Emails provide identifiable two-way communication by design. Aside from the sender address, email has a lot more information that could be used to identify you. If you look at the full email header, you could find routing information. This might be enough to identify you, which might get you in trouble if you’re sending sensitive information. The proper way to do it is to send an anonymous email.
How to send an anonymous email without being tracked?
Sending private email means hiding your real IP address and using a secure email service provider. Most popular email platforms like Google or Yahoo are excellent in their simplicity and storage but are lacking in the privacy department.
- Pick a secure email provider. ProtonMail is one of the best options.
- Register for the service to get your mailbox
- Enjoy your new, safer email communications
If you expect to initiate a private conversation via email, there are quite a bit of things that you could do. Keep in mind, that most times, there’s no one fix solution. You’ll get the best combination of privacy and security if you try to combine several methods. Not only this will help you to stay secure when writing private emails but when you’re looking for weak points in your daily browsing.
1. Use an encrypted and anonymous email service
Encrypted email will function just like a regular service with the bonus that end-to-end encryption makes it much safer. Such encryption covers your emails, inbox, and contact list. No one spying on your traffic will be able to read your emails, including even the service provider (in some cases). Different providers offer different features, but ProtonMail, Tutanota, Secure Email and Guerilla Mail are guaranteed to be more private than Gmail or Yahoo.
The most anonymous email accounts:
- ProtonMail – the best secure email provider
- Tutanota – the most anonymous email provider
- StartMail – the best easy-to-use email provider
- Guerilla Mail – the best temporary email against spam
2. Use a “burner” email
Similarly to how cheap prepaid phones are used in shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad, burner emails are temporarily used and then disposed of. They either expire after a fixed period or will enable you to send a message without registering an account that could be traced back to you. You can use their temporary “send only” account at AnonymouseMail.
Burner emails can help you to fight spam when registering on shady websites. The only drawback is that it can be very tricky to reset your account registered on a burner email in cases when you forget your password. The best course of action would be to use burner emails when you know that it’s little chance that you’ll need to use it in the future.
3. Hide your IP
Whichever method you choose to send an anonymous email, your IP may still be a liability. To hide it, you should use a no-logs VPN or Tor browser. A VPN will encrypt your connection and route it through an intermediary server, hiding your actual IP address. Tor will pass your connection through several network nodes, making you untraceable. There are even some VPNs that use these technologies in conjunction, like NordVPN’s Onion over VPN.
4. Remove the metadata from the files
If you’re sending a Word document, the metadata in the files could be your giveaway. It can contain your full name and other personal information that you don’t want to share. If it’s just documents that you want to send without being traced, you should take a screenshot and strip any EXIF data from it.
On Windows, there’s also a built-in tool for metadata removal called Document Inspector. This will help you to analyze what you’re including, giving you the ability to strip all the information from a file that you don’t want to be shared.
5. Create a new email account
They easiest way to send emails anonymously is to create a new email account. If you must use services Gmail or Yahoo, you could create an email using false information. Choose a fake name, home address, date of birth, and don’t provide a phone number. Keep in mind, however, that even with these precautions, these services will still track your cyber movements. They are also required to provide this information to law enforcement agencies.
The most anonymous email providers
If you want to send email anonymously, it always boils down to choosing a secure email provider. They can still keep a log with your name, IP, or location, so you need to pick one that will respect your anonymity and will not collect your data.
1. ProtonMail – the best secure email provider
ProtonMail uses PGP encryption for your emails before they leave your device. It guarantees a no-logs policy, so even if law enforcement came knocking on the provider’s door, they wouldn’t have anything to show them.
Keep in mind that once the email is sent, it won’t encrypt metadata, headers, or subject lines. There is a free and paid plan (from 4.00$ a month) that increases the maximum amount of messages that you can send per day. The only downside is that they will likely ask you to provide a telephone number to confirm your account.
ProtonMail also offers the feature of self-destructing messages. All you need to do is set your preferred expiration time, and, when the time comes, ProtonMail will delete the messages from the recipient’s inbox.
Aside from that, this email service gives you a free VPN, applications for iOS and Android, and an encrypted calendar.
2. Tutanota – the most anonymous email provider
Tutanota can provide you with end-to-end encryption. If you need, you will be able to send encrypted messages even to non-Tutanota users. The encryption includes not only the inbox, but your contacts as well. You won’t need to provide any identifiable information when registering an account. Plus, it will strip your IP address from your emails. Their code is open source so everyone can examine it.
This secure email service is one of the best options for those who don’t want to spend a fortune – or to spend money at all. That’s because it offers a free version that includes 1 GB of storage. However, this plan supports only one user and has other limits – for example, it stores your emails only for four weeks. For additional features, like setting up encrypted calendars and unlimited email history, you can pay as little as 1.20 EUR a month.
3. StartMail – the best easy-to-use email provider
StartMail is what Gmail could be if their company focused more on privacy rather than how to place ads. Their parent company even runs Startpage, which one of the few privacy-friendly search engines.
Following this example, StartMail is one of the most private email boxes that you could get. It supports burner emails, so you can add barriers to your mailbox. Even if such an email appears in a spam mailing list, you can quickly dispose of it and create another.
Like most privacy-focused email services, StartMail encrypts the messages locally and sends them via HTTPS. There is also PGP support, but your contact will also have to use a matching setup. Otherwise, it won’t work.
4. Guerilla Mail – the best temporary email against spam
Guerilla Mail has been a popular anonymous email provider since 2006. It differs from the other secure email providers on this list, as it provides a temporal email address to send and receive email anonymously. You can either create the email address yourself or let Guerilla Mail do it for you if you’re in a hurry. You don’t even need to have an account to send messages, which makes things even more comfortable.
You can use Guerilla Mail when you want to register to a site but are not comfortable with using your real email address. In other words, you can use this email provider as a dumpster for unwanted spam emails, or when you don’t trust the sender.
The best thing about Guerilla Mail is the fact that it’s absolutely free – you just go to their site and use the service. So far, Guerilla has processed more than 13 billion emails – and the number is constantly growing.
Importance of email security and anonymity
Using a standard email provider, in most cases you’ll get a decent service, but your privacy might be at risk. These services generate income from ads, and they need to know your browsing habits to tailor these ads for you. Plus, email metadata will expose your private IP address to anyone willing to look at the X-Originating-IP or Original-IP lines. This will enable hackers (or the receiver) to find your city, state, ZIP code, internet service provider, and more.
If you use Gmail as a webmail service, your external IP address and hostname will not be leaked. However, if you’ e using Thunderbird, or Outlook client to send Gmail emails using SMTP, then your IP address and hostname will be sent through along with your email. Keep in mind that during police investigation, Gmail would be forced to reveal your IP address and location.
It’s impossible to hide “From” addresses when sending emails. However, you can use a fake address to trick someone into thinking that it was someone else. You’ll still have to use a real domain name because non-existing domain names will get caught up in spam filters.
By design, Outlook always uses an email account associated with the sender. This means that it’s impossible to indicate other “From” that your used email account. If they don’t match, Outlook will return an error, and it will be impossible to send an email.
Gmail isn’t anonymous because Google tends to collect your data and serve you ads. However, it’s possible to keep some degree of privacy with the Gmail account by using a fake name, location, birth date when registering, and always using a VPN with it.
You can use a VPN or TOR to hide your originating IP address when sending an email to have it display the proxy server’s IP instead of your actual home IP address. This won’t reveal your IP to the public when sending emails.
A burner email account is a separate email account without important contacts that its user can quickly dispose of after several uses. It has the benefit of not being tied to real user’s names or its other accounts.