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The Require-Recipient-Valid-Since Header Field and SMTP Service Extension

The information below is for an old version of the document that is already published as an RFC.
Document Type
This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as RFC 7293.
Authors William Mills , Murray Kucherawy
Last updated 2018-12-20 (Latest revision 2014-04-19)
Replaces draft-wmills-rrvs-header-field
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Intended RFC status Proposed Standard
Additional resources Mailing list discussion
Stream WG state Submitted to IESG for Publication
Document shepherd J. Trent Adams
Shepherd write-up Show Last changed 2014-01-28
IESG IESG state Became RFC 7293 (Proposed Standard)
Action Holders
Consensus boilerplate Yes
Telechat date (None)
Responsible AD Barry Leiba
Send notices to (None)
IANA IANA review state Version Changed - Review Needed
IANA action state RFC-Ed-Ack
Network Working Group                                           W. Mills
Internet-Draft                                               Yahoo! Inc.
Intended status: Standards Track                            M. Kucherawy
Expires: October 21, 2014                                 Facebook, Inc.
                                                          April 19, 2014

    The Require-Recipient-Valid-Since Header Field and SMTP Service


   This document defines an extension for the Simple Mail Transfer
   Protocol called RRVS, to provide a method for senders to indicate to
   receivers a point in time when the the ownership of the target
   mailbox was known to the sender.  This can be used to detect changes
   of mailbox ownership, and thus prevent mail from being delivered to
   the wrong party.  This document also defines a header field called
   Require-Recipient-Valid-Since that can be used to tunnel the request
   through servers that do not support the extension.

   The intended use of these facilities is on automatically generated
   messages, such as account statements or password change instructions,
   that might contain sensitive information, though it may also be
   useful in other applications.

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on October 21, 2014.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2014 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

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   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4
   2.  Definitions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4
   3.  Description  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
     3.1.  The 'RRVS' SMTP Extension  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
     3.2.  The 'Require-Recipient-Valid-Since' Header Field . . . . .  6
     3.3.  Timestamps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
   4.  Use By Generators  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
   5.  Handling By Receivers  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
     5.1.  SMTP Extension Used  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8
       5.1.1.  Relays . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
     5.2.  Header Field Used  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
       5.2.1.  Design Choices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
     5.3.  Clock Synchronization  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
   6.  Relaying Without RRVS Support  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
     6.1.  Header Field Conversion  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
   7.  Header Field with Multiple Recipients  . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
   8.  Special Use Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
     8.1.  Mailing Lists  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
     8.2.  Single-Recipient Aliases . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
     8.3.  Multiple-Recipient Aliases . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
     8.4.  Confidential Forwarding Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
     8.5.  Suggested Mailing List Enhancements  . . . . . . . . . . . 15
   9.  Continuous Ownership . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
   10. Digital Signatures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
   11. Authentication-Results Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
   12. Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
     12.1. SMTP Extension Example . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
     12.2. Header Field Example . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
     12.3. Authentication-Results Example . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
   13. Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
     13.1. Abuse Countermeasures  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
     13.2. Suggested Use Restrictions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
     13.3. False Sense of Security  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
     13.4. Reassignment of Mailboxes  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
   14. Privacy Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
     14.1. The Trade-Off  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

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     14.2. Probing Attacks  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
     14.3. Envelope Recipients  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
     14.4. Risks with Use . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
   15. IANA Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
     15.1. SMTP Extension Registration  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
     15.2. Header Field Registration  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
     15.3. Enhanced Status Code Registration  . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
     15.4. Authentication Results Registration  . . . . . . . . . . . 22
   16. References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
     16.1. Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
     16.2. Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
   Appendix A.  Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

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1.  Introduction

   Email addresses sometimes get reassigned to a different person.  For
   example, employment changes at a company can cause an address used
   for an ex-employee to be assigned to a new employee, or a mail
   service provider (MSP) might expire an account and then let someone
   else register for the local-part that was previously used.  Those who
   sent mail to the previous owner of an address might not know that it
   has been reassigned.  This can lead to the sending of email to the
   correct address, but the wrong recipient.  This situation is of
   particular concern with transactional mail related to purchases,
   online accounts, and the like.

   What is needed is a way to indicate an attribute of the recipient
   that will distinguish between the previous owner of an address and
   its current owner, if they are different.  Further, this needs to be
   done in a way that respects privacy.

   The mechanisms specified here allow the sender of the mail to
   indicate how "old" the address assignment is expected to be.  In
   effect, the sender is saying, "I know that the intended recipient was
   using this address at this point in time.  I don't want this message
   delivered to anyone else" A receiving system can then compare this
   information against the point in time at which the address was
   assigned to its current user.  If the assignment was made later than
   the point in time indicated in the message, there is a good chance
   the current user of the address is not the correct recipient.  The
   receiving system can then prevent delivery and, preferably, notify
   the original sender of the problem.

