Isn’t SRS breaking SPF itself, at least regarding spam?

Earlier on this blog, I proposed ways to implement SPF (Sender Policy Framework). I recently noticed mails forwarded by one of my servers being tagged as spam by due to SPF checks. It means that while SPF works for my domains with near to 0 user base, no real business of forwarding, it is a nuisance for forwarding in general. So you are advised to use SRS (Sender Rewriting Scheme). Strangely enough it is not fully integrated on main servers and some implementation (Exim in Debian) are based on unmaintained library (SRS C library).


Fact is SRS is far from being nice. It makes so your own forwarding server is vouching for fowarded mails. But why would you want that?

SPF test will fail because your forwarding server is not a registered valid source for (forwarded) mails sent from domain X. SRS proposal is that your server will alter header so to forward the mail from X domain X to appear as sent from an address of your own domain for you server is a registered valid source.

I guess the logic is to make forwarders somehow responsible of filtering, not bad in principle.

But it also means that for each spam forwarders fail to identify, they’ll be tagged as spam originator. It is particulary annoying when forwarding is made on public addresses bound to attract spam. So it seems better to get a failed SPF test on every forwarded messages including valid ones than a valid SPF test on every forwarded messages including spam.

SPF without SRS breaks forwarding. But SPF with SRS, the workaround, breaks SPF itself regarding spam and will give you (your IPs, your domains) bad rep, with will make your legit mail at risk of being blacklisted, unless you apply an overly harsh policy on forwarded mails.

Annoying. I am thinking removing SPF completely, instead.  For now, I am updating my SPF records to remove any Fail statement, since there is no way for me to know whether one of my mail can legitimately be forwarded through several servers.  Funny enough, google that promotes SPF usage recommends using SoftFail over Fail. But I might even reset to Neutral.

Interesting link on topic : Mail server setup wih SRS ; Why not SPF?

Alternative: I implemented DKIM on my servers. Seems much smarter to have a server signature.