Sieve Working Group                                         K. Murchison
Internet-Draft                                Carnegie Mellon University
Expires: August 26, 2006                               February 22, 2006 September 24, 2010                                     N. Freed
                                                      Oracle Corporation
                                                          March 23, 2010

          Sieve Email Filtering -- Filtering: Regular Expression Extension

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Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2006).

Abstract the Sieve email
   filtering language.  In some cases, it is desirable to have a string
   matching mechanism which is more powerful than a simple exact match,
   a substring match or a glob-style wildcard match.  The regular
   expression matching mechanism defined in this draft should allow provides users to isolate just
   about any string or address in a message header or envelope.

Meta-information (to be removed prior to publication as an RFC)

   This information is intended to facilitate discussion.

   This document is intended to be an extension to the Sieve mail
   filtering language, available from the RFC repository as

   This document and the Sieve language itself are being discussed on
   the MTA Filters mailing list at <>.
   Subscription requests can be sent to
   <> (send an
   email message with the word "subscribe" in the body).  More
   information on the mailing list along
   with an archive of back
   messages is available at <>. much more powerful string matching capabilities.

Change History (to be removed prior to publication as an RFC)

   Changes from draft-murchison-sieve-regex-08:

   o  Updated to XML source.

   o  Documented interaction with variables.

   Changes from draft-ietf-sieve-regex-00:

   o  Various cleanup and updates.

   o  Added trial text specifying comparator interactions.

Open Issues (to be removed prior to publication as an RFC)

   o  The major open issue with this draft is what to do, if anything,
      about localization/internationalization.  Are [IEEE.1003-2.1992]
      collating sequences and character equivalents sufficient?  Should
      we reference the unicode Unicode technical specification?  Should we punt
      and publish the document as experimental?

   o  Is the current approach to comparator integration the right one to

   o  Should we allow shorthands such as \\b (word boundary) and \\w
      (word character)?

   o  Should we allow backreferences (useful for matching double words,


Status of Contents

   1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4
   2.  Capability Identifier  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
   3.  Regex Match Type . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
   4.  Interaction this Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted to IETF in full conformance with Sieve Variables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
     4.1.  Match variables  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
     4.2.  Set modifier :quoteregex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
   5.  IANA Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
   6.  Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
   7.  Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
   Appendix A.  Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
   Author's Address . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
   Intellectual Property the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF), its areas, and its working groups.  Note that
   other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-

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   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
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Copyright Statements . . . . . . . . . . 15 Notice

   Copyright (c) 2010 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   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
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   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the BSD License.

1.  Introduction

   Sieve [RFC5228] is a language for filtering email messages at or
   around the time of final delivery.  It is designed to be
   implementable on either a mail client or mail server.

   The Sieve base specification defines so-called match types for tests:
   is, contains, and matches.  An "is" test requires an exact match, a
   "contains" test provides a substring match, and "matches" provides
   glob-style wildcards.  This document describes an extension to the
   Sieve language defined by
   [I-D.ietf-sieve-3028bis] that provides a new match type for comparing strings to regular
   expressions. expression

2.  Conventions for notations used in this document

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in [I-D.ietf-sieve-3028bis] section
   1.1, including use of [RFC2119].


   The terms used to describe the various components of the Sieve
   language are taken from Section 1.1 of [RFC5228].

3.  Capability Identifier

   The capability string associated with the extension defined in this
   document is "regex".


4.  Regex Match Type


   When the regex extension is available, commands that support matching
   may take the optional tagged argument ":regex" to specify that a
   regular expression match should be performed.  The ":regex" match
   type is subject to the same rules and restrictions as the standard
   match types defined in [I-D.ietf-sieve-

   For convenience, the [RFC5228].

   The "MATCH-TYPE" syntax element defined in
   [I-D.ietf-sieve-3028bis] [RFC5228] is augmented
   here as follows:

   MATCH-TYPE  =/  ":regex"


   require "regex";

   # Try

5.  Interaction with Sieve comparators

   In order to catch unsolicited email.
   if anyof (
     # if provide for matches between character sets and case
   insensitivity, Sieve uses the comparators defined in the Internet
   Application Protocol Collation Registry [RFC5228].  The comparator
   used by a message given test is specified by the :comparator argument.

