Network Working Group J. Myers Request for Comments: 1725 Carnegie Mellon Obsoletes: 1460 M. Rose Category: Standards Track Dover Beach Consulting, Inc. November 1994 Post Office Protocol - Version 3 Status of this Memo This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Overview This memo is a revision to RFC 1460, a Draft Standard. It makes the following changes from that document: - removed text regarding "split-UA model", which didn't add anything to the understanding of POP - clarified syntax of commands, keywords, and arguments - clarified behavior on broken connection - explicitly permitted an inactivity autologout timer - clarified the requirements of the "exclusive-access lock" - removed implementation-specific wording regarding the parsing of the maildrop - allowed servers to close the connection after a failed authentication command - removed the LAST command - fixed typo in example of TOP command - clarified that the second argument to the TOP command is non- negative - added the optional UIDL command Myers & Rose [Page 1] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 - added warning regarding length of shared secrets with APOP - added additional warnings to the security considerations section 1. Introduction On certain types of smaller nodes in the Internet it is often impractical to maintain a message transport system (MTS). For example, a workstation may not have sufficient resources (cycles, disk space) in order to permit a SMTP server [RFC 821] and associated local mail delivery system to be kept resident and continuously running. Similarly, it may be expensive (or impossible) to keep a personal computer interconnected to an IP-style network for long amounts of time (the node is lacking the resource known as "connectivity").

Despite this, it is often very useful to be able to manage mail on these smaller nodes, and they often support a user agent (UA) to aid the tasks of mail handling. To solve this problem, a node which can support an MTS entity offers a maildrop service to these less endowed nodes. The Post Office Protocol - Version 3 (POP 3) is intended to permit a workstation to dynamically access a maildrop on a server host in a useful fashion. Usually, this means that the POP 3 is used to allow a workstation to retrieve mail that the server is holding for it. For the remainder of this memo, the term "client host" refers to a host making use of the POP 3 service, while the term "server host" refers to a host which offers the POP 3 service. 2.

A Short Digression This memo does not specify how a client host enters mail into the transport system, although a method consistent with the philosophy of this memo is presented here: When the user agent on a client host wishes to enter a message into the transport system, it establishes an SMTP connection to its relay host (this relay host could be, but need not be, the POP 3 server host for the client host). 3. Basic Operation Initially, the server host starts the POP 3 service by listening on TCP port 110. When a client host wishes to make use of the service, it establishes a TCP connection with the server host. When the connection is established, the POP 3 server sends a greeting. The client and POP 3 server then exchange commands and responses Myers & Rose [Page 2] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 (respectively) until the connection is closed or aborted.

Commands in the POP 3 consist of a keyword, possibly followed by one or more arguments. All commands are terminated by a CRLF pair. Keywords and arguments consist of printable ASCII characters. Keywords and arguments are each separated by a single SPACE character. Keywords are three or four characters long.

Each argument may be up to 40 characters long. Responses in the POP 3 consist of a status indicator and a keyword possibly followed by additional information. All responses are terminated by a CRLF pair. There are currently two status indicators: positive ("+OK") and negative ("-ERR"). Responses to certain commands are multi-line.

In these cases, which are clearly indicated below, after sending the first line of the response and a CRLF, any additional lines are sent, each terminated by a CRLF pair. When all lines of the response have been sent, a final line is sent, consisting of a termination octet (decimal code 046, ."" ) and a CRLF pair. If any line of the multi-line response begins with the termination octet, the line is "byte-stuffed" by pre-pending the termination octet to that line of the response. Hence a multi-line response is terminated with the five octets "CRLF. CRLF." When examining a multi-line response, the client checks to see if the line begins with the termination octet. If so and if octets other than CRLF follow, the the first octet of the line (the termination octet) is stripped away.

If so and if CRLF immediately follows the termination character, then the response from the POP server is ended and the line containing ." CRLF" is not considered part of the multi-line response. A POP 3 session progresses through a number of states during its lifetime. Once the TCP connection has been opened and the POP 3 server has sent the greeting, the session enters the AUTHORIZATION state. In this state, the client must identify itself to the POP 3 server. Once the client has successfully done this, the server acquires resources associated with the client's maildrop, and the session enters the TRANSACTION state. In this state, the client requests actions on the part of the POP 3 server.

When the client has issued the QUIT command, the session enters the UPDATE state. In this state, the POP 3 server releases any resources acquired during the TRANSACTION state and says goodbye. The TCP connection is then closed. A POP 3 server MAY have an inactivity autologout timer. Such a timer MUST be of at least 10 minutes' duration. The receipt of any command from the client during that interval should suffice to reset the autologout timer.

