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Subject: APAS Anonymous Remailer Use [FAQ 4/8]: Remailer Details
This article was archived around: 2 Jun 2003 19:00:17 GMT
Posted-By: auto-faq 3.3 (Perl 5.004)
Changes: 1.16 2001/11/29 14:58:31
A list of the recent changes to the FAQ list will appear
A how-to-find-the-FAQ article appears every Wednesday.
Subject: APAS Anonymous Remailer Use [FAQ 4/8]: Remailer Details
This is the fourth of eight parts of a list of frequently-asked
questions and their answers regarding anonymous remailer use. This
part answers more questions about remailers.
This FAQ is provided "as is" without any express or implied
warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy
of the information contained in these message digests, the maintainer
assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages
resulting from the use of the information contained herein. This FAQ
is provided for information only; reference to a Web page does not
constitute endorsement of that page's content.
The following topics are in this FAQ:
1: [FAQ 4.1] Which remailers are good? Reliable? Secure?
2: [FAQ 4.2] How can I find more information about a remailer?
3: [FAQ 4.3] What is chaining? And what is a middleman?
4: [FAQ 4.4] Won't the first remailer in the chain know who I am?
5: [FAQ 4.5] Can't the last remailer's remop read my message?
6: [FAQ 4.6] How do I chain cypherpunk remailers?
7: [FAQ 4.7] Can I use mail2news gateways to post anonymously?
8: [FAQ 4.8] How do I know which newsgroups a gateway carries?
9: [FAQ 4.9] What's different about mail2news_nospam vs mail2news?
10: [FAQ 4.10] When replying to a message, how do I thread my post?
11: [FAQ 4.11] Which remailers permit my own "From:" header?
12: [FAQ 4.12] Where do I find public SMTP servers (open relays)?
Subject: [FAQ 4.1] Which remailers are good? Reliable? Secure?
The "good" and "reliable" remailers are the ones that work for you and
have the feature set you need or want. The "secure" remailers are the
ones operated by those who do not monitor the traffic passing through
them AND have good security policies in place on their networks and
machinery to prevent their remailer from being penetrated by
unauthorized parties and subsequently compromised.
Since you can never know for yourself how "secure" any one individual
remailer is, you should always use encrypted chains of remailers (see
#4.3) to send your messages. So long as all the remailers in your
chain have not been compromised or their operators are not cooperating
amongst themselves, then your traffic will be reasonably secure.
Advanced topics relating to traffic analysis of the remailer network
that may allow adversaries to deduce the source and destination of
individual messages is, for now, beyond the scope of this FAQ.
However, it is almost certain that these activities do take place to
some degree. It is for this reason that you we have advanced remailer
protocols such as Mixmaster, and proposals for other up-and-coming
network scenarios (like WOF <http://www.bigfoot.com/~potatoware/wof/>,
RadioClash <http://piratech.net/radioclash/>, Publius
<http://freenet.sourceforge.net/>) to reduce the effectiveness of
Subject: [FAQ 4.2] How can I find more information about a remailer?
Send a blank email to the remailer address with "remailer-conf" (no
quotes) as the subject line. In addition to this you can also send a
blank email with "remailer-help" (no quotes) as the subject. Visit the
remailer's Web page if one exists. And pay attention to APAS for any
announcements or policy changes from the remailer's operator.
Subject: [FAQ 4.3] What is chaining? And what is a middleman?
