Well that’s embarrassing…

I thought I was being smart. Instead of pulling in mail directly to my laptop’s Maildir++ directory via offlineimap, I thought I’d use fetchmail to deliver it to my laptop postfix install instead. That way, I could use IDLE reliably, and also configure my laptop’s MTA to use maildrop to test out new mail filters before fully adopting them on my mail server. All good stuff. I installed fetchmailconf and ran the wizard. It wanted to test an initial import of everything. Fair enough, let’s go…

What I completely forgot was that I had added a .forward file to my laptop home directory some time ago, which forwarded all local mail to the account I was importing from!

As you might imagine, this caused a mail loop. Very quickly, my mail server decided “nope, I’ve seen this before and I’m stuck in a loop – bounce the message”. I caught the problem pretty quick – I realised mail was importing slowly, and noticed my modem unexpectedly busy. I quickly tailed the mail logs, saw what was happening, cancelled fetchmail, stopped Postfix and nuked the mail queue… but in that short time, 1663 bounce e-mails had been sent out.

Luckily, things appear to have not been too bad. Most e-mail was sent from forwarding accounts, since I only recently switched over to hosting e-mail myself. The majority of the e-mail was also backup notifications and other server reports that would not have relayed to external servers. Much of my e-mail was also sent to mail lists, which normally will discard bounced e-mails. I likely e-mail my spouse the most, and she received under 30 e-mail bounces. I also received bounce messages from Google for the bounce messages – Google temporarily blocked my address, which I’m surprisingly glad about. It should also be pretty clear to anyone who received the messages that it was a configuration issue based on the fact that the e-mails all came through within about 2 minutes of each other, most of the messages were old, and that most or all of the messages had already been replied to at some point.

There was much to be learned from this experience. I usually consider myself someone who pays attention to detail, but that didn’t stop me from tripping up – on a one-liner too! It would have been nice if fetchmailconf had an option to test just a few messages first, as opposed to automatically running across everything in your account. In any case, if you happened to be on the receiving end of my dumb mistake, I apologise for the hassle.

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