   The primary application is transactional mail (such as account
   information, password change requests, and other automatically
   generated messages) rather than user-authored content.  However, it
   may be useful in other contexts; for example, a personal address book
   could record the time an email address was added to it, and thus use
   that time with this extension.

   Because the use cases for this extension are strongly tied to privacy
   issues, attention to the Security Considerations (Section 13) and the
   Privacy Considerations (Section 14), is particularly important.
   Note, especially, the limitation described in Section 13.3.

2.  Definitions

   For a description of the email architecture, consult [EMAIL-ARCH].

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",

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   document are to be interpreted as described in [KEYWORDS].

3.  Description

   To address the problem described in Section 1, a mail sending client
   (usually an automated agent) needs to indicate to the server to which
   it is connecting that it expects the destination address of the
   message to have been under continuous ownership (see Section 9) since
   a specified point time.  That specified time would be the time when
   the intended recipient gave the address to the message author, or
   perhaps a more recent time when the intended recipient reconfirmed
   ownership of the address with the sender.

   Two mechanisms are defined here: an extension to the Simple Mail
   Transfer Protocol [SMTP] and a new message header field.  The SMTP
   extension permits strong assurance of enforcement by confirming
   support at each handling step for a message, and the option to demand
   support at all nodes in the handling path of the message (and
   returning of the message to the originator otherwise).  The header
   field can be used when the Message Delivery Agent (MDA) supports this
   function, but an intermediary system between the sending system and
   the MDA does not.  However, the header field does not provide the
   same strong assurance described above, and is more prone to exposure
   of private information (see Section 14.1).

   The SMTP extension is called "RRVS" (Require Recipient Valid Since),
   and adds a parameter to the SMTP "RCPT" command that indicates the
   most recent point in time when the message author believed the
   destination mailbox to be under the continuous ownership of a
   specific party.  Similarly, the Require-Recipient-Valid-Since header
   field includes an intended recipient coupled with a timestamp
   indicating the same thing.

3.1.  The 'RRVS' SMTP Extension

   Extensions to SMTP are described in Section 2.2 of [SMTP].

   The name of the extension is "RRVS", an abbreviation of "Require
   Recipient Valid Since".  Servers implementing the SMTP extension
   advertise an additional EHLO keyword of "RRVS", which has no
   associated parameters, introduces no new SMTP commands, and does not
   alter the MAIL command.

   A Message Transfer Agent (MTA) implementing RRVS can transmit or
   accept one new parameter to the RCPT command.  An MDA can also accept
   this new parameter.  The parameter is "RRVS", and the value is a
   timestamp expressed as a "date-time" as defined in [DATETIME], with
   the added restriction that a "time-secfrac" MUST NOT be used.  The

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   timestamp MAY optionally be followed by a semi-colon character and a
   letter (known as the "no-support action") indicating the action to be
   taken when a downstream MTA is discovered that does not support the
   extension.  Valid actions are "R" (reject; the default) and "C"

   Formally, the new parameter and its value are defined as follows:

       rrvs-param = "RRVS=" date-time [ ";" ( "C" / "R" ) ]

   Accordingly, this extension increases the maximum command length for
   the RCPT command by 33 characters.

   The meaning of this extension, when used, is described in
   Section 5.1.

3.2.  The 'Require-Recipient-Valid-Since' Header Field

   The general constraints on syntax and placement of header fields in a
   message are defined in Internet Message Format [MAIL].

   Using Augmented Backus-Naur Form [ABNF], the syntax for the field is:

     rrvs = "Require-Recipient-Valid-Since:" addr-spec ";" date-time

   "date-time" is defined in Section 3.3, and "addr-spec" is defined in
   Section 3.4.1, of [MAIL].

3.3.  Timestamps

   The header field version of this protocol has a different format for
   the date and time expression than the SMTP extension does.  This is
   because message header fields use a format to express time and date
   that is specific to message header fields, and this is consistent
   with that usage.

   Use of both date and time is done to be consistent with how current
   implementations typically store the timestamp, and to make it easy to
   include the time zone.  In practice, granularity beyond the date may
   or may not be useful.

4.  Use By Generators

   When a message is generated whose content is sufficiently sensitive
   that an author or author's Administrative Management Domain (ADMD;
   see [EMAIL-ARCH]) wishes to protect against misdelivery using this
   protocol, it determines for each recipient mailbox on the message a

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   timestamp at which it last confirmed ownership of that mailbox.  It
   then applies the SMTP extension when sending the message to its

   In cases where the outgoing MTA does not support the extension, the
   header field defined above can be used to pass the request through
   that system.  However, use of the header field is only a "best-
   effort" approach to solving the stated goals, and it has some

   1.  The positive confirmation of support at each handling node, with
       the option to return the message to the originator when end-to-
       end support cannot be confirmed, will be unavailable;

   2.  The protocol is focused on affecting delivery (that is, the
       transaction) rather than on content, and therefore use of a
       header field in the content is generally inappropriate;

   3.  The mechanism cannot be used with multiple recipients without
       unintentionally exposing information about one recipient to the
       others (see Section 7; and

   4.  There is a risk of the timestamp parameter being inadvertently
       forwarded, automatically or intentionally by the user (since user
       agents might not reveal the presence of the header field), and
       therefore exposed to unintended recipients.  (See Section 14.4.)