Before chaining one's messages one must have an understanding of
middleman remailers. A middleman remailer ("middle" in its cap
string) is one that always adds another hop to any message that is not
already en route to another remailer. Example: If you send a message
to recipient <email@example.com> through middleman remailer
Georgia Cracker <firstname.lastname@example.org>), Gacracker will send it to
say, <email@example.com>, with instructions to deliver to
This behavior demonstrates what is known as smart middleman. All
Reliable <http://www.bigfoot.com/~potatoware/reli/> remailers that are
running in middleman mode are smart.Check the remailer-conf file to be
certain just what kind of middleman behavior to expect. Now, back to
Chaining is using more than one remailer to send your encrypted
message. Basically, you send a message to remailer A with instructions
to send it to remailer B, which in turn finds instructions to send it
to remailer C, and so on, until the final recipient receives the
message. The intention is to obfuscate the origin of the email and/or
(with the help of encryption) the content of the message body. At any
given point on it's route, such a message will reveal only where it
came from and where it is going. If the message was not chained (only
one remailer was used) then that remailer operator or a successful
traffic analyst can know the true source AND destination of the
message. Not good.
Subject: [FAQ 4.4] Won't the first remailer in the chain know who I am?
Well, yes. He knows as much about you as can be revealed from your
email headers, i.e. the original source of the message. But if your
message is chained (as described above) to another remailer AND
ENCRYPTED with that remailer's key, then the first remailer (and
anyone snooping his traffic) cannot read your message. All they will
see is an encrypted message (with no subject line) that is heading to
some other remailer. Since your message must enter the remailer
network somewhere, that first remailer operator can always know where
the message is really coming from. It is for this reason that chained
messages should always be encrypted and not sent in the clear through
remailers that will accept clear text messages (Noisebox Remailer or
Xganon for example).
There is absolutely no security in sending an unencrypted chained
remailer message. Using remailers without encryption (whether it's PGP
or Mixmaster) is like a police officer choosing to leave his
bullet-proof vest at home in his closet!
Subject: [FAQ 4.5] Can't the last remailer's remop read my message?
Absolutely, if he wanted to. But all he knows is the message contents,
where it is going, and the fact he got the message from another
remailer. He will not know the original source of the message. If that
is more than you want to reveal than you need to encrypt to your final
recipient instead of sending a plain text correspondence. Of course,
this isn't always feasible. The final recipient would need to have PGP
on his computer, you would have to exchange public keys or a
conventional password beforehand. It's really up to you the user to
decide just how much security you require for a particular message and
take the necessary precautions.
Date: 8 Aug 2001 14:32:06 -0000
From: Doc.Cypher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [FAQ 4.6] How do I chain cypherpunk remailers?
Summary: Encrypt each Anon-To within the previous remailer's message.
[For a step-by-step explanation of remailing with cypherpunk
remailers, see FAQ 3.3. For an explanation of chaining, see the post
below, or follow John Hull's example:
An explanation is also in the help file from almost any remailer
(under the heading "REMAIL REQUEST: CYPHERPUNK CHAIN" for most
Reliable remailers). Send a blank email message to a remailer with
"remailer-help" (without the quotes) as the subject, or see Frog's
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
On Wed, 8 Aug 2001, Anonymous <email@example.com> wrote:
>Now I want to use a chain of remailers? How do I do this? I'm
>guessing I should somehow encrypt the message using all the keys of
>the remailers in the chain? And if I send the message to the first
>remailer in the chain, how do I let that remailer know to send it to
>the next one? If someone could either tell me how to do this, or
>direct me toward an information source explaining this, I'd
Chaining messages is achieved by repeating the encryption steps.
Taken as an example, chaining through two remailers thus,
You -> A -> B -> Recipient
You start off with your message and prefix with
Subject: <some text>
You then encrypt this with the key of the remailer B, and prefix it with
You take this and encrypt it with the key of remailer A, and prefix with
and now send it to remailer A.
What happens then is that remailer A takes the message, decodes it, and
sends it to remailer B. Remailer B decodes it and sends it to the
The bigger the humbug, the better people will like it.
~ Phineas Taylor Barnum. http://vmsbox.cjb.net
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
Date: 05 August 2001 12:00 Z
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Computer Cryptology)
Subject: [FAQ 4.7] Can I use mail2news gateways to post anonymously?
Summary: M2N gateways forward email messages to Usenet postings.
