Creating a Content Filter for Postfix in PHP

In this article I want to explain how I created a content filter for Postfix, in PHP.

The basic idea is to examine all the incoming messages, looking for a Credit Card pattern, and then sending those emails to another Server, that for instance is PCI compliant, and sending an email to the original receiver telling that they received an email with a CC, that is stored in a safe Server.

I choose the pipe mechanism, because is the last one in the chain of content filters, and first I want to pass the antivirus (Amavis), antispam and other content filters.

Then I inject the emails to sendmail, with the params -G -i , granting that the email will not be reprocessed entering an infinite loop.

/usr/sbin/sendmail -G -i

A remembering about the SMTP protocol, that I’ll mention later. Another link in wikipedia.

Edit the file /etc/postfix/ to add these lines:

# ==========================================================================
# service type private unpriv chroot wakeup maxproc command + args
# (yes) (yes) (yes) (never) (100)
# ==========================================================================
smtp inet n - n - - smtpd
 -o content_filter=filter:dummy

# Other external delivery methods.

filter unix - n n - 10 pipe
 flags=Rq user=filter argv=/var/filtermails/filtercard.php -f ${sender} -- ${size} ${recipient}

The last parameter ${recipient} will expand with as many recipients (RCPT TO:) as the mail has.

Now the code for the PHP filter. Check a simple content filter example here.

The file /var/filtermails/filtercard.php


 * Carles Mateo


$s_dest_mail_secure = '';

$b_regex_found = false;
$b_emails_rcpt_to = Array();

// All major credit cards regex
// The CC anywhere
$s_cc_regex = '/(?:4[0-9]{12}(?:[0-9]{3})?|5[1-5][0-9]{14}|6011[0-9]{12}|622((12[6-9]|1[3-9][0-9])|([2-8][0-9][0-9])|(9(([0-1][0-9])|(2[0-5]))))[0-9]{10}|64[4-9][0-9]{13}|65[0-9]{14}|3(?:0[0-5]|[68][0-9])[0-9]{11}|3[47][0-9]{13})/';

function log_event($s_message) {
 syslog(LOG_WARNING, $s_message);

function save_message_to_file($s_file, $s_message) {
 $o_file = fopen($s_file, "a");
 fwrite($o_file, $s_message);

function read_file($s_file) {
 $s_contents = file_get_contents($s_file);
 if ($s_contents === false) {
 return '';
 return $s_contents;

function get_all_rcpt_to($st_emails_input) {
 // First email is pos 5 of the array
 $st_emails = $st_emails_input;
 return $st_emails;

 * Returns a @secure. email, from the original email
function get_secure_email($s_email) {
 $i_pos = strpos($s_email, '@');
 $s_email_new = $s_email;
 if ($i_pos > 0) {
 $s_email_new = substr($s_email, 0, $i_pos);
 $s_email_new .= 'secure.';
 $s_email_new .= substr($s_email, $i_pos +1);
 return $s_email_new;

function replace_tpl_variables($s_text, $s_sender_original) {

 // TODO: Replace static values
 $s_date_sent = date('r'); // RFC 2822 formatted date

 $s_text = str_replace('#DATE_NOW#', $s_date_sent, $s_text);
 $s_text = str_replace('#FROM_NAME#', 'Carles Mateo', $s_text);
 $s_text = str_replace('#FROM_EMAIL#', '', $s_text);
 $s_text = str_replace('#EMAIL_SENDER_ORIGINAL#', $s_sender_original, $s_text);

 return $s_text;

function delete_file($s_file) {

// Read the RCPT TO: fields ${recipient}
$st_emails_rcpt_to = get_all_rcpt_to($argv);

// Read the email
$email = '';
$fd = fopen("php://stdin", "r");
while (!feof($fd)) {
 $line = fread($fd, 1024);
 $email .= $line;