   Thus, the header field format MUST NOT be used unless the originator
   or relay has specific knowledge that the receiving MDA or an
   intermediary MTA will apply it properly.  In any case, it SHOULD NOT
   be used for the multi-recipient case.

   Use of the header field mechanism is further restricted by the
   practices described in Section 7.2 of [SMTP], Section 3.6.3 of
   [MAIL], and Section 7 of this document.

5.  Handling By Receivers

   If a receiver implements this specification, then there are two
   possible evaluation paths:

   1.  The sending client uses the extension, and so there was an RRVS
       parameter on a RCPT TO command in the SMTP session and the
       parameters of interest are taken only from there (and the header
       field, if present, is disregarded); or

   2.  The sending client does not use the extension, so the RRVS
       parameter was not present on the RCPT TO commands in the SMTP

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       session, but the corresponding header field might be present in
       the message.

   When the continuous ownership test fails for transient reasons (such
   as an unavailable database or other condition that is likely
   temporary), normal transient failure handling for the message is

   If the continuous ownership test cannot be completed because the
   necessary datum (the mailbox creation or reassignment date/time) was
   not recorded, the MDA doing the evaluation selects a date and time to
   use that is the latest possible point in time at which the mailbox
   could have been created or reassigned.  For example, this might be
   the earliest of all recorded mailbox creation/reassignment
   timestamps, or the time when the host was first installed.  If no
   reasonable substitute for the timestamp can be selected, the MDA
   rejects the message using an SMTP reply code, preferably with an
   enhanced mail system status code (see Section 15.3), that indicates
   the test cannot be completed.  A message originator can then decide
   whether to reissue the message without RRVS protection, or find
   another way to reach the mailbox owner.

5.1.  SMTP Extension Used

   For an MTA supporting the SMTP extension, the requirement is to
   continue enforcement of RRVS during the relaying process to the next
   MTA or the MDA.

   A receiving MTA or MDA that implements the SMTP extension declared
   above and observes an RRVS parameter on a RCPT TO command checks
   whether the current owner of the destination mailbox has held it
   continuously, far enough back to include the given point in time, and
   delivers it unless that check returns in the negative.  Specifically,
   an MDA will do the following before continuing with delivery:

   1.  Ignore the parameter if the named mailbox is known to be a role
       account as listed in Mailbox Names For Common Services, Roles And
       Functions [ROLES].

   2.  If the address is not known to be a role account, and if that
       address has not been under continuous ownership since the
       timestamp specified in the extension, return a 550 error to the
       RCPT command.  (See also Section 15.3.)

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5.1.1.  Relays

   An MTA that does not make mailbox ownership checks, such as an MTA
   positioned to do SMTP ingress at an organizational boundary, SHOULD
   relay the RRVS extension parameter to the next MTA or MDA so that it
   can be processed there.

   For the SMTP extension, the optional RRVS parameter defined in
   Section 5.1 indicates the action to be taken when relaying a message
   to another MTA that does not advertise support for this extension.
   When this is the case and the no-support action was not specified or
   is "R" (reject), the MTA handling the message MUST reject the message

   1.  returning a 550 error to the DATA command, if synchronous service
       is being provided to the SMTP client that introduced the message;

   2.  generating a [DSN] to indicate to the originator of the message
       that the non-delivery occurred, and terminating further relay

   An enhanced mail system status code is defined for such rejections in
   Section 15.3.

   See Section 8.2 for additional discussion.

   When relaying, an MTA MUST preserve the no-support action if it was
   used by the SMTP client.

5.2.  Header Field Used

   A receiving system that implements this specification, upon receiving
   a message bearing a Require-Recipient-Valid-Since header field when
   no corresponding RRVS SMTP extension was used, checks whether the
   destination mailbox owner has held it continuously, far enough back
   to include the given date-time, and delivers it unless that check
   returns in the negative.  Expressed as a sequence of steps:

   1.  Extract those Require-Recipient-Valid-Since fields from the
       message that contain a recipient for which no corresponding RRVS
       SMTP extension was used.

   2.  Discard any such fields that match any of these criteria:

       *  are syntactically invalid;

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       *  name a role account as listed in [ROLES];

       *  the "addr-spec" portion does not match a current recipient, as
          listed in the RCPT TO commands in the SMTP session; or

       *  the "addr-spec" portion does not refer to a mailbox handled
          for local delivery by this ADMD.

   3.  For each field remaining, determine if the named address has been
       under continuous ownership since the corresponding timestamp.  If
       it has not, reject the message.

