a login and start reading mail. So what do you find when you run a mail server accepting messages for seven months with nobody watching it and no spam filter?

  • Over 300 spam messages, most of them designed to look as though someone had pictures of my nonexistent “wife” and was emailing me a sampler. How kind. (Other varieties included messages designed to look like business memos and the standard male-enhancement ads.)
  • 30 or so order confirmations from Amazon. Apparently I had completed an order using this email address just before the login stopped working, and for whatever convoluted reason Amazon decided to send the same order confirmation repeatedly, once every half hour, for almost a day.
  • One sudoers warning about a failed elevation attempt from back in October. (I mistyped a password.)
  • 224 daily cron notifications from various subsystems on the server.
  • Six messages from the various -announce mailing lists that account was following.
  • One notification from this very WordPress system about a pending comment - I approved the comment about three weeks later because I had never seen the notification (sorry Will!).

Now the task is to clean up the garbage emails and decide what to do about the rest. And while I’m at it: does anyone have a recommendation for a Postfix-compatible spam filter?