   The interaction between collators and the match types defined in the
   Sieve base specification is straightforward.  Howeer, the nature of
   regular expressions does not lend itself to me (with optional +detail),
     not address this usage for the :regex ["to", "cc", "bcc"]

     # or
   match type.

   A component of the subject definition of many collators is all uppercase (no lowercase)
     header :regex :comparator a normalization
   operation.  For example, the "i;octet" "subject"
       "^[^[:lower:]]+$" ) {

     discard;      # junk it
   } comparator employs an identity
   normalization; whereas the "i;ascii-casema" normalizes all lower case
   ASCII characters to upper case.

   The ":regex" :regex match type only uses the normalization component of the
   associated comparator.  This normalization operation is compatible with both applied to
   the "i;octet" and
   "i;ascii-casemap" comparators and may be used key-list argument to the test; the result of that normalization
   becomes the target of the regular expression comparison.  The
   comparator has no effect on the regular expression pattern or the
   underlying comparison operation.

   It is an error to specify a comparator that has no associated
   normalization operation in conjunction with them. a :regex match type.

6.  Regular expression comparisions

   Implementations MUST support extended regular expressions (EREs) as
   defined by [IEEE.1003-2.1992].  Any regular expression not defined by
   [IEEE.1003-2.1992], as well as [IEEE.1003-2.1992] basic regular
   expressions, word boundaries and backreferences are not supported by
   this extension.  Implementations SHOULD reject regular expressions
   that are unsupported by this specification as a syntax error.

   The following tables provide a brief summary of the regular
   expressions that MUST be supported.  This table is presented here
   only as a guideline.  [IEEE.1003-2.1992] should be used as the
   definitive reference.

   | Expression | Pattern                                              |
   |      .     | Match any single character except newline.           |
   |            |                                                      |
   |     [ ]    | Bracket expression.  Match any one of the enclosed   |
   |            | characters.  A hypen (-) indicates a range of        |
   |            | consecutive characters.                              |
   |            |                                                      |
   |    [^ ]    | Negated bracket expression.  Match any one character |
   |            | NOT in the enclosed list.  A hypen (-) indicates a   |
   |            | range of consecutive characters.                     |
   |            |                                                      |
   |     \\     | Escape the following special character (match the    |
   |            | literal character).  Undefined for other characters. |
   |            | NOTE: Unlike [IEEE.1003-2.1992], a double-backslash  |
   |            | is required as per section 2.4.2 of                  |
   |            | [I-D.ietf-sieve-3028bis]. [RFC5228].       |
                Table 1: Items to match a single character

   | Expression | Pattern                                              |
   |    [: :]   | Character class (alnum, alpha, blank, cntrl, digit,  |
   |            | graph, lower, print, punct, space, upper, xdigit).   |
   |            |                                                      |
   |    [= =]   | Character equivalents.                               |
   |            |                                                      |
   |    [. .]   | Collating sequence.                                  |

   Table 2: Items to be used within a bracket expression (localization)

   | Expression | Pattern                                              |
   |      ?     | Match zero or one instances.                         |
   |            |                                                      |
   |      *     | Match zero or more instances.                        |
   |            |                                                      |
   |      +     | Match one or more instances.                         |
   |            |                                                      |
   |    {n,m}   | Match any number of instances between n and m        |
   |            | (inclusive). {n} matches exactly n instances. {n,}   |
   |            | matches n or more instances.                         |

        Table 3: Quantifiers - Items to count the preceding regular

        | Expression | Pattern                                    |
        |      ^     | Match the beginning of the line or string. |
        |            |                                            |
        |      $     | Match the end of the line or string.       |

               Table 4: Anchoring - Items to match positions

   | Expression | Pattern                                              |
   |      |     | Alternation.  Match either of the separated regular  |
   |            | expressions.                                         |
   |            |                                                      |
   |     ( )    | Group the enclosed regular expression(s).            |

                         Table 5: Other constructs


7.  Interaction with Sieve Variables

   This extension is compatible with, and may be used in conjunction
   with the Sieve Variables extension [I-D.ietf-sieve-variables].

4.1. [RFC5229].