// Get the portion of the email without headers (to avoid id's being detected as CC numbers)
$i_pos_subject = strpos($email, 'Subject:');
if ($i_pos_subject > 0) {
 // Found
 $email_sanitized = substr($email, $i_pos_subject);
} else {
 // If we don't locate subject we look for From:
 $i_pos_from = strpos($email, 'From:');
 if ($i_pos_from > 0) {
 $email_sanitized = substr($email, $i_pos_from);
 } else {
 // Impossible email, but continue
 $email_sanitized = $email;

// Remove spaces, and points so we find 4111.1111.1111.111 and so
$email_sanitized = str_replace(' ', '', $email_sanitized);
$email_sanitized = str_replace('.', '', $email_sanitized);
$email_sanitized = str_replace('-', '', $email_sanitized);

$s_message = "Script filtercard.php successfully ran\n";

log_event('Arguments: '.serialize($argv));

$i_result = preg_match($s_cc_regex, $email_sanitized, $s_matches);
if ($i_result == 1) {
 $b_regex_found = true;
 $s_message .= 'Card found'."\n";
} else {
 // No credit card
 $s_message .= 'No credit card found'."\n";

$s_dest_mail_original = $argv[5];
$s_sender_original = $argv[2];

// Generate a unique id
$i_unique_id = time().'-'.rand(0,99999).'-'.rand(0,99999);

// NEVER NEVER NEVER use "-t" here.
$SENDMAIL="/usr/sbin/sendmail -G -i";

$s_file_unique = $INSPECT_DIR.$i_unique_id;

# Exit codes from <sysexits.h>

// Save the file
save_message_to_file($s_file_unique, $email);

$st_output = Array();

if ($b_regex_found == false) {
 // Send normally
 foreach ($st_emails_rcpt_to as $i_key=>$s_email_rcpt_to) {
 $s_sendmail = $SENDMAIL.' "'.$s_email_rcpt_to.'" <'.$s_file_unique;
 $i_status = exec($s_sendmail, $st_output);
 log_event('Status Sendmail (original mail): '.$i_status.' to: '.$s_email_rcpt_to);

// Send secure email
$s_sendmail = $SENDMAIL.' "'.$s_dest_mail_secure.'" <'.$s_file_unique;
$i_status = exec($s_sendmail, $st_output);

log_event('Status Sendmail (secure email): '.$i_status.' to: '.$s_dest_mail_secure);

$s_email_tpl = read_file('/usr/share/secure/smtpfilter_email.txt');

if ($s_email_tpl == '') {
 // Generic message
 $s_date_sent = date('r'); // RFC 2822 formatted date
 $s_email_tpl = <<<EOT
Date: $s_date_sent
From: secure <>
Subject: Message with a Credit Card from $s_sender_original
You received a message with a Credit Card

$s_email_tpl = replace_tpl_variables($s_email_tpl, $s_sender_original);

save_message_to_file($s_file_unique.'-tpl', $s_email_tpl);

// Send the replacement email
foreach ($st_emails_rcpt_to as $i_key=>$s_email_rcpt_to) {
 $st_output = Array();
 $s_sendmail = $SENDMAIL.' "'.$s_email_rcpt_to.'" <'.$s_file_unique.'-tpl';
 $i_status = exec($s_sendmail, $st_output);
 log_event('Status Sendmail (TPL): '.$i_status.' to: '.$s_email_rcpt_to);


/* Headers:

From: Carles Mateo <>
To: "" <>, Secure
CC: "" <>
Subject: Test with several emails and CCs
Thread-Topic: Test with several emails and CCs
Thread-Index: AQHRt1tmO/z+TpI64UiniKm7I56onw==
Date: Thu, 25 May 2016 14:32:15 +0000

You can test it connecting by telnet to port 25 and doing (in bold the SMTP commands):

Date: Mon, 30 May 2016 14:07:56 +0000
From: Carles Mateo <>
To: Undisclosed recipients
Subject: Test with CC
This is just a test with a Visa CC 4111 1111 11-11-1111.

You can use the nc command for commodity.

When you’re all set I recommend you to test it by sending real emails from real servers

One thought on “Creating a Content Filter for Postfix in PHP

  1. hifall

    Nice info!

    I wonder how I could handle attachments, that is, get #attachments, save them locally, etc.?



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