   4.  RECOMMENDED: If local delivery is being performed, remove all
       instances of this field prior to delivery to a mailbox; if the
       message is being forwarded, remove those instances of this header
       field that were not discarded by step 2 above.

   Handling proceeds normally upon completion of the above steps if
   rejection has not been performed.

   The final step is not mandatory as not all mail handling agents are
   capable of stripping away header fields, and there are sometimes
   reasons to keep the field intact such as debugging or presence of
   digital signatures that might be invalidated by such a change.  See
   Section 10 for additional discussion.

   If a message is to be rejected within the SMTP protocol itself
   (versus generating a rejection message separately), servers
   implementing this protocol SHOULD also implement the SMTP extension
   described in Enhanced Mail System Status Codes [ESC] and use the
   enhanced status codes described in Section 15.3 as appropriate.

   Implementation by this method is expected to be transparent to non-
   participants, since they would typically ignore this header field.

   This header field is not normally added to a message that is
   addressed to multiple recipients.  The intended use of this field
   involves an author seeking to protect transactional or otherwise
   sensitive data intended for a single recipient, and thus generating
   independent messages for each individual recipient is normal
   practice.  See Section 7 for further discussion and restrictions.

5.2.1.  Design Choices

   The presence of the address in the field content supports the case
   where a message bearing this header field is forwarded.  The specific
   use case is as follows:

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   1.  A user subscribes to a service "S" on date "D" and confirms an
       email address at the user's current location, "A";

   2.  At some later date, the user intends to leave the current
       location, and thus creates a new mailbox elsewhere, at "B";

   3.  The user configures address "A" to forward to "B";

   4.  "S" constructs a message to "A" claiming that address was valid
       at date "D" and sends it to "A";

   5.  The receiving MTA for "A" determines that the forwarding in
       effect was created by the same party that owned the mailbox
       there, and thus concludes the continuous ownership test has been

   6.  If possible, the MTA for "A" removes this header field from the
       message, and in either case, forwards it to "B";

   7.  On receipt at "B", either the header field has been removed, or
       the header field does not refer to a current envelope recipient,
       and in either case delivers the message.

   Section 8 discusses some interesting use cases, such as the case
   where "B" above results in further forwarding of the message.

   SMTP has never required any correspondence between addresses in the
   RFC5321.MailFrom and RFC5321.RcptTo parameters and header fields of a
   message, which is why the header field defined here contains the
   recipient address to which the timestamp applies.

5.3.  Clock Synchronization

   The timestamp portion of this specification supports a precision at
   the seconds level.  Although uncommon, it is not impossible for a
   clock at either a generator or a receiver to be incorrect, leading to
   an incorrect result in the RRVS evaluation.

   To minimize the risk of such incorrect results, both generators and
   receivers implementing this specification MUST use a standard clock
   synchronization protocol such as [NTP] to synchronize to a common

6.  Relaying Without RRVS Support

   When a message is received using the SMTP extension defined here but
   will not be delivered locally (that is, it needs to be relayed
   further), the MTA to which the relay will take place might not be

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   compliant with this specification.  Where the MTA in possession of
   the message observes it is going to relay the message to an MTA that
   does not advertise this extension, it needs to choose one of the
   following actions:

   1.  Decline to relay the message further, preferably generating a
       Delivery Status Notification [DSN] to indicate failure

   2.  Downgrade the data thus provided in the SMTP extension to a
       header field, as described in Section 6.1 below (SHOULD NOT
       unless the conditions in that section are satisfied, and only
       when the previous option is not available); or

   3.  Silently continue with delivery, dropping the protection offered
       by this protocol.

   Using other than the first option needs to be avoided unless there is
   specific knowledge that further relaying with the degraded
   protections thus provided does not introduce undue risk.

6.1.  Header Field Conversion

   If an SMTP server ("B") receives a message bearing one or more
   Require-Recipient-Valid-Since from a client ("A"), presumably because
   "A" does not support the SMTP extension, and needs to relay the
   corresponding message on to another server ("C") (thereby becoming a
   client), and "C" advertises support for the SMTP extension, "B"
   SHOULD delete the header field(s) and instead relay this information
   by making use of the SMTP extension.  Note that such modification of
   the header might affect later validation of the header upon delivery;
   for example, a hash of the modified header would produce a different
   result.  This might be a valid cause for some operators to skip this
   delete operation.

   Conversely, if "B" has received a mailbox timestamp from "A" using
   the SMTP extension for which it must now relay the message on to "C",
   but "C" does not advertise the SMTP extension, and "B" does not
   reject the message because rejection was specifically declined by the
   client (see Section 5.1.1), "B" SHOULD add a Require-Recipient-Valid-
   Since header field matching the mailbox to which relaying is being
   done, and the corresponding valid-since timestamp for it, if it has
   prior information that the eventual MDA or another intermediate MTA
   supports this mechanism and will be able to process the header field
   as described in this specification.