When the timer expires, the session does NOT enter Myers & Rose [Page 3] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 the UPDATE state-the server should close the TCP connection without removing any messages or sending any response to the client. 4. The AUTHORIZATION State Once the TCP connection has been opened by a POP 3 client, the POP 3 server issues a one line greeting. This can be any string terminated by CRLF. An example might be: S: +OK POP 3 server ready Note that this greeting is a POP 3 reply. The POP 3 server should always give a positive response as the greeting.

The POP 3 session is now in the AUTHORIZATION state. The client must now identify and authenticate itself to the POP 3 server. Two possible mechanisms for doing this are described in this document, the USER and PASS command combination and the APOP command. The APOP command is described later in this document. To authenticate using the USER and PASS command combination, the client must first issue the USER command. If the POP 3 server responds with a positive status indicator ("+OK"), then the client may issue either the PASS command to complete the authentication, or the QUIT command to terminate the POP 3 session.

If the POP 3 server responds with a negative status indicator ("-ERR") to the USER command, then the client may either issue a new authentication command or may issue the QUIT command. When the client issues the PASS command, the POP 3 server uses the argument pair from the USER and PASS commands to determine if the client should be given access to the appropriate maildrop. Once the POP 3 server has determined through the use of any authentication command that the client should be given access to the appropriate maildrop, the POP 3 server then acquires an exclusive- access lock on the maildrop, as necessary to prevent messages from being modified or removed before the session enters the UPDATE state. If the lock is successfully acquired, the POP 3 server responds with a positive status indicator. The POP 3 session now enters the TRANSACTION state, with no messages marked as deleted. If the the maildrop cannot be opened for some reason (for example, a lock can not be acquired, the client is denied access to the appropriate maildrop, or the maildrop cannot be parsed), the POP 3 server responds with a negative status indicator.

(If a lock was acquired but the POP 3 server intends to respond with a negative status indicator, the POP 3 server must release the lock prior to rejecting the command. ) After returning a negative status indicator, the server may close the Myers & Rose [Page 4] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 connection. If the server does not close the connection, the client may either issue a new authentication command and start again, or the client may issue the QUIT command. After the POP 3 server has opened the maildrop, it assigns a message- number to each message, and notes the size of each message in octets. The first message in the maildrop is assigned a message-number of "1, the second is assigned "2, and so on, so that the n'th message in a maildrop is assigned a message-number of "n." In POP 3 commands and responses, all message-number's and message sizes are expressed in base-10 (i.

e. , decimal). Here are summaries for the three POP 3 commands discussed thus far: USER name Arguments: a string identifying a mailbox (required), which is of significance ONLY to the server Restrictions: may only be given in the AUTHORIZATION state after the POP 3 greeting or after an unsuccessful USER or PASS command Possible Responses: +OK name is a valid mailbox -ERR never heard of mailbox name Examples: C: USER mrose S: +OK mrose is a real hoopy frood... C: USER frated S: -ERR sorry, no mailbox for frated here PASS string Arguments: a server / mailbox -specific password (required) Restrictions: may only be given in the AUTHORIZATION state after a successful USER command Discussion: Since the PASS command has exactly one argument, a POP 3 server may treat spaces in the argument as part of the password, instead of as argument separators. Myers & Rose [Page 5] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 Possible Responses: +OK maildrop locked and ready -ERR invalid password -ERR unable to lock maildrop Examples: C: USER mrose S: +OK mrose is a real hoopy frood C: PASS secret S: +OK mrose's maildrop has 2 messages (320 octets)...

C: USER mrose S: +OK mrose is a real hoopy frood C: PASS secret S: -ERR maildrop already locked QUIT Arguments: none Restrictions: none Possible Responses: +OK Examples: C: QUIT S: +OK dewey POP 3 server signing off 5. The TRANSACTION State Once the client has successfully identified itself to the POP 3 server and the POP 3 server has locked and opened the appropriate maildrop, the POP 3 session is now in the TRANSACTION state. The client may now issue any of the following POP 3 commands repeatedly. After each command, the POP 3 server issues a response. Eventually, the client issues the QUIT command and the POP 3 session enters the UPDATE state. Here are the POP 3 commands valid in the TRANSACTION state: STAT Arguments: none Restrictions: may only be given in the TRANSACTION state Myers & Rose [Page 6] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 Discussion: The POP 3 server issues a positive response with a line containing information for the maildrop.

