Making My Email Safer

As I've mentioned before, I've been looking for ways to tighten up my email security and, at the same time, move away from Google to avoid being caught in another nasty surprise like the shuttering of Google Reader. Today's post is a report on where I am now and what I am planning for the future.

By far the best advice I've found for keeping your email secure was given by Drew Crawford in his NSA-proof your e-mail in 2 hours post. Crawford's recommendation is to run your own mail server. That's not nearly as hard as you might think and it gives you absolute control over the secure storage of your email. Unless the police come to your door with a warrant (or capture the email in flight) your privacy is assured. Even with a warrant, you know “they” are trying to get your email and can fight the warrant. That's much better than storing your email on Google and having the government serve Google with a secret warrant to get your email without you even knowing about it.

Of course, there are some problems. You'll need your own domain and a machine to run the mail server on. Crawford assumes a Linux machine and that's probably the easiest way to get things set up, especially if you want to follow his procedure. The other thing you're going to need is a fixed IP address (or at the very least some sort of dynamic DNS setup). Most ISPs are going to make you get a commercial account and charge you more for this so it bears looking into before you start.

Setting up my own mail server is my ultimate goal but while I'm working out the details, I've moved all my Google mail elsewhere. I found two excellent services that should work well for me and anyone else wanting to abandon Google. The first is FastMail. If you're looking for something very similar to Gmail, this seems like a good bet. Max Masnick and have both switched and posted informative articles on the pros and cons of FastMail. Both are worth a read.

The other possibility is Lavabit the service said to be used by Edward Snowden. They have an impressive list of features including keeping your email encrypted on their server with a key only you know. If you're extra paranoid, this may be a good bet for you.

My intermediate solution is to move my Gmail traffic to Lavabit. I've already redirected all my mailing list traffic (the bulk of my Gmail activity) and will see what else needs to be moved as emails trickle in. I'm pretty happy with this as a stop gag measure until I can get my own email server up.

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