   The admonitions about very cautious use of the header field described
   in Section 4 apply to this relaying mechanism as well.  If multiple

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   mailbox timestamps are received from "A", the admonitions in
   Section 7 also apply.

7.  Header Field with Multiple Recipients

   Numerous issues arise when using the header field form of this
   extension, particularly when multiple recipients are specified for a
   single message resulting in multiple fields each with a distinct
   address and timestamp.

   Because of the nature of SMTP, a message bearing a multiplicity of
   Require-Recipient-Valid-Since header fields could result in a single
   delivery attempt for multiple recipients (in particular, if two of
   the recipients are handled by the same server), and if any one of
   them fails the test, the delivery fails to all of them; it then
   becomes necessary to do one of the following:

   o  reject the message on completion of the DATA phase of the SMTP
      session, which is a rejection of delivery to all recipients; or

   o  accept the message on completion of DATA, and then generate a
      Delivery Status Notification [DSN] message for each of the failed

   Additional complexity arises when a message is sent to two
   recipients, "A" and "B", presumably with different timestamps, both
   of which are then redirected to a common address "C".  The author is
   not necessarily aware of the current or past ownership of mailbox
   "C", or indeed that "A" and/or "B" have been redirected.  This might
   result in either or both of the two deliveries failing at "C", which
   is likely to confuse the message author, who (as far as the author is
   aware) never sent a message to "C" in the first place.

   Finally, there is an obvious concern with the fan-out of a message
   bearing the timestamps of multiple users; tight control over the
   handling of the timestamp information is very difficult to assure as
   the number of handling agents increases.

8.  Special Use Addresses

   In [DSN-SMTP], an SMTP extension was defined to allow SMTP clients to
   request generation of DSNs, and related information to allow such
   reports to be maximally useful.  Section 5.2.7 of that document
   explored the issue of the use of that extension where the recipient
   is a mailing list.  This extension has similar concerns which are
   covered here following that document as a model.

   For all cases described below, a receiving MTA SHOULD NOT introduce

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   RRVS in either form (SMTP extension or header field) if the message
   did not arrive with RRVS in use.  This would amount to second-
   guessing of the message originator's intention and might lead to an
   undesirable outcome.

8.1.  Mailing Lists

   Delivery to a mailing list service is considered a final delivery.
   Where this protocol is in use, it is evaluated as per any normal
   delivery: If the same mailing list has been operating in place of the
   specified recipient mailbox since at least the timestamp given as the
   RRVS parameter, the message is delivered to the list service
   normally, and is otherwise not delivered.

   It is important, however, that the participating MDA passing the
   message to the list service needs to omit the RRVS parameter in
   either form (SMTP extension or header field) when doing so.  The
   emission of a message from the list service to its subscribers
   constitutes a new message not covered by the previous transaction.

8.2.  Single-Recipient Aliases

   Upon delivery of an RRVS-protected message to an alias (acting in
   place of a mailbox) that results in relaying of the message to a
   single other destination, the usual RRVS check is performed.  The
   continuous ownership test here might succeed if, for example, a
   conventional user inbox was replaced with an alias on behalf of that
   same user, and the time when this was done is recorded in a way that
   can be queried by the relaying MTA.

   If the relaying system also performs some kind of step where
   ownership of the new destination address is confirmed, it SHOULD
   apply RRVS using the later of that timestamp and the one that was
   used inbound.  This also allows for changes to the alias without
   disrupting the protection offered by RRVS.

   If the relaying system has no such time records related to the new
   destination address, the RRVS SMTP extension is not used on the
   relaying SMTP session, and the header field relative to the local
   alias is removed, in accordance with Section 5.

8.3.  Multiple-Recipient Aliases

   Upon delivery of an RRVS-protected message to an alias (acting in
   place of a mailbox) that results in relaying of the message to
   multiple other destinations, the usual RRVS check is performed as in
   Section 8.2.  The MTA expanding such an alias then decides which of
   the options enumerated in that section is to be applied for each new

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8.4.  Confidential Forwarding Addresses

   In the above cases, the original author could receive message
   rejections, such as DSNs, from the ultimate destination, where the
   RRVS check (or indeed, any other) fails and rejection is warranted.
   This can reveal the existence of a forwarding relationship between
   the original intended recipient and the actual final recipient.

   Where this is a concern, the initial delivery attempt is to be
   treated like a mailing list delivery, with RRVS evaluation done and
   then all RRVS information removed from the message prior to relaying
   it to its true destination.

8.5.  Suggested Mailing List Enhancements

   Mailing list services could store the timestamp at which a subscriber
   was added to a mailing list.  This specification could then be used
   in conjunction with that information in order to restrict list
   traffic to the original subscriber, rather than a different person
   now in possession of an address under which the original subscriber
   was added to the list.  Upon receiving a rejection caused by this
   specification, the list service can remove that address from further

   A mailing list service that receives a message containing the header
   field defined here needs to remove it from the message prior to
   redistributing it, limiting exposure of information regarding the
   relationship between the message's author and the mailing list.