This line is called a "drop listing" for that maildrop. In order to simplify parsing, all POP 3 servers required to use a certain format for drop listings. The positive response consists of "+OK" followed by a single space, the number of messages in the maildrop, a single space, and the size of the maildrop in octets. This memo makes no requirement on what follows the maildrop size. Minimal implementations should just end that line of the response with a CRLF pair. More advanced implementations may include other information.

NOTE: This memo STRONGLY discourages implementations from supplying additional information in the drop listing. Other, optional, facilities are discussed later on which permit the client to parse the messages in the maildrop. Note that messages marked as deleted are not counted in either total. Possible Responses: +OK nn mm Examples: C: STAT S: +OK 2 320 LIST [msg] Arguments: a message-number (optional), which, if present, may NOT refer to a message marked as deleted Restrictions: may only be given in the TRANSACTION state Discussion: If an argument was given and the POP 3 server issues a positive response with a line containing information for that message. This line is called a "scan listing" for that message. If no argument was given and the POP 3 server issues a positive response, then the response given is multi-line.

Myers & Rose [Page 7] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 After the initial +OK, for each message in the maildrop, the POP 3 server responds with a line containing information for that message. This line is also called a "scan listing" for that message. In order to simplify parsing, all POP 3 servers are required to use a certain format for scan listings. A scan listing consists of the message-number of the message, followed by a single space and the exact size of the message in octets. This memo makes no requirement on what follows the message size in the scan listing. Minimal implementations should just end that line of the response with a CRLF pair.

More advanced implementations may include other information, as parsed from the message. NOTE: This memo STRONGLY discourages implementations from supplying additional information in the scan listing. Other, optional, facilities are discussed later on which permit the client to parse the messages in the maildrop. Note that messages marked as deleted are not listed. Possible Responses: +OK scan listing follows -ERR no such message Examples: C: LIST S: +OK 2 messages (320 octets) S: 1 120 S: 2 200 S: ... C: LIST 2 S: +OK 2 200...

C: LIST 3 S: -ERR no such message, only 2 messages in maildrop RETR msg Arguments: a message-number (required) which may not refer to a message marked as deleted Restrictions: may only be given in the TRANSACTION state Myers & Rose [Page 8] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 Discussion: If the POP 3 server issues a positive response, then the response given is multi-line. After the initial +OK, the POP 3 server sends the message corresponding to the given message-number, being careful to byte-stuff the termination character (as with all multi-line responses). Possible Responses: +OK message follows -ERR no such message Examples: C: RETR 1 S: +OK 120 octets S: S: . DELE msg Arguments: a message-number (required) which may not refer to a message marked as deleted Restrictions: may only be given in the TRANSACTION state Discussion: The POP 3 server marks the message as deleted. Any future reference to the message-number associated with the message in a POP 3 command generates an error.

The POP 3 server does not actually delete the message until the POP 3 session enters the UPDATE state. Possible Responses: +OK message deleted -ERR no such message Examples: C: DELE 1 S: +OK message 1 deleted... C: DELE 2 S: -ERR message 2 already deleted NOOP Arguments: none Myers & Rose [Page 9] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 Restrictions: may only be given in the TRANSACTION state Discussion: The POP 3 server does nothing, it merely replies with a positive response. Possible Responses: +OK Examples: C: NOOP S: +OK RSET Arguments: none Restrictions: may only be given in the TRANSACTION state Discussion: If any messages have been marked as deleted by the POP 3 server, they are unmarked. The POP 3 server then replies with a positive response. Possible Responses: +OK Examples: C: RSET S: +OK maildrop has 2 messages (320 octets) 6.

The UPDATE State When the client issues the QUIT command from the TRANSACTION state, the POP 3 session enters the UPDATE state. (Note that if the client issues the QUIT command from the AUTHORIZATION state, the POP 3 session terminates but does NOT enter the UPDATE state. ) If a session terminates for some reason other than a client-issued QUIT command, the POP 3 session does NOT enter the UPDATE state and MUST not remove any messages from the maildrop. QUIT Arguments: none Myers & Rose [Page 10] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 Restrictions: none Discussion: The POP 3 server removes all messages marked as deleted from the maildrop. It then releases any exclusive-access lock on the maildrop and replies as to the status of these operations. The TCP connection is then closed.

Possible Responses: +OK Examples: C: QUIT S: +OK dewey POP 3 server signing off (maildrop empty)... C: QUIT S: +OK dewey POP 3 server signing off (2 messages left)... 7. Optional POP 3 Commands The POP 3 commands discussed above must be supported by all minimal implementations of POP 3 servers. The optional POP 3 commands described below permit a POP 3 client greater freedom in message handling, while preserving a simple POP 3 server implementation.