7.1.  Match variables

   A sieve interpreter which supports both "regex" and "variables", MUST
   set "match variables" (as defined by [I-D.ietf-sieve-variables] [RFC5229] section 3.2) whenever
   the ":regex" match type is used.  The list of match variables will
   contain the strings corresponding to the group operators in the
   regular expression.  The groups are ordered by the position of the
   opening parenthesis, from left to right.  Note that in regular
   expressions, expansions match as much as possible (greedy matching).


   require ["fileinto", "regex", "variables"];

   if header :regex "List-ID" "<(.*)@" {
       fileinto "lists.${1}"; stop;

   # Imagine the header
   # Subject: [acme-users] [fwd] version 1.0 is out
   if header :regex "Subject" "^[(.*)] (.*)$" {
       # ${1} will hold "acme-users] [fwd"


7.2.  Set modifier :quoteregex

   A sieve interpreter which supports both "regex" and "variables", MUST
   support the optional tagged argument ":quoteregex" for use with the
   "set" action.  The ":quoteregex" modifier is subject to the same
   rules and restrictions as the standard modifiers defined in
   [I-D.ietf-sieve-variables] [RFC5229]
   section 4.

   For convenience, the "MODIFIER" syntax element defined in [I-D.ietf-
   sieve-variables] [RFC5229]
   is augmented here as follows:

   MODIFIER  =/  ":quoteregex"

   This modifier adds the necessary quoting to ensure that the expanded
   text will only match a literal occurrence if used as a parameter to
   :regex.  Every character with special meaning (".", "*", "?", etc.)
   is prefixed with "\" in the expansion.  This modifier has a
   precedence value of 20 when used with other modifiers.


8.  Examples


   require "regex";

   # Try to catch unsolicited email.
   if anyof (
     # if a message is not to me (with optional +detail),
     not address :regex ["to", "cc", "bcc"]

     # or the subject is all uppercase (no lowercase)
     header :regex :comparator "i;octet" "subject"
       "^[^[:lower:]]+$" ) {

     discard;    # junk it

9.  IANA Considerations

   The following template specifies the IANA registration of the "regex"
   Sieve extension specified in this document:

   Subject: Registration of new Sieve extension

   Capability name: regex
   Capability keyword: regex
   Capability arguments: N/A
   Standards Track/IESG-approved experimental RFC number: this RFC
   Person and email address to contact for further information:
       Kenneth Murchison

   This information should be added to the list of Sieve extensions
   given on


10.  Security Considerations


   General Sieve security considerations are discussed in [I-D.ietf-sieve-3028bis]. [RFC5228].
   All of the issues described there also apply to regular expression

   It is believed easy to construct problematic regular expressions that this extension does not introduce any additional
   security concerns.

   However, are
   computationally infeasible to evaluate.  Execution of a poor implementation COULD introduce security Sieve that
   employs a potentially problematic regular expression, such as
   "(.*)*", may cause problems ranging from degradation of performance
   to denial and outright denial of service.  Moreover, determining the
   computationl complexity associated with evaluating a given regular
   expression is in general an intractable problem.

   For this reason, all implementations MUST take appropriate steps to
   limit the impact of service.  If an
   implementation uses a third-party runaway regular expression library, that
   library should be checked for potentially problematic evaluation.
   Implementations MAY restrict the regular
   expressions, expressions users are
   allowed to specify.  Implementations that do not impose such as "(.*)*".

   restrictions SHOULD provide a means to abort evaluation of tests
   using the :regex match type if the operation is taking too long.

11.  Normative References

              Showalter, T. and P. Guenther, "Sieve: An Email Filtering
              Language", draft-ietf-sieve-3028bis-05 (work in progress),
              November 2005.

              Homme, K., "Sieve Extension: Variables",
              draft-ietf-sieve-variables-08 (work in progress),
              December 2005.

              Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers,
              "Information Technology - Portable Operating System
              Interface (POSIX) - Part 2: Shell and Utilities (Vol. 1)",
              IEEE Standard 1003.2, 1992.

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

   [RFC5228]  Guenther, P. and T. Showalter, "Sieve: An Email Filtering
              Language", RFC 5228, January 2008.

   [RFC5229]  Homme, K., "Sieve Email Filtering: Variables Extension",
              RFC 5229, January 2008.

Appendix A.  Acknowledgments

   Most of the text documenting the interaction with Sieve variables was
   taken from an early draft of Kjetil Homme's Sieve variables

   Thanks to Tim Showalter, Alexey Melnikov, Tony Hansen, Phil Pennock,
   Jutta Degener,
   and Ned Freed Jutta Degener for their help with this document.

Author's Address

Authors' Addresses

   Kenneth Murchison
   Carnegie Mellon University
   5000 Forbes Avenue
   Cyert Hall 285
   Pittsburgh, PA  15213

   Phone: +1 412 268 2638

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