9.  Continuous Ownership

   For the purposes of this specification, an address is defined as
   having been under continuous ownership since a given date-time if a
   message sent to the address at any point since the given date would
   not go to anyone except the owner at that given date-time.  That is,
   while an address may have been suspended or otherwise disabled for
   some period, any mail actually delivered would have been delivered
   exclusively to the same owner.  It is presumed that some sort of
   relationship exists between the message sender and the intended
   recipient.  Presumably there has been some confirmation process
   applied to establish this ownership of the receiver's mailbox;
   however, the method of making such determinations is a local matter
   and outside the scope of this document.

   Evaluating the notion of continuous ownership is accomplished by
   doing any query that establishes whether the above condition holds

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   for a given mailbox.

   Determining continuous ownership of a mailbox is a local matter at
   the receiving site.  The only possible answers to the continuous-
   ownership-since question are "yes", "no", and "unknown"; the action
   to be taken in the "unknown" case is a matter of local policy.

   For example, when control of a domain name is transferred, the new
   domain owner might be unable to determine whether the owner of the
   subject address has been under continuous ownership since the stated
   date if the mailbox history is not also transferred (or was not
   previously maintained).  It will also be "unknown" if whatever
   database contains mailbox ownership data is temporarily unavailable
   at the time a message arrives for delivery.  In this latter case,
   typical SMTP temporary failure handling is appropriate.

   To avoid exposing account details unnecessarily, if the address
   specified has had one continuous owner since it was created, any
   confirmation date SHOULD be considered to pass the test, even if that
   date is earlier than the account creation date.  This is further
   discussed in Section 13.

10.  Digital Signatures

   This protocol mandates removal of the header field (when used) upon
   delivery in all but exceptional circumstances.  If a message with the
   header field were digitally signed in a way that included the header
   field, altering a message in this way would invalidate the signature.
   However, the header field is strictly for tunneling purposes and
   should be regarded by the rest of the transport system as purely
   trace information.

   Accordingly, the header field MUST NOT be included in the content
   covered by digital signatures.

11.  Authentication-Results Definitions

   [AUTHRES] defines a mechanism for indicating, via a header field, the
   results of message authentication checks.  Section 15 registers RRVS
   as a new method that can be reported in this way, and corresponding
   result names.  The possible result names and their meanings are as

   none:  The message had no recipient mailbox timestamp associated with
      it, either via the SMTP extension or header field method; this
      protocol was not in use.

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   unknown:  At least one form of this protocol was in use, but
      continuous ownership of the recipient mailbox could not be

   temperror:  At least one form of this protocol was in use, but some
      kind of error occurred during evaluation that was transient in
      nature; a later retry will likely produce a final result.

   permerror:  At least one form of this protocol was in use, but some
      kind of error occurred during evaluation that was not recoverable;
      a later retry will not likely produce a final result.

   pass:  At least one form of this protocol was in use, and the
      destination mailbox was confirmed to have been under continuous
      ownership since the timestamp thus provided.

   fail:  At least one form of this protocol was in use, and the
      destination mailbox was confirmed not to have been under
      continuous ownership since the timestamp thus provided.

   Where multiple recipients are present on a message, multiple results
   can be reported using the mechanism described in [AUTHRES].

12.  Examples

   In the following examples, "C:" indicates data sent by an SMTP
   client, and "S:" indicates responses by the SMTP server.  Message
   content is CRLF terminated, though these are omitted here for ease of

12.1.  SMTP Extension Example

     C: [connection established]
     S: 220 ESMTP ready
     C: EHLO
     S: 250 RRVS
     C: MAIL FROM:<>
     S: 250 OK
     C: RCPT TO:<> RRVS=2014-04-03T23:01:00Z
     S: 550 5.7.17 is no longer valid
     C: QUIT
     S: 221 So long!

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12.2.  Header Field Example

     C: [connection established]
     S: 220 ESMTP ready
     C: HELO
     S: 250
     C: MAIL FROM:<>
     S: 250 OK
     C: RCPT TO:<>
     S: 250 OK
     C: DATA
     S: 354 Ready for message content
     C: From: Mister Sender <>
        To: Miss Receiver <>
        Subject: Are you still there?
        Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2013 18:01:01 +0200
          Sat, 1 Jun 2013 09:23:01 -0700

        Are you still there?
     S: 550 5.7.17 is no longer valid
     C: QUIT
     S: 221 So long!

12.3.  Authentication-Results Example

   An example use of the Authentication-Results header field used to
   yield the results of an RRVS evaluation:

     Authentication-Results:; rrvs=pass

   This indicates that the message arrived addressed to the mailbox, the continuous ownership test was applied with the
   provided timestamp, and the check revealed that test was satisfied.
   The timestamp is not revealed.