NOTE: This memo STRONGLY encourages implementations to support these commands in lieu of developing augmented drop and scan listings. In short, the philosophy of this memo is to put intelligence in the part of the POP 3 client and not the POP 3 server. TOP msg n Arguments: a message-number (required) which may NOT refer to to a message marked as deleted, and a non-negative number (required) Restrictions: may only be given in the TRANSACTION state Discussion: If the POP 3 server issues a positive response, then the response given is multi-line. After the initial +OK, the POP 3 server sends the headers of the message, the blank Myers & Rose [Page 11] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 line separating the headers from the body, and then the number of lines indicated message's body, being careful to byte-stuff the termination character (as with all multi- line responses).

Note that if the number of lines requested by the POP 3 client is greater than than the number of lines in the body, then the POP 3 server sends the entire message. Possible Responses: +OK top of message follows -ERR no such message Examples: C: TOP 1 10 S: +OK S: S: ... C: TOP 100 3 S: -ERR no such message UIDL [msg] Arguments: a message-number (optionally) If a message-number is given, it may NOT refer to a message marked as deleted. Restrictions: may only be given in the TRANSACTION state. Discussion: If an argument was given and the POP 3 server issues a positive response with a line containing information for that message. This line is called a "unique-id listing" for that message.

If no argument was given and the POP 3 server issues a positive response, then the response given is multi-line. After the initial +OK, for each message in the maildrop, the POP 3 server responds with a line containing information for that message. This line is called a "unique-id listing" for that message. In order to simplify parsing, all POP 3 servers are required to use a certain format for unique-id listings. A unique-id listing consists of the message-number of the message, followed by a single space and the unique-id of the message. Myers & Rose [Page 12] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 No information follows the unique-id in the unique-id listing.

The unique-id of a message is an arbitrary server-determined string, consisting of characters in the range 021 to 07 E, which uniquely identifies a message within a maildrop and which persists across sessions. The server should never reuse an unique-id in a given maildrop, for as long as the entity using the unique-id exists. Note that messages marked as deleted are not listed. Possible Responses: +OK unique-id listing follows -ERR no such message Examples: C: UIDL S: +OK S: 1 whqtswO 00 WBw 418 f 9 t 5 JxYwZ S: 2 QhdPYR: 00 WBw 1 Ph 77 S: ...

C: UIDL 2 S: +OK 2 QhdPYR: 00 WBw 1 Ph 77... C: UIDL 3 S: -ERR no such message, only 2 messages in maildrop APOP name digest Arguments: a string identifying a mailbox and a MD 5 digest string (both required) Restrictions: may only be given in the AUTHORIZATION state after the POP 3 greeting Discussion: Normally, each POP 3 session starts with a USER/PASS exchange. This results in a server / user -id specific password being sent in the clear on the network. For intermittent use of POP 3, this may not introduce a sizable risk. However, many POP 3 client implementations connect to the POP 3 server on a regular basis - to check for new mail. Further the interval of session initiation may be on the order of five minutes.

Hence, the risk of password capture is greatly enhanced. Myers & Rose [Page 13] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 An alternate method of authentication is required which provides for both origin authentication and replay protection, but which does not involve sending a password in the clear over the network. The APOP command provides this functionality. A POP 3 server which implements the APOP command will include a timestamp in its banner greeting. The syntax of the timestamp corresponds to the 'msg-id' in [RFC 822], and MUST be different each time the POP 3 server issues a banner greeting. For example, on a UNIX implementation in which a separate UNIX process is used for each instance of a POP 3 server, the syntax of the timestamp might be: where 'process-ID' is the decimal value of the process's PID, clock is the decimal value of the system clock, and hostname is the fully-qualified domain-name corresponding to the host where the POP 3 server is running.

The POP 3 client makes note of this timestamp, and then issues the APOP command. The 'name' parameter has identical semantics to the 'name' parameter of the USER command. The 'digest' parameter is calculated by applying the MD 5 algorithm [RFC 1321] to a string consisting of the timestamp (including angle-brackets) followed by a shared secret. This shared secret is a string known only to the POP 3 client and server.

Great care should be taken to prevent unauthorized disclosure of the secret, as knowledge of the secret will allow any entity to successfully masquerade as the named user. The 'digest' parameter itself is a 16-octet value which is sent in hexadecimal format, using lower-case ASCII characters. When the POP 3 server receives the APOP command, it verifies the digest provided. If the digest is correct, the POP 3 server issues a positive response, and the POP 3 session enters the TRANSACTION state. Otherwise, a negative response is issued and the POP 3 session remains in the AUTHORIZATION state. Note that as the length of the shared secret increases, so does the difficulty of deriving it.

