What the governments and tech companies used to tell us is that we’re increasingly safer and more secure online. That our privacy is paramount. That they have our best interest at heart. Our emails are safe from all prying eyes.
But when Edward Snowden released the secret NSA documents to The Guardian US, Der Spiegel and The Washington Post, we found out that was a lie. The businesses that we had entrusted with our information had been given up to the government. None of our information was secure.
At least, that is, if we choose to only depended on the goodwill of these organizations.
There are many people who would like to keep their information private. They can be political activists being clamped down on by the government. Whistleblowers like Snowden. Or it could just be average people who want to know that no one is watching them.
One of the most important ways we communicate is by sending and receiving emails. Most of us have a lot of sensitive information in there, and the idea that someone is potentially viewing all that information, or has the ability to, is unsettling.
There are generally three steps to send anonymous, untraceable emails so that you can be comforted in knowing your information is safe.
Tor (The Onion Router) anonymizes your communications online by relaying your traffic through nodes all over the world. They bounce it around before it reaches its final destination, making it complicated to figure out where the communication originally came from. The system is great and is improving constantly, as the governments try to find ways to track down Tor users.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) hides your IP address by creating a secure connection to a server of your choosing. All information is encrypted when you browse the web, as a secure tunnel is created from your computer to the internet.
NordVPN has great features, along with a Strict No Logs policy, meaning no record of your communications exists.
But even better, for extra security, NordVPN offers Tor over VPN, so that instead of choosing whether to use Tor or VPN, you can just use both.
Now that your communications in general has been anonymized, let’s focus on the actual email part. First of all, you do not want to use your primary email (i.e. Gmail) or workplace account to ensure your information is not traced on a network level.
Instead, you can use “burner” email accounts or encrypted email services. There is a wide list of options to choose from nowadays.
Some of the more popular secure temporary emails include Tor Mail (you’ll need to have Tor to use it), Guerrila Mail (all mail is deleted after an hour), The Anonymous Email, or even more short term option- 10 Minute Mail, a service that begins the clock immediately when you visit their page and you only have ten minutes to use the unique email address.
An alternative for using your regular mailbox is setting up an encrypted email service. Some of the more popular ones include ProtonMail, Hushmail or Tutanota. Email encryption services are becoming increasingly user friendly. Read more about specific encrypted email provider option in our earlier blog about email encryption cryptography.
Now that you’ve hidden your IP address and use anonymous email services, you’re safe, right?
No matter how many layers of security you’re using, if you engage in certain internet behaviors, you’ll be traced. For example, if you log into your primary Gmail or work account, or check in at your cousin’s house on Facebook, you’ll be found out.
If you post regularly on social media, you are probably giving up your personal information willingly.
The last best defense against having your information snooped, stolen or worse is you and your style of communication while on the internet.
Got any other tips and tricks? Let us know in the comments below!