Do you ever send emails with sensitive content? You probably do. Are those emails safe from prying eyes? They’re probably not.
There’s a good chance that people, other than the recipient, are using tools to rummage through your personal information. There are several simple solutions if you want to keep your mailbox more private. Like switching to a secure email provider.
Why do you need to send anonymous emails?
You probably never stop to think about it, but large commercial email providers such as Google and Yahoo are not very concerned with your privacy. Especially not when it comes to advertisers and third parties access. These providers generate income from ads, so your browsing and purchasing habits mean money for them.
Google, for example, gave third parties full access to user emails and allowed them to track all purchases so they could identify potential customers. Yahoo did the same thing and was simultaneously caught scanning emails for US surveillance agencies. So much for your privacy.
A one-fix solution to all this snooping around? Honestly, there’s not always one. But there are several things you can do to keep your online correspondence private and untraceable.
What is an anonymous email?
An anonymous email is an email that hides the sender’s identity. This means that it can never be traced back to you when you're sending an anonymous email. With most commercial email providers, this is not the case. Because they can expose your IP address, making it easier for hackers to find your city, state, and internet service provider.
Granted, it may not be a problem if you’re only sending casual messages, but what if you’re also communicating sensitive information through email? Such as social security, credit card, and account numbers?
And there are more reasons for wanting to keep your email messages completely untraceable. You may find yourself in a situation where you need to report a crime, fraud, or indecent behaviour of your boss or co-worker, for example.
You don’t want information like that to fall into the wrong hands. So if you wish to avoid that, there are roughly two things you can do. Either using a one-time burner email, or setting up an anonymous email account that is secret, nameless, and bearing no apparent connection to you.
Difference burner email and anonymous email
There’s a difference between a burner email and an anonymous, encrypted email. An encrypted mail service works just like a regular one, with one main difference: the messages get converted into a secret code to prevent unauthorized entities from accessing your content.
This end-to-end encryption usually covers all your emails, inbox, and contact list. It ensures that no one can spy and read your emails, including the service provider itself, in some cases. There are several reliable and secure encrypted email providers around; we’ll discuss them below.
A burner email is something you temporarily use. It’s a disposable email address that enables you to send a message and that subsequently forwards all incoming replies to your existing inbox. That way, the recipients never know it was you who send the email, but you will receive their emails.
More importantly, burner emails function as a layer of protection over your inbox. They are usually used for signing up to newsletters or shopping online, and they protect you from unwanted spam or data breaches from hackers who found a weak spot in your email account.
How to send an anonymous email?
If you want to send an anonymous email, it’s probably easiest to create a new email account. Of course, you could simply create a new, fake one using Google or Yahoo, but that won’t solve the problem of these services still being able to follow your online movements.
One of the first things you should do is maintain sensible browsing habits, which means browsing anonymously. Suppose you want to surf the web in private. In that case, you need to set up a VPN (virtual private network) and combine that with something like a Tor Browser, which makes your online traces virtually untraceable using multiple servers and routes for your traffic.
Secondly, you could set up an email account that supports secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption. SSL is basic encryption that you can use to prevent others from spying on your online behaviour. Your email account is encrypted when you see HTTPS in the URL, and large email providers such as Gmail and Yahoo support HTTPS.
While SSL is great for web browsing, it can never fully keep your email correspondence hidden. The only thing that works here is getting yourself a secure email service. Of course, these services can still keep a log with your IP address and other information, but several trustworthy ones respect your privacy and don’t collect your data.
Another option is Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). This is an encryption system that is mostly used for sending encrypted messages between two people. It offers an extra layer of security for all your email messages.
How PGP works: You have a public key to encrypt messages and a private key to decrypt messages. When you send a message, this message is first encrypted into unreadable text using a public key. This message is then sent to the receiver, who has a private key to unlock and decrypt it so it can be read on their device. This way, you can communicate privately online through email.
Anonymous email account
It is important to stay anonymous online. These anonymous mail services are your safest bet of engaging in untraceable email communications. Most of these services provide end-to-end encryption, automatic deletion of emails, blocked IP addresses, and password protection of your anonymous email account.
