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I just followed this tutorial to set up a postfix mailserver with dovecot and mysql as backend for virtual users.

Now I got the most parts working, I can connect to POP3(S) and IMAP(S).


echo TEST-MAIL | mail

works fine, when I log into my hotmail account it shows the email.

It also works in reverse hence my MX entry for finally has been propagated, so I am being able to receive emails sent from to and view them in Thunderbird using STARTTLS via IMAP.

Doing a bit more research after I got the error message "5.7.1 : Relay access denied" when trying to send mails to using Thunderbird being logged into, I figured out that my server was acting as an "Open Mail Relay", which - ofcourse - is a bad thing.

Digging more into the optional parts of the tutorial like this comment and the other turorial, I decided to complete these steps as well to be able to send mails via through Mozilla Thunderbird, not getting the error message "5.7.1 : Relay access denied" anymore (as common mailservers reject open relayed emails).

But now I ran into an error trying to get postfix working with SMTPS, in /var/log/mail.log it reads

Sep 28 17:29:34 domain postfix/smtpd[20251]: warning: cannot get RSA private key from file /etc/ssl/certs/postfix.pem: disabling TLS support
Sep 28 17:29:34 domain postfix/smtpd[20251]: warning: TLS library problem: 20251:error:0906D06C:PEM routines:PEM_read_bio:no start line:pem_lib.c:650:Expecting: ANY PRIVATE KEY:
Sep 28 17:29:34 domain postfix/smtpd[20251]: warning: TLS library problem: 20251:error:140B0009:SSL routines:SSL_CTX_use_PrivateKey_file:PEM lib:ssl_rsa.c:669:

That error is logged right after I try to send a mail from my newly installed mailserver using SMTP SSL/TLS via port 465 in Thunderbird. Thunderbird then tells me a timeout occured.

Google has a few results concerning that problem, yet I couldn't get it working with any of those. I would link some of them here but as a new user I am only allowed to use two hyperlinks.

My /etc/postfix/ looks like

smtp      inet  n       -       -       -       -       smtpd
smtps     inet  n       -       -       -       -       smtpd
   -o smtpd_tls_wrappermode=yes
   -o smtpd_sasl_auth_enable=yes

and nmap tells me

465/tcp  open  smtps

my /etc/postfix/ looks like

smtpd_banner = $myhostname ESMTP $mail_name (Debian/GNU)
biff = no
append_dot_mydomain = no
readme_directory = no
#smtpd_tls_cert_file = /etc/ssl/certs/postfix.pem            #default postfix generated
#smtpd_tls_key_file = /etc/ssl/private/ssl-cert-snakeoil.key #default postfix generated
smtpd_tls_cert_file = /etc/ssl/certs/postfix.pem
smptd_tls_key_file = /etc/ssl/private/postfix.pem
smtpd_use_tls = yes
smtpd_tls_session_cache_database = btree:${data_directory}/smtpd_scache
smtp_tls_session_cache_database = btree:${data_directory}/smtp_scache
smtpd_sasl_type = dovecot
smtpd_sasl_path = private/auth
smptd_sasl_auth_enable = yes
smtpd_recipient_restrictions = permit_mynetworks, permit_sasl_authenticated, reject_unauth_destination

myhostname =
alias_maps = hash:/etc/aliases
alias_database = hash:/etc/aliases
myorigin = /etc/mailname
mydestination =, localhost
relayhost =
mynetworks = [::ffff:]/104 [::1]/128
mailbox_size_limit = 0
recipient_delimiter = +
inet_interfaces = all
virtual_mailbox_domains = mysql:/etc/postfix/
virtual_mailbox_maps = mysql:/etc/postfix/
virtual_alias_maps = mysql:/etc/postfix/
virtual_transport = dovecot
dovecot_destination_recipient_limit = 1
mailbox_command = /usr/lib/dovecot/deliver

The *.pem files were created like described in the tutorial above, using

To create a certificate to be used by Postfix use:

openssl req -new -x509 -days 3650 -nodes -out /etc/ssl/certs/postfix.pem -keyout /etc/ssl/private/postfix.pem

Do not forget to set the permissions on the private key so that no unauthorized people can read it:

chmod o= /etc/ssl/private/postfix.pem

You will have to tell Postfix where to find your certificate and private key because by default it will look for a dummy certificate file called "ssl-cert-snakeoil":

postconf -e smtpd_tls_cert_file=/etc/ssl/certs/postfix.pem
postconf -e smtpd_tls_key_file=/etc/ssl/private/postfix.pem

I think I don't have to include /etc/dovecot/dovecot.conf here, as login via imaps and pop3s works fine according to the logs. Only problem is making postfix properly use the self-generated, self-signed certificates.