Although they are not anonymous remailers, mail-to-news (mail2news or
M2N) gateways are an important part of the remailer network. They
forward email messages to Usenet, permitting posting of messages or
(in some cases) binaries to certain newsgroups. (See FAQ 4.8 for
instructions on determining which newsgroups are available.)
Be warned that these gateways by themselves do not make messages
anonymous. Their administrators *will* keep logs. It is the
remailers that strip off the identifying information from your
message, *not* the M2N gateway. The gateway only delivers to a
newsgroup. See the official help file M2N gateways by sending a blank
email to <email@example.com> with the subject "help" (no
quotes). It is when you use an anonymous remailer in combination with
a mail-to-news gateway that anonymous newsgroup posts are possible.
There are actually two methods of posting anonymously to Usenet: via
an "Anon-Post-To:" directive or via an "Anon-To:" directive. Note
that in most cases remailers with "post" in their cap strings actually
forward to a M2N gateway rather than posting via NNTP, so these
methods are often equivalent.
Below is a template for the first method. Send the following email
message to a remailer that supports anonymous newsgroup posting
("post" in the cap string).
Subject: This is a boring test
Start your message here.
Below is a template for the second method. Send the following email
message to a Cypherpunk remailer ("cpunk" in the cap string).
Anon-To: firstname.lastname@example.org (or any other mail2news gateway)
Subject: Is Gretchen Down?
X-No-Archive: yes (this line is optional)
Start your message here.
Both of these methods will work. Pay attention to the cap strings.
Many remailers are PGP-only ('pgponly" in the cap strings). So before
sending to those remailers you will have to encrypt the above with the
remailer's pgp key.
Here are some other mail2news gateways you can use:
See FAQ 4.8 for an explanation of the significance of the "nospam"
*Note that <email@example.com> is an alias for
<firstname.lastname@example.org>. The preferred address is
See this Web-Based Mail2News Interface <http://forward.to/mail2news>
for a quick-and-dirty way to post anon to Usenet. See also
<https://ssl.dizum.com/help/mail2news.html> for help with Dizum's
mail2news gateway (formerly known as <email@example.com>).
Subject: [FAQ 4.8] How do I know which newsgroups a gateway carries?
To receive a list of all newsgroups send mail to
<firstname.lastname@example.org> with Subject "groups" (no quotes).
Same method as above. Or you can finger <email@example.com>
for a full listing of groups.
It offers the same capability. Unfortunately, the last time I checked
the list of groups it sends back is incomplete and inacurate. It's
safe to assume, however, that like the other two gateways Dizum
supports between 10,000-25,000 newsgroups from all the major
You can also include an egrep-style regular expression on the subject
line. For instance,
Subject: list comp\.unix
would list only newsgroups whose names begin "comp.unix".
Subject: list .*linux
would list all newsgroups whose names contain the substring "linux".
Subject: list alt.*(security|privacy)
would list all newsgroups beginning "alt" and containing either the
word "security" or the word "privacy".
Subject: list .*\.test$
would list all newsgroups ending ".test".
Date: 9 Mar 2001 19:10:43 -0000
From: Redbird <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [FAQ 4.9] What's different about mail2news_nospam vs mail2news?
Summary: No-spam gateways change headers to hinder address collection.
[edited by email@example.com (Computer Cryptology)]
On Fri, 9 Mar 2001, Nomen Nescio <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> What's the difference between these two?:
> email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
The first is the no-spam variant of the same mail2news gateway.
How does the no-spam variant work?
The address of my nym account is email@example.com. If I
had addressed my send request for this message to
firstname.lastname@example.org, my nym account address would have appeared
in the From header. An address collector would be able to find it
easily, and I might end up receiving spam e-mail.
