Configuring nginx as mail proxy

Laurent Bonetto lbonetto at
Wed Oct 24 14:27:33 UTC 2012

I need to use nginx as a mail proxy. I am completely new to nginx and need some help with the configuration.

Here is what I did:

First I built a service that mocks the authentication services described here: For example,

curl -v -H "Host:auth.server.hostname" -H "Auth-Method:plain" -H "Auth-User:user" -H "Auth-pass:123" -H "Auth-Protocol:imap" -H "Auth-Login-Attempt:1" -H "Client-IP:" http://localhost:8080/authorize
returns the following response header (no matter what Auth-User, Auth-Protocol, and Client-IP are for now):

< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< Content-Type: text/html;charset=ISO-8859-1
< Auth-Status: OK
< Auth-Server: <my mail server here>
< Auth-Port: 110
Second I installed nginx on my mac after installing macports:

$ sudo port -d selfupdate
$ sudo port install nginx
Third I created an nginx.conf with the following:

  worker_processes  1;

  error_log  /var/log/nginx/error.log info;

  mail {
    # not needed because returned in Auth-Server actually?
    server_name  <my mail server here>;
    auth_http    http://localhost:8080/authorize;

    pop3_auth         plain apop cram-md5;
    pop3_capabilities "LAST" "TOP" "USER" "PIPELINING" "UIDL";

    xclient off;

    server {
          listen     110;
          protocol   pop3;
          proxy      on;
          proxy_pass_error_message  on;
Here is what I got running nginx:

$ nginx -V nginx version: nginx/1.2.4 configure arguments: --prefix=/opt/local --with-cc-opt='-I/opt/local/include -O2' --with-ld-opt=-L/opt/local/lib --conf-path=/opt/local/etc/nginx/nginx.conf --error-log-path=/opt/local/var/log/nginx/error.log --http-log-path=/opt/local/var/log/nginx/access.log --pid-path=/opt/local/var/run/nginx/ --lock-path=/opt/local/var/run/nginx/nginx.lock --http-client-body-temp-path=/opt/local/var/run/nginx/client_body_temp --http-proxy-temp-path=/opt/local/var/run/nginx/proxy_temp --http-fastcgi-temp-path=/opt/local/var/run/nginx/fastcgi_temp --http-uwsgi-temp-path=/opt/local/var/run/nginx/uwsgi_temp --with-ipv6

$ nginx nginx: [emerg] unknown directive "mail" in /opt/local/etc/nginx/nginx.conf:6

The only mention of that error on the web brings up a discussion in Russian and the translation is "This question is no longer relevant"

My questions:

Why am I getting this unknow directive?

Does my config look correct at first sight or am I missing some key component for the mail proxy to work using the authentication approach described here:

Thanks a lot. мерси!
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