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DKIM and Mailing Lists

Currently we have a problem with the Debian list server and Gmail. Gmail signs all mail that it sends with both DKIM and DomainKeys (DomainKeys has been obsoleted by DKIM so most mail servers implement only one of the two standards although apart from space there is no reason not to use both). The Debian list servers change the message body without removing the signatures, and therefore send out mail with invalid signatures.

DKIM has an option to specify the length of the body part that it signs. If that option is used then an intermediate system can append data to the body without breaking the signature. This could be bad if a hostile party could intercept messages and append something damaging, but has the advantage that mailing list footers will not affect the signature. Of course if the list server modifies the Subject to include the list name in brackets at the start of the subject line then it will still break the signature. However Gmail is configured to not use the length field, and a Gmail user has no option to change this (AFAIK – if anyone knows how to make Gmail use the DKIM length field for their own account then please let me know).

I believe that the ideal functionality of a sending mail server would be to have the configuration of it’s DKIM milter allow specifying which addresses should have the length field used. For example I would like to have all mail sent to an address matching @lists\. have the length field used (as well as some other list servers that don’t match that naming scheme), and I would also like to be able to specify which recipient addresses should have no DKIM signatures (for example list servers that modify the subject line). I have filed Debian bug #500967 against the dkim-filter package requesting this feature [1].

For correct operation of a list server, the minimal functionality is implemented in the Mailman package in Lenny. That is to strip off DKIM and DomainKey signatures. The ideal functionality of a list server would be that for lists that are not configured to modify the Subject line it would leave a DKIM header that uses the length field and otherwise remove the DKIM header. I have filed Debian bug #500965 against lists.debian.org requesting that the configuration be changed to strip the headers in question in a similar manner [2] (the Debian list servers appear to use SmartList – I have not checked whether the latest version of SmartList does the right thing in this regard – if not it deserves another bug report).

I have also filed Debian bug report #500966 requesting that the list servers sign all outbound mail with DKIM [3]. I believe that protecting the integrity of the Debian mail infrastructure is important, preventing forged mail is a good thing, and that the small amount of CPU time needed for this is worth the effort.

Also the Debian project is in a position of leadership in the community. We should adopt new technologies that benefit society first to help encourage others to do the same and also to help find and fix bugs.

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