13.  Security Considerations

13.1.  Abuse Countermeasures

   The response of a server implementing this protocol can disclose
   information about the age of an existing email mailbox.
   Implementation of countermeasures against probing attacks is
   RECOMMENDED.  For example, an operator could track appearance of this
   field with respect to a particular mailbox and observe the timestamps

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   being submitted for testing; if it appears a variety of timestamps is
   being tried against a single mailbox in short order, the field could
   be ignored and the message silently discarded.  This concern is
   discussed further in Section 14.

13.2.  Suggested Use Restrictions

   If the mailbox named in the field is known to have had only a single
   continuous owner since creation, or not to have existed at all (under
   any owner) prior to the date specified in the field, then the field
   SHOULD be silently ignored and normal message handling applied so
   that this information is not disclosed.  Such fields are likely the
   product of either gross error or an attack.

   A message author using this specification might restrict inclusion of
   the header field such that it is only done for recipients known also
   to implement this specification, in order to reduce the possibility
   of revealing information about the relationship between the author
   and the mailbox.

   If ownership of an entire domain is transferred, the new owner may
   not know what addresses were assigned in the past by the prior owner.
   Hence, no address can be known not to have had a single owner, or to
   have existed (or not) at all.  In this case, the "unknown" result is
   likely appropriate.

13.3.  False Sense of Security

   Senders implementing this protocol likely believe their content is
   being protected by doing so.  It has to be considered, however, that
   receiving systems might not implement this protocol correctly, or at
   all.  Furthermore, use of RRVS by a sending system constitutes
   nothing more than a request to the receiving system; that system
   could choose not to prevent delivery for some local policy, legal or
   operational reason, which compromises the security the sending system
   believed was a benefit to using RRVS.  This could mean the timestamp
   information involved in the protocol becomes inadvertently revealed.

   This concern lends further support to the notion that senders would
   do well to avoid using this protocol other than when sending to
   known, trusted receivers.

13.4.  Reassignment of Mailboxes

   This specification is a direct response to the risks involved with
   reassignment or recycling of email addresses, an inherently dangerous
   practice.  It is typically expected that email addresses will not
   have a high rate of turnover or ownership change.

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   It is RECOMMENDED to have a substantial period of time between
   mailbox owners during which the mailbox accepts no mail, giving
   message generators an opportunity to detect that the previous owner
   is no longer at that address.

14.  Privacy Considerations

14.1.  The Trade-Off

   That some MSPs allow for expiration of account names when they have
   been unused for a protracted period forces a choice between two
   potential types of privacy vulnerabilities, one of which presents
   significantly greater threats to users than the other.  Automatically
   generated mail is often used to convey authentication credentials
   that can potentially provide access to extremely sensitive
   information.  Supplying such credentials to the wrong party after a
   mailbox ownership change could allow the previous owner's data to be
   exposed without his or her authorization or knowledge.  In contrast,
   the information that may be exposed to a third party via the proposal
   in this document is limited to information about the mailbox history.
   Given that MSPs have chosen to allow transfers of mailbox ownership
   without the prior owner's involvement, the information leakage from
   the extensions specified here creates far lower overall risk than the
   potential for delivering mail to the wrong party.

14.2.  Probing Attacks

   As described above, use of this extension or header field in probing
   attacks can disclose information about the history of the mailbox.
   The harm that can be done by leaking any kind of private information
   is difficult to predict, so it is prudent to be sensitive to this
   sort of disclosure, either inadvertently or in response to probing by
   an attacker.  It bears restating, then, that implementing
   countermeasures to abuse of this capability needs strong

14.3.  Envelope Recipients

   The email To and Cc header fields are not required to be populated
   with addresses that match the envelope recipient set, and Cc may even
   be absent.  However, the algorithm in Section 3 requires that this
   header field contain a match for an envelope recipient in order to be
   actionable.  As such, use of this specification can reveal some or
   all of the original intended recipient set to any party that can see
   the message in transit or upon delivery.

   For a message destined to a single recipient, this is unlikely to be
   a concern, which is one of the reasons use of this specification on

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   multi-recipient messages is discouraged.

14.4.  Risks with Use

   MDAs might not implement the recommendation to remove the header
   field defined here when messages are delivered, either out of
   ignorance or due to error.  Since user agents often do not render all
   of the header fields present, the message could be forwarded to
   another party that would then inadvertently have the content of this
   header field.

   A bad actor may detect use of either form of the RRVS protocol and
   interpret it as an indication of high value content.

15.  IANA Considerations

15.1.  SMTP Extension Registration

   Section 2.2.2 of [MAIL] sets out the procedure for registering a new
   SMTP extension.  IANA is requested to register the SMTP extension
   using the details provided in Section 3.1 of this document.

