rinetd saves the day (.. or night, more properly)

During thursday we moved our mail server and domain controller from our Oslo offices to the Fredrikstad office. As most of our staff now resides in Fredrikstad, this was a logical thing to do to keep the resources close to the people. The move went as planned, and all the servers and services started up as they should. There was one slight problem, as we’re accepting new mail through the link to our Oslo office (as that’s were the mailserver used to live), and our firewall routes the SMTP connections to our internal mailserver. We have an external mail relay that does mail filtering, before delivering the mail to our server. This means that we only accept SMTP connections from that particular host, as we’re not the general recipent (as we’re not the MX-record) for our own domain. This is handled in the Exchange configuration, where the allowed IP-s are set up.

Anyways, the connection between the two offices are handled internally by using a IPsec link, which routes encrypted traffic between the two networks. This has worked out just like it should, and we’ve been very happy with the setup. After moving the mail server, our plan was to simply route the connections that are coming in to our SMTP server over the VPN link to the other office, and then deliver the mail to the new address of the mail server. This proved to be more troublesome than expected. As the external filter service is run by an external company, we were unable to contact them to get them to change the address on short notice. After a couple of hours trying to get the packets to flow the right way, we decided to use an old friend of ours to help out instead; rinetd.

rinetd is a very, very simple daemon, which simply accepts a connection on a port and redirects that port on the socket layer to another host (or port). We did however need one other feature of rinetd; access control. As I mentioned earlier, we’re only interested in allowing certain hosts to talk to our SMTP server. Since the connections now are routed through rinetd instead, the only host Exchange ever will se delivering E-mail, is the rinetd server. This means that we had to implement the access control in rinetd instead, filtering on the external IPs connecting to our server.

rinetd allows these settings to be provided globally, so that you are able to allow or deny certain hosts for all services using rinetd. This would have worked out nice, if it hadn’t been for the fact that we also run our web mail through exchange on the same host. So we also need to forward the SSL connection for the webmail, and we have to allow all hosts to connect to the webmail. Luckily, rinetd also makes it possible to solve this, as you’re able to provide access rules for each of the forwarded ports separately.

There is however one caveat; the global rules will always be evaluated first. If you have certain global rules that deny or allow traffic (if you have one allow rule, all other traffic will be denied, unless explicitly allowed), the connection might never reach the evaluation of the “local” rules for each forward. This means that if one of your connections should allow people to connect from anywhere (such as our ssl webmail), your global settings have to allow all clients to connect.

We therefor moved our limitations for the SMTP server to that section instead, and ended up with this access control configuration:

# bindadress    bindport  connectaddress  connectport
<ip1> 25 <ip2> 25
allow 192.168.0.*
allow 192.168.1.*
allow <external ip>
allow <external ip>
allow <external ip>

<ip1> 443 <ip2> 443
allow *

And after that, everything worked perfectly until we got our mail filter provider to switch to the new address of the SMTP server. rinetd saves us that night, and not a single one of our staff noticed the difference. If they don’t know we’re there, we’re doing something right.