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Thread: Email privacy possible?

  1. #1
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    Question Email privacy possible?

    Gmail is great, but in a world where online privacy is getting harder and harder, I find it a priority to leave free webmail services. Sadly, I can't see any great alternatives.


    Running my own VPS mailserver poses it's own risks. I certainly trust Google more than I trust myself to be able to run a secure mailserver that won't get compromised, or won't periodically fail to receive or send emails, or won't get filled with spam. At the end of the day, you still have to put your trust in someone. Why should I trust my VPS provider more than I trust Google not to read my mail?


    What are your thoughts? I'd love to run my own mail server, but I don't see the benefits outweighing the costs.


    (And I know about PGP, but sadly that's just not practical to use everywhere.)

  2. #2
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    Re: Email privacy possible?

    It's costly but collocating your own box or getting a business connection to your home and hosting there are really the only options. Either way you control the box completely which will give you privacy at least on the server, especially if you encrypt the file system.

    Just remember that once the email hits the Internet there's no security that would prevent someone else from reading it except for as you mentioned GPG/PGP -- think of a postcard in the mail, everyone can see what it says. But at least your repository of emails and data would be under your control and no one else's by hosting your own box.
    Linux User since 1996, #242069
    System 76 PanP5 - 64bit Xubuntu 12.04

  3. #3
    aeronutt is offline Extra Foam Sugar Free Ubuntu
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    Re: Email privacy possible?

    lavabit.com and zoho.com advertise pretty good privacy policies. I recently changed from yahoo to zoho, and am happy so far. Might have chosen lavabit if I'd known about it, but zoho has a few million users, lavabit is less than 1/2 million last I checked.

  4. #4
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    Re: Email privacy possible?

    Here's a question, would you change to another email provider if you had the same email address for years? I've been with GMail since they rolled it out mid-2004, so I have 8 years worth of content on there. I do keep local copies of it, but given my email address is pretty much my identity on so many sites at this point it's just not feasible for me to move to another server. I can imagine lots of people being in this same situation, which I guess just proves that it's not a good idea to use a domain you don't own as your primary email account :-/

    But can lavabit.com or zoho.com support your own domain? If so this is something I may look at as well though I don't think I'd be able to drop my Google account if nothing else to prevent someone else from getting it and possibly reactivating accounts I've forgotten about.

    Sam
    Linux User since 1996, #242069
    System 76 PanP5 - 64bit Xubuntu 12.04

  5. #5
    aeronutt is offline Extra Foam Sugar Free Ubuntu
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    Re: Email privacy possible?

    I'd been with yahoo for 10+ years...was painful to change. I don't know if zoho or lavabit can host your own domain.

  6. #6
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    Re: Email privacy possible?

    One model you might consider if you already have a VPS is to build an OpenVPN tunnel between a machine in your home or office and the VPS server. Let the VPS machine handle the external mail traffic and deliver the mail over the tunnel to the box in your home. That's effectively the system I've run for a few years now. It's much cheaper than having a business-class IP connection into your home, too.

    As for handling spam and viruses, I strongly endorse MailScanner. I've used it in conjunction with ClamAV and SpamAssassin to scan mail for about a decade now with great success.

  7. #7
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    Re: Email privacy possible?

    I would think that setting up TLS certificates between the VPS and your local network might work just as well for encryption, but many people don't want to keep port open to their local network.

    I route my mail to a VPS, then use uucp over ssh to relay it to my local network. The uucp protocols have been around forever, and was used in the early Internet days, when everything was done over dial-up phone relays. Having ssh as the underlying protocol provides encryption and security, as you only need to have an ssh port (22 or other) open on your firewall. Some information can be found at http://www.bortzmeyer.org/uucp-over-ssh.html
    Last edited by Irregular Joe; February 28th, 2012 at 10:25 PM. Reason: provided downside to TLS

  8. #8
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    Re: Email privacy possible?

    I just started giving Lavabit a try. Really liking it and may just make that my default here pretty soon.

  9. #9
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    Lightbulb Re: Email privacy possible?

    Just start using PGP to decrypt your incoming and encrypt your outgoing emails and what provider you use will be pretty much irrelevant. Can't see all the fuss about who is keeping your emails when they are pretty much readable by anyone who can capture the message between the destination points. Of course it requires a little work from your major correspondents (they need to encrypt the messages they send you with your public key) but once it's set up it's quite easy.
    Eternally confused.

  10. #10
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    Re: Email privacy possible?

    Email privacy possible? No

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