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CERT Coordination Center

IBM AIX sendmail configured as open mail relay by default

Vulnerability Note VU#814617

Original Release Date: 2003-06-17 | Last Revised: 2003-06-17


Sendmail shipped with IBM AIX is configured by default as an open mail relay. Unauthenticated, remote users can route mail through such a system.


Sendmail is a widely used mail transfer agent (MTA) that is included with IBM AIX. According to IBM:

The default configuration files for sendmail enable three sendmail options which allow arbitrary users to route email via sendmail. The options are "promiscuous_relay", "accept_unresolvable_domains" and "accept_unqualified_senders".
In this configuration, sendmail accepts messages addressed from and to non-local email domains.


Any remote user can route mail through sendmail on a vulnerable IBM AIX system. This configuration is called an "open relay" and such systems are frequently abused to deliver unsolicited commercial email (UCE) or SPAM.


Modify sendmail Configuration
Configure sendmail not to accept messages addressed from and to foreign domains on behalf of unauthenticated users. IBM has released an advisory and updated configuration files for sendmail on AIX:
From the IBM advisory:

Note that this change should only be applied to systems using the default configuration files. Administrators who use customized configuration files will lose their customizations. The changes made by this modification will be lost if a migration install is done; it will be necessary to re-apply the change. This change will be made permanent in a future release of AIX.

Block or Restrict Access

Using a firewall or similar technology, block access to vulnerable AIX sendmail systems (SMTP 25/tcp) from untrusted networks such as the Internet.

Vendor Information


IBM Affected

Notified:  March 11, 2003 Updated: June 11, 2003



Vendor Statement

The issues discussed in CERT vulnerability note VU#814617 are addressed by changing the Sendmail configuration settings.

The modification instructions and updated configuration files can be obtained from:
For more information, please contact your AIX Support Center.

Vendor Information

The vendor has not provided us with any further information regarding this vulnerability.


The CERT/CC has no additional comments at this time.

If you have feedback, comments, or additional information about this vulnerability, please send us email.

CVSS Metrics

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This vulnerability was reported by Tom Perrine of the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

This document was written by Art A Manion.

Other Information

CVE IDs: CVE-2003-0285
Severity Metric: 6.30
Date Public: 2003-05-13
Date First Published: 2003-06-17
Date Last Updated: 2003-06-17 22:43 UTC
Document Revision: 36

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