SMTP TLS/SSL 25,465 and 587

SMTP TLS SSL 25 465  587
#1 Notes about SSL/TLS :

SSL and TLS are both cryptographic protocols and they are the evolution of the same stream protocol :
(SSL)-SSL V1.0 (never released by Netscape)
   |-(1995)-> SSL V2.0
   |-(1996)-> SSL V3.0
   |-(1999)-> SSL changes name to->TLS
   |-(1999)-> TLS V1.0
   |-(2006)-> TLS V1.1
   |-(2008)-> TLS V1.2
   V
(TLS)

Library OpenSSL supports SSL V2.0, SSL V3.0, TLS V1.0, TLS V1.1 and TLS V1.2

#1.2 SSL is deprecated

SSL 2.0 has been deprecated in 2011 (RFC 6176).
SSL 3.0 has been deprecated in June 2015 (RFC 7568(*).
(*) https://access.redhat.com/articles/1232123 & Wikipedia : "...As of 2014 the 3.0 version of SSL is considered insecure as it is vulnerable to the POODLE attack that affects all block ciphers in SSL; and RC4, the only non-block cipher supported by SSL 3.0, is also feasibly broken as used in SSL 3.0…” …  ..."POODLE affects older standards of encryption, specifically Secure Socket Layer (SSL) version 3. It does not affect the newer encryption mechanism known as Transport Layer Security (TLS)."

So TLS is to prefer.

#2 SMTP Ports

PORT PURPOSE Encrypted Clear mode
25
Relay (Server2Server)for smtp relaying (in order to transmit emails between two servers).
YES (starts with STARTTLS)
YES
587
Submission (Client2Server) for client messages submission in clear or enrcypted (submit emails from client/user to server)
YES (starts with STARTTLS)
YES
465 Submission (Client2Server) commonly known as SSL PORT of SMTP but not endorsed by IANA nor IETF as standard port.
YES (starts as soon as connection is established)
NO

#2.1 Ports -> 25 Vs. 587 :

25 and 587 are the only standard ports for SMTP traffic.
Generally are used different ports in order to separate users submission traffic (587) and relay traffic (25).

#2.2 Ports -> 465 Vs. 587 :

  • The 465 is the dedicate port for SSL (SSMTP) :
    communication starts immediately encrypted (when connection is established).
  •  The 587  is clear/encrypted :
    connection starts in clear and encryption can start later when the channel is promoted to secure ( with STARTTLS ). After STARTTLS the port remains 587 and os encrypted (on the same TCP connection without reconnection) .
Note : STARTTLS is not a command related to TLS. TLS and SSL are protocol agnostic and STARTTLS is a protocol command.
STARTTLS is a way to promote an existing insecure connection ( I mean upgrade it ) to a secure connection.
Note that despite in name is present TLS, STARTTLS doesn't mean you have to use TLS but you can use SSL.

#2.3 Historically

1997
IANA reserved 465 for SSL (SSMTP) :
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/ietf-tls/1997JanMar/0079.html)
...
ssmtp       465/tcp        ssmtp
... 
1998 Port has been removed, notes by email from Paul Hoffman (at end of this post), from assigned SMTP official ports. Assigned official ports are currently :
http://www.iana.org/assignments/service-names-port-numbers/service-names-port-numbers.txt
...
465     TCP       URL Rendezvous Directory for SSM (Cisco protocol) Official
465     TCP       Simple Mail Transfer Protocol over TLS/SSL (SMTPS) 1997 - Unofficial
...
587     TCP  UDP  Message Submission

So 465 is now reserved to SSM protocols.

#3 Conclusion

 From “academic" point of view counclusion shoud be : server must use only 587/TLS (and STARTTLS) in order to provide email client submission.

However on internet there are several ISPs that show 465 as submission port (for example gmail).
Btw there are some security concerns about use of STARTTLS : since the connection starts insecure (plaintext) and only If both "client and server" support TLS then the client sends a "STARTTLS" request to turn on encryption. An attacker can detect and inject requests/answers (that are in plaintext) in order to force client to use insecure (plaintext) connection (http://www.postfix.org/CVE-2011-0411.html)

From "pragmatic" point of view could exist clients that don't support  587/TLS (STARTTLS). Indeed for legacy reasons may be required 465/SSL. However about email clients seems that all recently versions of email clients support TLS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_email_clients#SSL_and_TLS_support

--- --- --- ---
Email From: Paul Hoffman / Subject: Revoking the smtps TCP port
From: Paul Hoffman
Subject: Revoking the smtps TCP port
Newsgroups: gmane.ietf.apps-tls
Date: 1998-11-13 01:18:20 GMT (17 years, 7 weeks, 6 days, 8 hours and 38 minutes ago)
Greetings again. Some of you noticed that the revocation of the smtps port
was removed at the last minute from draft-hoffman-smtp-ssl (which, for
those of you who missed it, has been sent on to the RFC editor as a
Proposed Standard). I took it out during the last steps at the request of
Jeff Schiller, who was concerned that it might cause delay with the IESG.

After the draft was sent to the RFC Editor, I sent a request to IANA,
including the text that had been in the earlier version of the draft and a
note that this had been widely discussed. They removed the port from the
official list.

--Paul Hoffman, Director
--Internet Mail Consortium
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