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Email Providers

See also: Email Providers

Self hosting is the only way to fully ensure the privacy and security of your email. Entrusting a third party to store your data on their servers always introduces some risks. Even the most trustworthy providers may be forced to turn over user data in response to a court order. We have seen this happen in the case of Hushmail and Lavabit (Edward Snowden's email provider).

However, in wake of the NSA spying scandal several privacy focused email providers have surfaced. Some notable ones are:

These providers use browser based client-side encryption. Their code is open source, so it can be easily audited. Emails between users of their service are encrypted automatically. Sending encrypted email to outside users is also possible via a link with a password and password hint. This provides a high level of convenience because no additional software installation or technical knowledge is required. When a higher level of security is required GPG/PGP is still the gold standard.

For a full list of providers which respect your personal freedom check out Privacy-Conscious Email Providers.

Email Encryption

The FSF's guide to email encryption

PGP is an acronym for Pretty Good Privacy. It is software that provides both encryption and authentication. GPG or GNU Privacy Guard is a free implementation of it. Although PGP has been around since the 1990s, it is not widely adopted because of the steep learning curve required to use it. Nevertheless, it can be a very effective tool for protecting email communications. Some software installation is required, but it can be used with any existing email account. You must have a recipient's public key in order to send them an email with PGP. Many privacy conscious individuals, activists and journalists make their public key available alongside their contact email.

To learn how to use PGP see the following guides:

Email Clients

See also: Recommended software

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Thunderbird is a email client based upon the Gecko rendering engine. Like its sibling Firefox, it offers the user extensive customization options via third-party add-ons. Enigmail is an extension for it that provides easy to use PGP.

Seamonkey-icone-6933-128.png SeaMonkey

SeaMonkey is a continuation of the Mozilla suite. Unlike most modern web browsers, it is an Internet suite, complete with bundled programs for email, IRC, and web design. It is compatible with most Firefox add-ons. It also supports Enigmail for PGP encryption.

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Claws Mail

Claws Mail is an email client (and news reader), based on GTK+. The appearance and interface are designed to be familiar to new users coming from other popular email clients, as well as experienced users. Almost all commands are accessible with the keyboard.

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KMail is the email component of Kontact, the integrated personal information manager from KDE.

Self Hosted Email

See also: Setting_up_a_Server#Setting_Up_Email_the_EASY_way

The only way to have full control over your email is to host your own mail server.


MX Record

A Mail eXchanger Record (MX record) specifies a mail server responsible for accepting email messages on behalf of a recipient's domain, and a preference value is used to prioritize mail delivery if multiple mail servers are available. The set of MX records of a domain name specifies how email should be routed with the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP).

SPF Record

A Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record identifies which servers are ALLOWED to send email on behalf of your domain. The idea is to help prevent domain spoofing by spammers. If a spammer tries to use your domain to forge email, the receiver can check your SPF record and, if it doesn't match, reject it outright. These days most mail servers check for SPF records, and if they don't find one, they will also reject your mail - so you need one.

DKIM Record

A DomainKeys Identified Mail, or DKIM entry provides a 1024-bit public key, unique to your domain, that confirms that an email is actually from a legitimate account on your server. It is a complementary check to SPF records. It is not as widely used as SPF yet, but is in use by Gmail and Yahoo, and should be set up anyhow.

Mail Transfer Agent (MTA)


Mail Delivery Agent (MDA)


Spam Prevention



The email system is inherently insecure in many ways that will never be fixed, as it was designed in a time when passwords were rare, and IPv4 had so damn many addresses, we could never possibly use them all.

The best way to secure email is to use PGP, either by using the enigmail addon for Thunderbird, or by copy+pasting to a terminal and using gpg. This allows you to encrypt and sign email, providing confidentiality and authentication, ensuring that only the recipient can read it and that it did indeed come from you.

External Links