Any help appreciated!

EDIT: I just tried this different tutorial on generating a self-signed certificate for postfix, still getting the same error. I really don't know what else to test.

I also did check for the SSL libraries, but all seems to be fine:

  root@domain:~# ldd /usr/sbin/postfix =>  (0x00007fff91b25000) => /usr/lib/ (0x00007f6f8313d000) => /usr/lib/ (0x00007f6f82f07000) => /usr/lib/ (0x00007f6f82cb1000) => /usr/lib/ (0x00007f6f82910000) => /usr/lib/ (0x00007f6f826f7000) => /usr/lib/ (0x00007f6f8237c000) => /lib/ (0x00007f6f82164000) => /lib/ (0x00007f6f81f4e000) => /lib/ (0x00007f6f81beb000) => /lib/ (0x00007f6f819e7000) => /usr/lib/ (0x00007f6f817d0000) => /lib/ (0x00007f6f815b3000)
    /lib64/ (0x00007f6f83581000)

After following Ansgar Wiechers instructions its finally working.

postconf -n contained the lines as it should. The certificate/key check via openssl did show that both files are valid.

So it indeed has been a permissions problem! Didn't know that chown'ing the /etc/ssl/*/postfix.pem files to postfix:postfix is not enough for postfix to read the files.

share|improve this question
up vote 9 down vote accepted

The content of does not necessarily represent your active Postfix configuration. Check the output of postconf -n for the following two parameters:

smtpd_recipient_restrictions = 
mynetworks = [::ffff:]/104 [::1]/128

If $mynetworks is restricted to localhost and $smtpd_recipient_restrictions shows permit_mynetworks, permit_sasl_authenticated, reject_unauth_destination as the first three restrictions, then you are not an open relay.

Verify that /etc/ssl/private/postfix.pem contains a valid key and /etc/ssl/certs/postfix.pem contains a valid certificate:

openssl rsa -in /etc/ssl/private/postfix.pem -check -noout
openssl x509 -in /etc/ssl/certs/postfix.pem -text -noout

You also need to check if Postfix can access the file. On my server, the permissions on /etc/ssl/private are

drwx--x---  2 root ssl-cert  4096 Aug 03 01:55 private/

Thus simply chowning the key file won't do you any good, because the directory permissions prevent Postfix from accessing any file in it.

Try simplifying your setup. Put certificate and key into a single file:

cat /etc/ssl/*/postfix.pem > /etc/postfix/server.pem
chmod 640 /etc/postfix/server.pem
chown postfix:postfix /etc/postfix/server.pem

and change your like this:

smtpd_tls_cert_file = /etc/postfix/server.pem
smtpd_tls_key_file = $smtpd_tls_cert_file

Restart Postfix and see if the server can access the key.

share|improve this answer
That fixed it, thank you very much, the both of you Ladadadada and Ansgar Wiechers. – phew Sep 28 '12 at 20:37

Those instructions have chmod o= /etc/ssl/private/postfix.pem but say nothing about which user owns the file.

On my boxes, the smtpd process runs as the postfix user. Check that the postfix user can access /etc/ssl/private/postfix.pem. Or possibly just chown postfix:postfix /etc/ssl/private/postfix.pem.

The other obvious problem is exactly what the error message says: There isn't a valid RSA key in that file. Have a look in /etc/ssl/private/postfix.pem and make sure it contains at least something that looks like an RSA key. Don't paste it into your question.

Actually, I just noticed that the error message is for /etc/ssl/certs/postfix.pem, not /etc/ssl/private/postfix.pem. Check the ownership, permissions and content of /etc/ssl/certs/postfix.pem as well.

That error message is a little confusing. It says cannot get RSA private key from file /etc/ssl/certs/postfix.pem but the private key should be in /etc/ssl/private/postfix.pem. I don't have enough experience with Postfix using TLS to know whether this is a bug Postfix or a mistake in your config.

share|improve this answer
I chown'ed both files to postfix:postfix then restarted postfix, but trying to send an email is still reproducing the error in /var/log/mail.log – phew Sep 28 '12 at 16:25
root@domain:/etc/ssl/certs# ls -l postfix.pem -rw-r--r-- 1 postfix postfix 1363 Sep 28 16:36 postfix.pem and it seems to contain certificate content, starting with -----BEGIN CERTIFICATE----- containing data until -----END CERTIFICATE----- – phew Sep 28 '12 at 17:22
I was wondering about that, too, so I tried swapping the files. But that makes no sense as the file in /certs/ does contain the certificate header "----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----". Thanks for your help anyways. – phew Sep 28 '12 at 17:40

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