Modern society has used the email everyday ever since Ray Tomlinson invented it in 1972. Since then, it has gotten a steady foothold in our daily lives and will continue to do so as we progress.
Statista numbered the emails sent and received per day since 2017 at 269 billion emails and predicts this number to increase to 333 billion daily mails in 2022. This shows just how commonplace email has become for both work and home.
However, it is this popularity that makes emails so enticing as targets for cyber attacks.
Your organisation is only as strong as your weakest link-- and that is the people comprising it. Most people are simply curious enough to click on that strange link in their email-- even after second guessing themselves. Big mistake.
Email attacks have always been a threat to individuals and organisations alike and have only risen in infamy through the years. This is because an email is simple, requires fewer resources and is connected to the people in an organisation.
Spam, viruses, phishing, and ransomware, to name a few, are just some of the more common ways that criminals attack your computer or device. It’s as simple as finding your email and tracing it back to you.
What makes this even more threatening is if you or your organisation holds sensitive or confidential information.
This is where an anonymous email could come in handy.
What is an anonymous email
An anonymous email is an email that can’t be traced back to you.
Based on that definition, an anonymous email can, therefore, be:
An email sent through a proxy server;
One that simply omits your personal information; or
An email where you use fake contact information upon signing up.
Why use it
Firstly, using anonymous emails simply gives you more freedom of expression. It lets you say exactly what you want or need to say to anyone with an email account.
More importantly, an anonymous email offers more privacy and security compared to a regular email.
Regular emails can be traced back to you and be easily made the target of malicious threats.
Ransomware, which allows the people behind it to hijack your data in exchange for a hefty ransom, is most commonly sent via email. In 2017, Barkly said that a company is hit by ransomware every 40 seconds and that 15% or more of businesses in the top 10 industry sectors have been attacked.
Couple this with the fact that the average ransom demand was already at $1077 back in 2016, and you’re looking at a potentially catastrophic loss for your organisation.
There is also the threat of cryptojacking where hackers turn your employees’ computers into their own cryptocurrency mines. Hackers can do this by getting your employees to click on a malicious link that loads crypto mining code on the computer.
Another common threat is phishing. These emails are often used to bait employees into revealing login data or other confidential information. This is especially dangerous since 91% of cyber attacks start with a phishing email.
There is a more highly customised form of phishing called “spear phishing” that targets a specific individual or organisation.
But, the highest and costliest form of phishing would have to be “Whaling” or business email compromise. Last year, the US FBI reported that, between 2015-2016, business losses attributed to whaling had totalled to over $5 billion.
Using an anonymous email forgoes these threats by preventing criminals from even finding your email in the first place.
Who should use it
Anonymous emails are often used by people who handle sensitive information.
Journalists and their sources often use anonymous emails to ensure that the information and identity of the source remains secret.
Law enforcement and security agencies can also use anonymous emails between themselves and their informants to prevent or trace crimes.
Individuals trusted with an organisation’s financial transactions or those handling confidential corporate information, can use anonymous emails to prevent exposure to the threats discussed above.
Of course, a whole business can benefit from using anonymous emails to make sure the enterprise is kept safe from email-borne threats-- all while keeping business correspondence private.
How to send anonymous emails
The most basic way is to simply provide fake personal information to create an account on common email providers like Gmail, Outlook, or Hotmail. Note that you’ll need to verify your account via your phone number.
While this method isn’t the most private, it does offer more privacy than usual.
However, if you want the most secure way to send anonymous emails, you’ll want to sign up to a private email service.
These service providers won’t require much personal information and they come equipped with various features such as end-to-end email encryption, a hidden IP address or IP address blocker, email password protect, and automated email deletion or expiration.
How much they usually cost
The cost of signing up to a private email service is what often repels common individuals from using them. Why not just use free emails and sign up with fake info, right?
The thing is, free email services often contain ads that were customised especially for you. This is done by using your personal data to track your online habits.
Also, the basic approach can still be a security nightmare since malware doesn’t care who you are before it starts to infect your computer or device.
In the end, it’s all just a question of how much your privacy and security is worth to you.
Anonymous email services don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, though. There are many anonymous email options available so you’re sure to find one that fits your needs and your budget.
If you’re an individual looking to protect just yourself, you can sign up for a free account that most private email providers offer. These free accounts do, however, provide only the most basic features and limited storage.
If you plan to sign up for a paid service, prices often range from $25-$80+ annually.
If you’re looking to provide your business with anonymous email services, you’ll find that most providers offer either a set price per user or require you to contact them to negotiate prices according to your needs and the size of your organisation.
Paying for an anonymous email service for your business not only increases the amount of storage and email addresses you can use but also comes with additional features to sweeten the deal.
You get things like better technical support, LDAD, API, graphical adaptation, integration of external services, and/or use of a single email box for the whole company.
Best anonymous emails
Finding the “best” anonymous email really depends on your purpose-to-cost ratio. More features often equate to higher cost.
That said, here are the top anonymous email providers that offer the best features.
ProtonMail has their servers based in Switzerland. They offer data protection under Swiss laws and end-to-end encryption. They don’t require any personal information to sign up and can be used with any device without installing any new software.
Guerilla Mail has been going strong for over 10 years. They’re an encrypted email service that doesn’t require you to sign up. You simply create an email address or use the scramble option to make a random one.
MailFence promises no ads, no spam, no trackers, no solicitations, no backdoor, and to give you freedom from government surveillance. They do this through their OpenPGP E2EE, digital signature, and keystore while also having their servers based in Belgium.
Mailinator lets you create any address which you can then give out like a normal email address. Any mail you receive through that email address is sent to Mailinator. While using the free account, any emails sent to Mailinator will be in the public domain and will be deleted after a few hours.
Tutanota offers standard end-to-end encryption. It’s also licensed under GPL v3 to be open source and completely free. They allow you to access the service in complete anonymity by not requiring any personal information to set up an account. This is because they don’t log any IP addresses.
The Anonymous Email is as basic as its name suggests. It lets you send anonymous emails once you’ve signed up. What may be the deal breaker here is they require a previous email to sign up but this is easy to circumvent if you just create a burner email account for this purpose.
TorGuard is a VPN service that also offers a built-in anonymous email service. You’re also given the option to forego the VPN service entirely and sign up for the anonymous email service only. Their anonymous email comes with the standard end-to-end encryption and OpenPGP compatibility. They also offer extra features like easy key storage, calendar, tasks, notes, bulk import, advanced search, and more.
To sum up:
Anonymous emails can provide privacy and security from cyber attacks and there are a myriad of ways to send them.
Some services let you send one-offs while others require you to sign up.
If you’re looking for a long-term engagement, you should avail of a premium account that offers a more permanent status together with robust features.
If you’re a novice in all of this and you want a more basic guide you can read this post as well.