Instead I've addressed my send request to the no-spam variant,
email@example.com, and my message should include the
following From header:
From: Redbird <Use-Author-Address-Header@[127.1]>
This header is added by the mail2news gateway. The following portion
of it is standard: <Use-Author-Address-Header@[127.1]>. And it
instructs the person reading it to use the Author-Address header (see
below). The only thing that will vary is the name preceding it, and
this is determined by whatever precedes the @ in the real nym account
address. For example, if the real nym account address were
firstname.lastname@example.org, the From header would read as follows:
From: Ruth <Use-Author-Address-Header@[127.1]>
My message should also include the following "Author-Address" header:
Author-Address: Redbird <AT> nym <DOT> alias <DOT> net
This header is also added by the mail2news gateway and is the means by
which it provides my real address to anyone who might wish to reply to
this message by e-mail.
There are no-spam variants for all three mail2news gateways:
Subject: [FAQ 4.10] When replying to a message, how do I thread my post?
There are two ways to thread your messages into a discussion. You can
do it manually, or take advantage of features in JBN to automate the
process. I'll explain the hard way first...
* In JBN, open your book which you intend to post with.
* Enter "Re: Remailers Suck!" (or whatever the relevant subject is)
into the "Subject: " field.
* Find the message you want to followup and copy the message ID.
(example <email@example.com> )
Take this and put "References: <msg-id>" in the additional headers box
under the subject.
* Copy bits you want to keep from the original message, you can paste
these into the book by right-clicking and selecting "Paste As
* Don't forget the "Newsgroups:" header! :)
You should be able to manage this easily provided you can get the
message ID out of your newsreader.
Now, the easy way involves getting the entire message **and headers**
into the clipboard. This is the part that depends on which newsreader
you use. With XNews, for example, make sure all headers are displayed
within the message and then right-click and select "Copy All".
With the entire message (and most importantly the headers) on the
clipboard, select the book you will use to construct a reply, select
"Follow-Up Clipboard (Ctrl-U)" from the "Message" drop-down menu. You
can then quote the entire message and edit as appropriate. It is
really simple once you've managed it a couple of times.
One point to watch out for! If replying to a message in a long thread,
you may want to trim excess References elements from the
headers. Remailers (esp those that use Mixmaster software) don't take
kindly to long headers or badly wrapped headers.
Summary: All you really need is the message ID of the post you are
Date: 16 August 2001 12:00 Z
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Computer Cryptology)
Subject: [FAQ 4.11] Which remailers permit my own "From:" header?
Summary: Only a few remailers permit custom "From:" headers.
[Thanks are due to Boris 'pi' Piwinger for reports, Stefan Wagner
(Narnia Admin) and Jochen Wersdörfer for mentioning their
remailers, and Farout-Admin for posting regular updates.]
A more up-to-date and complete answer to this question is available in
the following table:
As of the date of this FAQ, tests indicate the following remailers
permit the user to specify part or all of the "From:" header line
(either the entire address or the nickname only) in the final headers
*Note that italy2, narnia, and shinn add a disclaimer (either in the
header of the body of the message) when the message has a custom
"From:" header. The intent of this warning is to reduce forgery
 See the Reliable User's Manual for further information:
Subject: [FAQ 4.12] Where do I find public SMTP servers (open relays)?
Relaying mail through the servers of a third party is, at best bad
Internet etiquette and, at worst, theft of service. This is not just
my view but the view of Internet users and service providers
worldwide. Many of the larger ISPs, in a preventative move to stop
their own customers from spamming others, have blocked customer's
connections to any smtp servers but their own.
Open relays, in the vast majority of cases, will not hide the origin
of your message. Your IP address is visible and all traffic is logged.
Still not deterred? Okay. Here's one method of finding an open relay:
+ Visit newsgroup <news://news.admin.net-abuse.sightings> and scan
through the posts there looking for any spam reports that mention open
relay, hijack, or relay-rape.
+ Take the mail servers you find in "sightings" and plug them, one by
one, into the form at
+ If your tests indicate that a particular email server is still an
open relay then your search is over. Insert the mail server's address
in place of your ISP's SMTP server in your email client's
End of faq.4 Digest