// Tutorial //

How To Install and Configure DKIM with Postfix on Debian Wheezy

Published on February 28, 2014
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By Popute Sebastian Armin
Developer and author at DigitalOcean.
How To Install and Configure DKIM with Postfix on Debian Wheezy


The frustration of getting falsely flagged as a spammer is not strange to most of the mail server admins. By excluding the possibility of a compromised server, a false flag is usually caused by one of the following:

  • the server is an open mail relay
  • the sender’s or server’s IP address is blacklisted
  • the server does not have a Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) and a PTR record
  • the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) DNS record is missing or it is misconfigured
  • the DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) implementation is missing or it’s not properly set up

These are some of the basic properties that are being checked by the majority of proprietary and open source spam filters (including SpamAssassin). Passing these tests is extremely important for a well configured mail server.

This tutorial will focus on installing and configuring OpenDKIM]: an open source implementation of the DKIM sender authentication system.

It is assumed that the reader knows how to access the server over SSH, Postfix and Dovecot is already installed and configured (tutorial), the host name and the FQDN are set up (tutorial, tutorial) and the SPF record is in place (tutorial).

About DKIM

DKIM is an Internet Standard that enables a person or organisation to associate a domain name with an email message. This, in effect, serves as a method of claiming responsibility for a message. At its core, DKIM is powered by asymmetric cryptography. The sender’s Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) signs every outgoing message with a private key. The recipient retrieves the public key from the sender’s DNS records and verifies if the message body and some of the header fields were not altered since the message signing took place.

Install OpenDKIM

Before starting the installation, a system update is recommended:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Install OpenDKIM and it’s dependencies:

sudo apt-get install opendkim opendkim-tools

Additional packages will be listed as dependencies, type yes and press Enter to continue.

Configure OpenDKIM

A couple of files must be created and edited in order to configure OpenDKIM.

Nano will be used as an editor because it’s installed by default on DigitalOcean droplets and it’s simple to operate:

  • navigate with the arrow keys
  • exit without saving changes: press CTRL + X and then N
  • exit and save changes: press CTRL + X and then Y, and finally press Enter

Important: replace every instance of example.com with your own domain in all commands and configuration files. Don’t forget to save your files after editing.

Let’s start with the main configuration file:

sudo nano /etc/opendkim.conf

Append the following lines to the end of the conf file (each parameter is explained below). Optionally, you can choose a custom port number for the Socket. Make sure that it’s not used by a different application.

AutoRestart             Yes
AutoRestartRate         10/1h
UMask                   002
Syslog                  yes
SyslogSuccess           Yes
LogWhy                  Yes

Canonicalization        relaxed/simple

ExternalIgnoreList      refile:/etc/opendkim/TrustedHosts
InternalHosts           refile:/etc/opendkim/TrustedHosts
KeyTable                refile:/etc/opendkim/KeyTable
SigningTable            refile:/etc/opendkim/SigningTable

Mode                    sv
PidFile                 /var/run/opendkim/opendkim.pid
SignatureAlgorithm      rsa-sha256

UserID                  opendkim:opendkim

Socket                  inet:12301@localhost
  • AutoRestart: auto restart the filter on failures

  • AutoRestartRate: specifies the filter’s maximum restart rate, if restarts begin to happen faster than this rate, the filter will terminate; 10/1h - 10 restarts/hour are allowed at most

  • UMask: gives all access permissions to the user group defined by UserID and allows other users to read and execute files, in this case it will allow the creation and modification of a Pid file.

  • Syslog, SyslogSuccess, *LogWhy: these parameters enable detailed logging via calls to syslog

  • Canonicalization: defines the canonicalization methods used at message signing, the simple method allows almost no modification while the relaxed one tolerates minor changes such as whitespace replacement; relaxed/simple - the message header will be processed with the relaxed algorithm and the body with the simple one

  • ExternalIgnoreList: specifies the external hosts that can send mail through the server as one of the signing domains without credentials

  • InternalHosts: defines a list of internal hosts whose mail should not be verified but signed instead

  • KeyTable: maps key names to signing keys

  • SigningTable: lists the signatures to apply to a message based on the address found in the From: header field

  • Mode: declares operating modes; in this case the milter acts as a signer (s) and a verifier (v)

  • PidFile: the path to the Pid file which contains the process identification number

  • SignatureAlgorithm: selects the signing algorithm to use when creating signatures

  • UserID: the opendkim process runs under this user and group

  • Socket: the milter will listen on the socket specified here, Posfix will send messages to opendkim for signing and verification through this socket; 12301@localhost defines a TCP socket that listens on localhost, port 12301

This simple configuration is meant to allow message signing for one or more domains, to learn about other options please go here.

