Email

Email is not secure. It was never built as a system in such a way as to enable security and trust in meaningful ways. We suggest migrating to other, more trusted and secure means of communication (end-to-end encrypted messaging programs like Signal or through face to face communication to name a couple) over trusting labyrinthine protections to fix a broken system. That said, we do have tools and behaviors that can make email use more secure.

  • Maintaining separate accounts for different purposes is a good policy (security through isolation). Have a gmail with your name for professional reasons, an email for public-facing publication, an email for corresponding with friends and working on projects that never gets publicly shared, etc. Try and conduct sensitive and in-depth communication from email addresses that are as guarded as possible.
  • If your provider offers it, make use of aliases to preserve anonymity.
    • To use aliases at riseup, login to https://account.riseup.net/ go to mail settings, aliases, and now you can add additional riseup email addresses. To implement them in your riseup webmail, go into settings then identities and add the email address you just created. Now you can use it to send and receive mail while keeping your login secret.
    • Be smart about it – just because it’s harder to find doesn’t mean you want all of your correspondence and connection to be attached to one account. Separate accounts fully when necessary. Maintain good practices – make sure you use the appropriate identity to respond to or send a given message.
  • Mass storage makes it profoundly easy to accumulate giant stashes of correspondence. Instead of archiving or keeping in your inbox, make it a regular practice to delete all emails you don’t need. This is harm mitigation for hacking and for government data requests (although there are still ways for deleted correspondence to be accessed in gmail-like services on subpoena etc.) Normalize not having an inbox full of mail so that you are consciously engaging with each piece of mail you do save – consider exporting and saving as a pdf or printing out emails you need as well. If you have a particularly sensitive email, make sure and clear trash after deleting it so it doesn’t linger for the next 30 days.
  • PGP email encryption is solid but can be confusing. https://ssd.eff.org/ has guides for setting up PGP on different systems. Email encryption basically means that if someone intercepts an email being sent, they’re going to have a harder time/ideally fail at accessing the contents.
  • Recommended email services:
    • Riseup is gold standard for privacy, though it does not include more secure webmail encryption options. For PGP implementation, use riseup with an email client and locally implemented PGP practices. Need an invite code to sign up so ask an anarchist.
    • Protonmail gets a lot of props for including native PGP encryption but it’s worth noting that it only exists between protonmail accounts NOT to any external address. Some concerns have been expressed about provider-handled PGP as a whole, with non-user control of encryption and decrytion keys. Additionally, the fact that proton requires unique email/phone numbers to be used when setting up new accounts is concerning in that, although apparently decoupled from user information, those contact points are stored in a database. Additionally the presentation of Swiss servers being resistant to foreign surveillance or requests is either naive or deliberately misleading. Despite this, we do not recommend it be avoided, just that people be aware of the risks while using it. Also encrypts contact storage.
    • There are a variety of additional “privacy-focused” email providers, including tutanota and yandex which may be used.