"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences." ~ C.S. Lewis
The Invisible Pirate - Anonymous/Secure E-Mail Services
This edition is a review of selected anonymous/secure email services offered by subscription. The good news is that there are plenty of these services available. The bad news is that most of them fall short when it comes to really protecting your privacy. If you are seriously interested in protecting your privacy by subscribing to a service, you should seek all of the following features: substantial amount of storage, a secure (SSL) connection, strong encryption for sending and storing messages (starting at your computer), no log keeping, offshore servers, and the option to sign-up and pay anonymously, without providing any personal information'including a credit card number, phone number, or email address. Some services are web-based only, while others also offer POP /IMAP/SMTP access. Your first decision should be to determine if a web-based only solution will work for you, or if you will also require POP /IMAP/SMTP access. The cost of the services below range from $24 to $90 per year, listed in order of increasing cost.
Cost: Standard: $24 per year. Premium: $42 per year.
Storage: Standard: 10 MB. Premium: 50 MB.
Pro: If your addressee is an S-Mail user, your message is sent encrypted. The service uses PGP encryption, digital signatures, SSL, POP /SMTP secure access, a virtual keyboard to enter your password, anti-spam filter, and offshore ( Ireland ) servers. Several offline payment options (in Euros) and several online payment options, including E-gold.
Con: The system logs everything and you can't send encrypted messages to non-S-Mail users. Tiny storage, several other limits applied, especially for the Standard service.
Cost: $29.95 a year.
Storage: 100 MB.
Pro: Web interface, SSL (128-bit certificate), POP /IMAP/SMTP access over SSL, no logging of traffic or IP addresses, "Closed Loop" private messaging, "if you are using the Web email interface you can encrypt any messages in your inbox or folders with the Blowfish algorithm, [and] if you use the Eudora Internet Suite for Palm it supports POP 3 access over SSL." You can subscribe online or by mail and you can pay by money order.
Con: Onshore (subject to U.S. law), no message encryption from your computer, and you must provide an email address and/or phone number to subscribe.
Cost: $29.99 per year. (IMAP access is an additional $14.99 per year.)
Storage: 32 MB (additional 32 MB available at $10 each, up to 128 MB total.)
Pro: Web-based, offshore servers (Germany), SSL encryption, anti-spam features, mail retrieval from external POP 3 accounts, unlimited email aliases, 2048-bit encryption with full OpenPGP support (including Twofish, 3 DES , and RIPEMD160), secure document storage, optional IMAP access, online and offline payment options, and you can pay with E-gold.
Con: Medium storage, but upgradeable.
Cost: Basic: $60 per year. Bonus: $90. (two accounts)
Storage: Basic: 50 MB. Bonus: 100 MB (total, 50 MB each)
Pro: Supports both PGP and S/mime server-side encryption, web based messaging, compatibility with popular mail clients, auto-responder, and a POP 3 or IMAP mailbox. "By installing PGP or an S/mime certificate on your computer, and uploading the public key to SecureNym, all messages in the mailbox are fully encrypted with a key that only the user can unlock. Even when messages are sent to a recipient that does not use PGP or S/mime, his reply will be fully encrypted with your key upon arrival at SecureNym. SecureNym never has your private key, so only you can decrypt a message." No logging of traffic or IP addresses. Will accept money orders.
Con: Onshore (subject to U.S. law), no message encryption available at your computer without PGP or a digital certificate, and medium storage.
Cost: $69.95 per year.
Storage: 10 MB.
Pro: SSL encrypted and anonymous SMTP access, SSL encrypted POP /IMAP access, offshore servers ( Nassau , Bahamas ), additional non-standard SMTP port, vacation autoresponder, and no logs.
Con: No message encryption available at your computer without PGP or a digital certificate, and tiny storage.
Cost: $69.95 per year.
Storage: 1 GB
Pro: Huge storage, SSL with IMAP/ POP /SMTP access, web mail, supports OpenPGP encryption (with a free plug-in), spam ID with Razor, virus blocking with ClamAV, unlimited disposable addresses, offshore servers (Netherlands), hardware token authentication, also includes secure (SSL) anonymous surfing, and a 10% discount if you pay with E-gold or GoldMoney.
Con: 200 MB per month data transfer quota, with more available at $10 per GB.
Also available: 250 MB mailbox only (no secure, anonymous surfing), 200 MB bandwidth per month, unlimited aliases, and U.S. servers, for $39.95 per year.
All of the above services have strong anti-spam policies for users and most have limits on the number of recipients per email and/or the size of an email, including any attachments. Read the applicable Terms of Service for all of the details.
Onshore servers: KeptPrivate, SecureNym, and NeoMailbox.
Offshore servers: All of the rest, plus NeoMailbox.
Cost/Storage ($/MB): NeoMailbox: 0.07 (offshore) and 0.16 (onshore), KeptPrivate: 0.29, AnonMail: 0.94 (32 MB), SecureNym: 1.2 (Basic), S-Mail: 2.4 (Standard), MuteMail: 6.99.
NeoMailbox is the bargain of the bunch for onshore or offshore servers. It offers everything: lots of storage, SSL, IMAP/ POP /SMTP access, web mail, OpenPGP encryption (with a free plug-in), spam ID, antivirus, unlimited disposable aliases, hardware token authentication, and a 10% discount for paying with E-gold or GoldMoney. In addition, the 1 GB offshore server package not only includes secure (SSL) anonymous surfing, it is also the least expensive package of the bunch, on a $/MB basis. If you want it all, this deal is tough to beat.
AnonMail (upgraded to 128 MB storage, but with no IMAP access, for $59.99) is $0.47/MB. It is a web-based service and comes with almost everything, including OpenPGP and mail retrieval from external POP 3 accounts. If you only need 32 MB of storage, you can essentially have it all, for only $29.99 a year.
To protect your privacy you should select offshore servers, pay with a money order or E-gold/GoldMoney, sign-up anonymously, and insist on strong message encryption, in addition to an SSL connection. NeoMailbox and AnonMail both offer all of the above.
Disclaimer: I currently do not subscribe to any of the above services, but I do have a free AnonMail account that works very well. I also have a free MailVault account, but I do not recommend it because my testing indicates poor performance, including extended delays in delivery (hours) and frequent nondelivery.