Connect the milter to Postfix:

sudo nano /etc/default/opendkim

Add the following line, edit the port number only if a custom one is used:


Configure postfix to use this milter:

sudo nano /etc/postfix/main.cf

Make sure that these two lines are present in the Postfix config file and are not commented out:

milter_protocol = 2
milter_default_action = accept

It is likely that a filter (SpamAssasin, Clamav etc.) is already used by Postfix; if the following parameters are present, just append the opendkim milter to them (milters are separated by a comma), the port number should be the same as in opendkim.conf:

smtpd_milters = unix:/spamass/spamass.sock, inet:localhost:12301
non_smtpd_milters = unix:/spamass/spamass.sock, inet:localhost:12301

If the parameters are missing, define them as follows:

smtpd_milters = inet:localhost:12301
non_smtpd_milters = inet:localhost:12301

Create a directory structure that will hold the trusted hosts, key tables, signing tables and crypto keys:

sudo mkdir /etc/opendkim
sudo mkdir /etc/opendkim/keys

Specify trusted hosts:

sudo nano /etc/opendkim/TrustedHosts

We will use this file to define both ExternalIgnoreList and InternalHosts, messages originating from these hosts, domains and IP addresses will be trusted and signed.

Because our main configuration file declares TrustedHosts as a regular expression file (refile), we can use wildcard patters, *.example.com means that messages coming from example.com’s subdomains will be trusted too, not just the ones sent from the root domain.

Customize and add the following lines to the newly created file. Multiple domains can be specified, do not edit the first three lines:



Create a key table:

sudo nano /etc/opendkim/KeyTable

A key table contains each selector/domain pair and the path to their private key. Any alphanumeric string can be used as a selector, in this example mail is used and it’s not necessary to change it.

mail._domainkey.example.com example.com:mail:/etc/opendkim/keys/example.com/mail.private

#mail._domainkey.example.net example.net:mail:/etc/opendkim/keys/example.net/mail.private
#mail._domainkey.example.org example.org:mail:/etc/opendkim/keys/example.org/mail.private

Create a signing table:

sudo nano /etc/opendkim/SigningTable

This file is used for declaring the domains/email addresses and their selectors.

*@example.com mail._domainkey.example.com

#*@example.net mail._domainkey.example.net
#*@example.org mail._domainkey.example.org

Generate the public and private keys

Change to the keys directory:

cd /etc/opendkim/keys

Create a separate folder for the domain to hold the keys:

sudo mkdir example.com
cd example.com

Generate the keys:

sudo opendkim-genkey -s mail -d example.com

-s specifies the selector and -d the domain, this command will create two files, mail.private is our private key and mail.txt contains the public key.

Change the owner of the private key to opendkim:

sudo chown opendkim:opendkim mail.private

Add the public key to the domain’s DNS records

Open mail.txt:

sudo nano -$ mail.txt

The public key is defined under the p parameter. Do not use the example key below, it’s only an illustration and will not work on your server.

mail._domainkey IN TXT "v=DKIM1; k=rsa; p=MIGfMA0GCSqGSIb3DQEBAQUAA4GNADCBiQKBgQC5N3lnvvrYgPCRSoqn+awTpE+iGYcKBPpo8HHbcFfCIIV10Hwo4PhCoGZSaKVHOjDm4yefKXhQjM7iKzEPuBatE7O47hAx1CJpNuIdLxhILSbEmbMxJrJAG0HZVn8z6EAoOHZNaPHmK2h4UUrjOG8zA5BHfzJf7tGwI+K619fFUwIDAQAB" ; ----- DKIM key mail for example.com

Copy that key and add a TXT record to your domain’s DNS entries:

Name: mail._domainkey.example.com.


Please note that the DNS changes may take a couple of hours to propagate.

Restart Postfix and OpenDKIM:

sudo service postfix restart
sudo service opendkim restart

Congratulations! You have successfully configured DKIM for your mail server!

The configuration can be tested by sending an empty email to check-auth@verifier.port25.com and a reply will be received. If everything works correctly you should see DKIM check: pass under Summary of Results.

Summary of Results
SPF check:          pass
DomainKeys check:   neutral
DKIM check:         pass
Sender-ID check:    pass
SpamAssassin check: ham

Alternatively, you can send a message to a Gmail address that you control, view the received email’s headers in your Gmail inbox, dkim=pass should be present in the Authentication-Results header field.

Authentication-Results: mx.google.com;
       spf=pass (google.com: domain of contact@example.com designates --- as permitted sender) smtp.mail=contact@example.com;
       dkim=pass header.i=@example.com;

<div class=“author”>Submitted by: P. Sebastian</a></div>

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Developer and author at DigitalOcean.

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Was this helpful?

If Domainkey is neutural… Check your postfix version with command below

sudo postconf mail_version

If Postfix version higher than 2.6, set “milter_protocol” value 6 instead of 2.

milter_protocol = 6

And it is more easier to spam test from http://www.mail-tester.com/

Hope this helps anyone who has same issue with me.

I spent quite freaking several hours trying to make this thing work, DKIM test services all kept saying no such key, key not found bla bla bla.

Solution is: DO NOT add mail._domainkey.example.com TXT record, instead DO it this way - mail._domainkey

Yes, just mail._domainkey as record name.

That was it.

I am getting a Your DKIM signature is not valid error when testing my email with mail-tester Any ideas why?

