Fun With SpamAssassin Meta Rules

I’ve got a ticketing system. Let’s say you open a ticket by emailing You then get an automated response confirming that you’ve opened a ticket, and on my side people get bothered by a notification about this support ticket that needs attention.

A problem here is that absolutely anyone or anything emailing that will open a ticket. And it’s pretty easy to find that email address.

As a result lots of scum of the earthenterprising individuals seem to be passing that email address around to other enterprising individuals who decide to add it to their email marketing mailshots.

A reasonable response to this would perhaps be to move away from email to a web form, and put it behind a login so that only existing, authenticated customers could submit new tickets. Thing is, I still have to have a way for previously-unknown people to create tickets by email, and I kind of like email. So I persevere.

One thing I can do though is block all kinds of newsletters. There is no scenario where people who send newsletters should be trying to open support tickets. I’m prepared to disallow any email from MailJet or SendGrid being sent to my ticketing system, for example.

But how to do it?

Well, I am already able to identify emails from MailJet and SendGrid because I use the ASN plugin. This inserts a header in the email to say which Autonomous System it came from.

MailJet’s ASN is 200069 and SendGrid’s is 11377. I know that because I’ve seen mail from them before, and the ASN plugin put a header in with those numbers.

You can add some custom rules to match mails from these ASNs:

header   LOCAL_ASN_MAILJET X-ASN =~ /\b200069\b/
score    LOCAL_ASN_MAILJET 0.001
describe LOCAL_ASN_MAILJET Sent by MailJet (ASN200069)

What this will do is check the header that the ASN plugin added and if it matches it will add this label LOCAL_ASN_MAILJET with a score of 0.001 to the list of SpamAssassin scores.

Scores that are very close to zero (but not actually zero!) are typically used just to annotate an email. You can’t use zero exactly because that disables the rule entirely.

Now, if you really didn’t want any email from MailJet at all you could crank that score up and it would all be rejected. But my users do actually get quite a lot of wanted email from the likes of MailJet and SendGrid. These senders are sadly too big to block. They know this, and this probably contributes to their noted preference for taking spammers’ money, but that is a rant for another day.

Back to the original goal: I only want to reject mail from these companies if it is destined for my ticketing system. So how to identify mail that’s for the support queue? Well that’s pretty simple:

header   LOCAL_TO_SUPPORT ToCc:addr =~ /^support\@example\.com$/i
score    LOCAL_TO_SUPPORT 0.001
describe LOCAL_TO_SUPPORT Recipient is support queue

This checks just the address part(s) of the To and Cc headers to see if any match The periods (‘.’) and the at symbol (‘@’) need escaping because this is a Perl regular expression. If there’s a match then the LOCAL_TO_SUPPORT tag will be added.

Now all that remains is to make a new rule that only fires if both of these conditions are true, and assigns a real score to that:

describe LOCAL_MAILSHOT_TO_SUPPORT Mailshot sent to support queue

There. Now the support queue will never get emails from these companies, but the rest of my users still can.

Of course you don’t have to match those mails by ASN. There are many other indicators of senders that just shouldn’t be opening support tickets, and if you can find any other sort of rule that matches them reliably then you can chain that with other rules that identify the support queue recipient.

Another way to do it would be to run the support queue as its own SpamAssassin user with its own per-user rules. I have a fairly simple SpamAssassin setup though with only a global set of rules so I didn’t want to do that just for this.

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