They require no or minimal personal information and they are generally pretty affordable. Plus they have different features and tools to best tailor your specific needs.
We’ve listed some of the best services that create nameless and unidentifiable email addresses for you below.
This is a web-based service that provides fully encrypted messages. ProtonMail ensures no one can get access to your data, not even the company itself, which doesn’t even ask for any personal information when you sign up. You can also create self-destructing messages and determine their lifespan yourself.
You can get an account of 500MB of data for free, with which you can send up to 150 messages per day. If you pay four euros per month, you’ll get access to advanced features. One of the reasons ProtonMail scores so high on anonymity is because of the integration with Tor Browser. The only drawback? That Protonmail asks for your mobile number to create your account.
Mailfence offers some great security features to keep your email message anonymous for third parties and even the company itself. They guarantee no spam or tracking, plus the government has no access whatsoever.
They work with digitally signed emails that ensure the receiver that a message is indeed sent by you. In addition, they offer an OpenPGP keys feature that allows you to create, import, publish, and manage these keys.
3. Secure Mail
This service encrypts your mail with a 4096-bit key and SSL encryption. That way, your messages can’t be read by anyone but you. They also don’t log your IP address, which means they keep none of your identifiable information in-store and can’t pass it on to governments or advertisers.
What’s more, when you create a Secure Mail account, you don’t have to share any personal information such as mobile numbers.
4. Guerrilla Mail
This is a great encrypted email provider that helps you send disposable, temporary email messages. As a user, you receive a random email address that allows you to send and receive messages. You can give the email address to every person or service that you don’t trust and check your incoming messages on Guerrilla Mail to validate or delete them.
One of their best features is the self-timing messages, which means that every message is saved for one hour, after which it is destroyed. That way, you keep your personal inbox free of unwanted spam and emails, plus it gives you a chance to keep sensitive communications under the radar if you’d want to. Guerrilla Mail is coupled with the Tor Browser, guaranteeing you virtual invisibility.
If you want more control over your messages and temporary mailbox, perhaps TrashMail.com is the service for you. You can create a new email from several domain options, after which Trashmail.com forwards it to your regular email address. You determine for how long.
You can create as many email addresses as you want. And if you wish for unlimited forwarding, you pay a relatively small price per year.
NordVPN is a global VPN service that ensures a safe internet connection when browsing online. There’s always a great offer on their website with discounts of up to 70%. NordVPN guarantees an ad-free browsing experience and also protects you against malware-hosting websites.
How to receive an anonymous email?
This all depends on the service you’re using. If you opt for a temporary anonymous email service, such as Guerrilla Mail, you’ll receive your emails in this disposable email account. You can check them, validate or delete them, and after an hour your communications are destroyed. Some services forward the responses and messages you get to your regular email account.
If you only need to receive emails and not send them, Trashmail is one of the best services around. As an inbox-only provider, it offers up to 25 disposable emails from sixteen different domains. Because it filters spam, it ensures that only the most relevant messages will end up in your temporary anonymous mailbox. You can decide for yourself how long you want your account to ‘live’, after which it will automatically be fully erased.
Send an anonymous email with an attachment
Multiple services allow you to send anonymous emails with attachments, such as Guerrilla Mail. This service lets you attach a file or image to your message if it’s less than 15MB in size.
How to stay anonymous when sending anonymous emails
We’ve talked about it before, but in addition to using an anonymous email service provider, you should think about installing a trustworthy VPN (like NordVPN) or Tor Browser. That way, you will keep your IP address hidden and your identity safe when sending an email or surfing the web.
A VPN encrypts your connection and routes all traffic through an intermediary server. This conceals your IP address and location, so your online activities stay private. You should perceive it as a secure tunnel between your device and the VPN server.
Tor achieves the same thing by passing your connection through network nodes to keep your identity and location hidden.
Do you want to learn more about the advantages of VPNs if you want to remain anonymous online? Then be sure to read our VPN article here.