Restarting OpenDKIM: No /usr/sbin/opendkim found running; none killed. opendkim: /etc/opendkim.conf: refile:/etc/opendkim/SigningTable: dkimf_db_open(): No such file or directory opendkim.

I am getting above error on sudo service opendkim restart. Please help!!!

in the digital ocean DNS records its wrong its not mail._domainkey.example.com.

it’s mail._domainkey.

I was gettin this error:

Result: permerror (key "mail._domainkey.mydomain.com" doesn't exist)

thank you for the tutorial, worked like a charm! :) anyway the check-auth@verifier.port25.com is still failing, but on gmail I got

Authentication-Results: mydomain.com; dkim=pass
	reason="1024-bit key; insecure key"
	header.d=eempo.net header.i=@mydomain.com header.b=J3sMKpms;
	dkim-adsp=pass; dkim-atps=neutral

Theres also a nice website to test the email: http://www.mail-tester.com/

Works like a charm! The only thing that’s really annoying is those example.com URLs… it would be so easy to add a simple JS (based on jQuery or whatever) that would give us the option of auto-replacing ALL occurrences of “example.com” on this page with whatever domain name we need to set and gone is the tedious step of “copy into text editor - edit - copy again”. I could volunteer to write such a thing if you want.

If my mail server is sub.domain.com, is it still safe to replace all example.com with sub.domain.com in the tutorial?

thanks for the excellent tutorial.

sudo opendkim-testkey -d your-domain.com -s default -vvv

use this check after running through this tutorial. ignore the key: not secure.

From the official OpenDKIM manpage:

ExternalIgnoreList (dataset)

Identifies a set of “external” hosts that may send mail through the server as one of the signing domains without credentials as such. This has the effect of suppressing the “external host (hostname) tried to send mail as (domain)” log messages. Entries in the data set should be of the same form as those of the PeerList option below. The set is empty by default.

InternalHosts (dataset)

Identifies a set internal hosts whose mail should be signed rather than verified. Entries in this data set follow the same form as those of the PeerList option below. If not specified, the default of “” is applied. Naturally, providing a value here overrides the default, so if mail from should be signed, the list provided here should include that address explicitly.

PeerList (dataset)

Identifies a set of “peers” that identifies clients whose connections should be accepted without processing by this filter. The set should contain on each line a hostname, domain name (e.g. “.example.com”), IP address, an IPv6 address (including an IPv4 mapped address), or a CIDR-style IP specification (e.g. “”). An entry beginning with a bang (“!”) character means “not”, allowing exclusions of specific hosts that are otherwise members of larger sets. Host and domain names are matched first, then the IP or IPv6 address depending on the connection type. More precise entries are preferred over less precise ones, i.e. “” will match before “!”. The text form of IPv6 addresses will be forced to lowercase when queried (RFC5952), so the contents of this data set should also use lowercase. The IP address portion of an entry may optionally contain square brackets; both forms (with and without) will be checked.

The official manpage indicates that the directions found in this and many other tutorials on OpenDKIM are flawed. The contents of the InternalHosts file should be more akin to postfix mynetworks. That is, IP addresses or IP ranges (CIDRs), not hostnames. The list should consist of hosts that may relay email through this host and, as it passes through, the relayed email is what gets digitally signed by this host. The contents of the ExternalIgnoreList file indicates hosts that may send on behalf of any of the domains in SigningTable without being logged in the log file. That is, ExternalIgnoreList just suppresses warnings in the log.

This perspective also makes more sense once you see that ExternalIgnoreList and InternalHosts causes OpenDKIM to fail to start when used with MySQL strings while KeyTable and SigningTable works just fine with MySQL strings. The ‘refile’ prefix seen in the tutorial probably doesn’t do anything.

TL;DR, your TrustedHosts file should, generally, only contain IP addresses:


The last lines are optional and obviously get replaced with real IP addresses associated with the droplet running OpenDKIM. Using ‘localhost’ in the 4th line lets the system resolver decide to use IPv4 or IPv6 for an exact IP match. OpenDKIM prioritizes exact IPs over inexact IPs for performance reasons.

The way the tutorial here is written makes it seem like your domain names should go into the TrustedHosts file. However, based on the manpage, that is most certainly not what is supposed to happen. Tutorials like these should be checked thoroughly for correctness, preferably by the developers of the software in question, before publishing them because they end up ranking highly on Google and spread misinformation. There are probably a bunch of poorly configured droplets and other servers out there where the person who set it up put domains into their TrustedHosts file because of this tutorial.

I always try to find a second, in-depth tutorial when doing stuff like this. That way I can spot the differences and pick the best options instead of just following along verbatim. I use MySQL with postfix + dovecot, so I have to adapt tutorials like these anyway.

The best DKIM tester is, IMO, mail-tester.com. They only let 3 emails through per 24 hour period for free but their service provides far more depth of reporting and analysis than the port25.com address does. Since the report is web-based, is also avoids mail routing issues with the return path + DKIM (e.g. an improperly configured DKIM setup might block the return message).