In this article we review five of the most popular email services that are either free or have a free option and can be accessed over the Tor network.
In today’s internet age, privacy is becoming increasingly scarce and hard to maintain. Major corporate entities like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are now well-known for collecting and selling data generated by their users en masse, potentially using it for purposes of which the user may be unaware. Even if data is not being sold to advertisers, it is still being collected, which means it is at the risk of someday being accidentally exposed or falling into the hands of an adversarial entity.
This phenomenon also holds true for major public email services, such as Google Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, and Yahoo! Mail. The content of emails sent from and received by these services is regularly being analyzed to build a thumbprint or profile that corresponds to a user’s personal habits. The best way to avoid unwanted repercussions from this type of intrusion is to ditch using corporate email services in favor of smaller, privacy-minded services that aren’t out to make money by selling the data of their users. Below we take a look at five such services that can also be accessed via the Tor browser.
This is a free email service run by a citizen of Germany named Daniel Winzen that can be accessed via both darknet and clearnet. Winzen has gone out of his way be as transparent as possible in how his service works and what data is collected, even going so far as to provide his personal address and phone number. Compared to similar services, this one is relatively bare bones. Email address domains end in “@danwin1210.de” and come with 50 MB of disk space. The creator suggests always PGP encrypting information sent in emails and acknowledges it may otherwise be read by himself or others.
Registration for a danwin1210 address is extremely straight-forward, requiring only entry of a username, password, and the solving of a simple captcha. It uses a modified version of SquirrelMail, which is a relatively common webmail service provider. Files can be attached up to 30 MB in size, and if the user reaches their storage limit, they can contact Winzen using a contact form on the main mail page. Upon registration, users are also assigned a Jabber (messaging) account that uses the same credentials. In all, this is an extremely simple and effective service for those who plan on sending PGP-encrypted emails.
Elude is a free email service that is hosted entirely on Tor. It appears to generate funds to cover operating expenses through advertisements and donations. It allows users to choose from a number of different email domains, including airmail.nz, allurba.se, cryptolab.nl, dodg.email, elude.in, eludemail.cc, safemail.xyz, swissmail.be, xmpp.es, elud.email, and mail.在线. A couple of things to keep in mind when using Elude is that you can be banned from the service for sending out emails flagged as spam and your account can be closed if it remains inactive for too long.
Although Elude is technically free, you will need to pass a verification check to prove that you’re not a bot before access to the service will be enabled. The three ways to do this are to send a personal message explaining why you want to use Elude, sending them a 0.001 BTC fee for instant enabling, or sending an email to the service itself. Elude also features a crypto wallet and exchanger for BTC, XMR and LTC, although it is a custodial wallet, so any funds deposited there are being entrusted with the service itself. The service claims to not collect IP addresses or browser fingerprints.
For those who require more storage, functionality or email addresses, there is a Mail Plus version for $3.99 a month that provides 15 GB with other features, and an Unlimited version for $9.99 a month that provides 500 GB with an even greater array of features. The free version also provides users with one calendar, access to Proton Drive for encrypted file storage, and one “medium-speed” VPN connection via ProtonVPN. Creating an account is easy but requires provision of a verification email. At times, a special invite is required if too many addresses have been created recently from your IP address.
Riseup is an “autonomous tech collective” that has been “running servers for justice” since 1999. Based in Seattle with members worldwide, the goal of Riseup is to allow individuals to enjoy the “freedom of expression” by providing alternative communication resources, which include free email accounts. Emails are encrypted on physical servers and can only be read by those with the credentials of the recipient account. Email traffic is encrypted when possible (not all email providers are capable of supporting encryption), and Riseup servers use full disc encryption, meaning nothing is stored in a cloud.
While Riseup provides account owners with a wide selection of utilities, it is necessary to obtain an invite code to register from an email account. The most common way to do this is to receive an invite code from an established Riseup user, but it is also possible to request an invite from the site admins by filling out a help ticket (this will also require the provision of an email address through which the requester can be contacted). The members of the Riseup collective are all completely anonymous and the project appears to take the preservation of online privacy extremely seriously.
SecTor.City is a newer, privacy-focused email services which “emphasizes total anonymity.” It can only be accessed using the Tor network and they claim to not keep any logs for their clearnet relay servers. Mail servers for inbound and outbound traffic are said to be “disposable,” meaning they change frequently, and they claim that once the data queued on them is processed it is “immediately purged.” SecTor.City does not place any restrictions on its users but “discourages” spamming, mailbombing and in general use of its service for the purposes of “immoral” or illegal behavior.
Creating an account on SecTor.City is very simple, requiring provision of only a username, password, and the solving of a simple captcha. All emails use the domain “@sector.city.” Users are limited to sending 10 messages a day, and storage space is capped at 10 MB. The service is extremely straight-forward and easy to use, not bogged down with unnecessary registrations, authentications, or advertisements. SecTor.City is therefore a great choice for those who want to send email over Tor only, value their privacy, and don’t need to send big files.