As such, shared secrets should be long strings (considerably longer than the 8-character example shown below). Myers & Rose [Page 14] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 Possible Responses: +OK maildrop locked and ready -ERR permission denied Examples: S: +OK POP 3 server ready C: APOP mrose c 4 c 9334 bac 560 ecc 979 e 58001 b 3 e 22 fb S: +OK maildrop has 1 message (369 octets) In this example, the shared secret is the string 'tan- staaf'. Hence, the MD 5 algorithm is applied to the string tans taaf which produces a digest value of c 4 c 9334 bac 560 ecc 979 e 58001 b 3 e 22 fb 8. POP 3 Command Summary Minimal POP 3 Commands: USER name valid in the AUTHORIZATION state PASS string QUIT STAT valid in the TRANSACTION state LIST [msg] RETR msg DELE msg NOOP RSET QUIT valid in the UPDATE state Optional POP 3 Commands: APOP name digest valid in the AUTHORIZATION state TOP msg n valid in the TRANSACTION state UIDL [msg] POP 3 Replies: +OK -ERR Myers & Rose [Page 15] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 Note that with the exception of the STAT, LIST, and UIDL commands, the reply given by the POP 3 server to any command is significant only to "+OK" and "-ERR." Any text occurring after this reply may be ignored by the client. 9.

Example POP 3 Session S: C: S: +OK POP 3 server ready C: APOP mrose c 4 c 9334 bac 560 ecc 979 e 58001 b 3 e 22 fb S: +OK mrose's maildrop has 2 messages (320 octets) C: STAT S: +OK 2 320 C: LIST S: +OK 2 messages (320 octets) S: 1 120 S: 2 200 S: . C: RETR 1 S: +OK 120 octets S: S: . C: DELE 1 S: +OK message 1 deleted C: RETR 2 S: +OK 200 octets S: S: . C: DELE 2 S: +OK message 2 deleted C: QUIT S: +OK dewey POP 3 server signing off (maildrop empty) C: S: 10.

Message Format All messages transmitted during a POP 3 session are assumed to conform to the standard for the format of Internet text messages [RFC 822]. It is important to note that the octet count for a message on the server host may differ from the octet count assigned to that message due to local conventions for designating end-of-line. Usually, during the AUTHORIZATION state of the POP 3 session, the POP 3 server can calculate the size of each message in octets when it opens the maildrop. For example, if the POP 3 server host internally represents end-of-line as a single character, then the POP 3 server simply counts Myers & Rose [Page 16] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 each occurrence of this character in a message as two octets. Note that lines in the message which start with the termination octet need not be counted twice, since the POP 3 client will remove all byte- stuffed termination characters when it receives a multi-line response. 11.

References [RFC 821] Postel, J. , "Simple Mail Transfer Protocol", STD 10, RFC 821, USC/Information Sciences Institute, August 1982. [RFC 822] Crocker, D. , "Standard for the Format of ARPA-Internet Text Messages", STD 11, RFC 822, University of Delaware, August 1982. [RFC 1321] Rivest, R. "The MD 5 Message-Digest Algorithm", RFC 1321, MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, April, 1992.

12. Security Considerations It is conjectured that use of the APOP command provides origin identification and replay protection for a POP 3 session. Accordingly, a POP 3 server which implements both the PASS and APOP commands must not allow both methods of access for a given user; that is, for a given "USER name" either the PASS or APOP command is allowed, but not both. Further, note that as the length of the shared secret increases, so does the difficulty of deriving it. Servers that answer -ERR to the USER command are giving potential attackers clues about which names are valid Use of the PASS command sends passwords in the clear over the network. Use of the RETR and TOP commands sends mail in the clear over the network.

Otherwise, security issues are not discussed in this memo. 13. Acknowledgements The POP family has a long and checkered history. Although primarily a minor revision to RFC 1460, POP 3 is based on the ideas presented in RFCs 918, 937, and 1081. In addition, Alfred Grim stad, Keith McCloghrie, and Neil Os troff provided significant comments on the APOP command. Myers & Rose [Page 17] RFC 1725 POP 3 November 1994 14.

Authors' Addresses John G. Myers Carnegie-Mellon University 5000 Forbes Ave Pittsburgh, PA 15213 EMail: jim+@cmu. edu Marshall T. Rose Dover Beach Consulting, Inc. 420 Whitman Court Mountain View, CA 94043-2186 EMail: Myers & Rose [Page 18].