15.2.  Header Field Registration

   IANA is requested to add the following entry to the Permanent Message
   Header Field Names registry, as per the procedure found in

     Header field name: Require-Recipient-Valid-Since
     Applicable protocol: mail ([MAIL])
     Status: Standard
     Author/Change controller: IETF
     Specification document(s): [this document]
     Related information:
       Requesting review of any proposed changes and additions to
       this field is recommended.

15.3.  Enhanced Status Code Registration

   IANA is requested to register the following in the Enumerated Status
   Codes table of the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) Enhanced
   Status Codes Registry:

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      Code:               X.7.17
      Sample Text:        Mailbox owner has changed
      Associated basic status code:  5XX
      Description:        This status code is returned when a message is
                          received with a Require-Recipient-Valid-Since
                          field or RRVS extension and the receiving
                          system is able to determine that the intended
                          recipient mailbox has not been under
                          continuous ownership since the specified date.
      Reference:          [this document]
      Submitter:          M. Kucherawy
      Change controller:  IESG

      Code:               X.7.18
      Sample Text:        Domain owner has changed
      Associated basic status code:  5XX
      Description:        This status code is returned when a message is
                          received with a Require-Recipient-Valid-Since
                          field or RRVS extension and the receiving
                          system wishes to disclose that the owner of
                          the domain name of the recipient has changed
                          since the specified date.
      Reference:          [this document]
      Submitter:          M. Kucherawy
      Change controller:  IESG

      Code:               X.7.19
      Sample Text:        RRVS test cannot be completed
      Associated basic status code:  5XX
      Description:        This status code is returned when a message is
                          received with a Require-Recipient-Valid-Since
                          field or RRVS extension and the receiving
                          system cannot complete the requested
                          evaluation because the required timestamp was
                          not recorded.  The message originator needs to
                          decide whether to reissue the message without
                          RRVS protection.
      Reference:          [this document]
      Submitter:          M. Kucherawy
      Change controller:  IESG

15.4.  Authentication Results Registration

   IANA is requested to register the following in the "Email
   Authentication Methods" Registry:

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   Method:  rrvs

   Specifying Document:  [this document]

   ptype:  smtp

   Property:  rcptto

   Value:  envelope recipient

   Status:  active

   Version:  1

   IANA is also requested to register the following in the "Email
   Authentication Result Names" Registry:

   Codes:  none, unknown, temperror, permerror, pass, fail

   Defined:  [this document]

   Auth Method(s):  rrvs

   Meaning:  Section 11 of [this document]

   Status:  active

16.  References

16.1.  Normative References

   [ABNF]          Crocker, D., Ed. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for
                   Syntax Specifications: ABNF", RFC 5234, January 2008.

   [DATETIME]      Klyne, G. and C. Newman, "Date and Time on the
                   Internet: Timestamps", RFC 3339, July 2002.

   [IANA-HEADERS]  Klyne, G., Nottingham, M., and J. Mogul,
                   "Registration Procedures for Message Header Fields",
                   BCP 90, RFC 3864, September 2004.

   [KEYWORDS]      Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
                   Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

   [MAIL]          Resnick, P., "Internet Message Format", RFC 5322,
                   October 2008.

   [NTP]           Mills, D., Martin, J., Ed., Burbank, J., and W.

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                   Kasch, "Network Time Protocol Version 4: Protocol and
                   Algorithms Specification", RFC 5905, June 2010.

   [ROLES]         Crocker, D., "Mailbox Names For Common Services,
                   Roles And Functions", RFC 2142, May 1997.

   [SMTP]          Klensin, J., "Simple Mail Transfer Protocol",
                   RFC 5321, October 2008.

16.2.  Informative References

   [AUTHRES]       Kucherawy, M., "Message Header Field for Indicating
                   Message Authentication Status", RFC 7001,
                   September 2013.

   [DSN]           Moore, K. and G. Vaudreuil, "An Extensible Message
                   Format for Delivery Status Notifications", RFC 3464,
                   January 2003.

   [DSN-SMTP]      Moore, K., "Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)
                   Service Extension for Delivery Status Notifications
                   (DSNs)", RFC 3461, January 2003.

   [EMAIL-ARCH]    Crocker, D., "Internet Mail Architecture", RFC 5598,
                   July 2009.

   [ESC]           Vaudreuil, G., "Enhanced Mail System Status Codes",
                   RFC 3463, January 2003.

Appendix A.  Acknowledgments

   Erling Ellingsen proposed the idea.

   Reviews and comments were provided by Michael Adkins, Kurt Andersen,
   Eric Burger, Alissa Cooper, Dave Cridland, Dave Crocker, Ned Freed,
   John Levine, Alexey Melnikov, Jay Nancarrow, Hector Santos, Gregg
   Stefancik, Ed Zayas, (others)

Authors' Addresses

   William J. Mills
   Yahoo! Inc.


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   Murray S. Kucherawy
   Facebook, Inc.
   1 Hacker Way
   Menlo Park, CA  94025


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