It's not just dissidents looking for anonymous email, but ordinary people who don't want to reveal their true identities. A reader recently asked how to use aliases in Outlook.com to create an anonymous email account. My answer was simple: It is impossible.
Microsoft's implementation of aliases is not designed to disguise your identity. Outlook.com aliases are designed to create disposable addresses that you can give to marketers, etc. to keep your inbox from becoming cluttered.
But the question remains, how do you create an anonymous email account? Let's see.
Remark: This guide is not for someone in an oppressed country looking for ways to hide from government spies. This is for people who want anonymity but don't risk the death penalty or jail time if discovered. Also, remember that no system is flawless. But for most people, the instructions below should suffice.
It all starts with Tor
Before creating an anonymous email account, we need to make sure our location and Internet Protocol (IP) address is also anonymous. Not everyone will want to take this step. Suppose you just want to use a fake name to send letters to the editor of a national newspaper. Depending on your situation, it may not matter whether you disclose your location or not. If you don't hide your location, it means that a motivated person will probably be able to find you.
The easiest way to hide your location is to download the Tor (The Onion Router) Browser, which is based on Firefox. Tor sends your signal through a series of servers called nodes, which are made available by volunteers. By the time you leave the server network to enter the open internet, it is very difficult to figure out where you came from.
The Tor Browser works just like any other browser. The only difference is that it takes a few seconds longer to start because it connects to the Tor network.
You can download the Tor Browser directly from the Tor project website and then install it. When you install the browser, you get a folder containing the program, which usually appears on your desktop.
The Tor Browser is not integrated into your system like other apps. If you really want to be anonymous, I recommend that you move the folder to a USB drive and run from that drive.
Now it's time to start communicating anonymously. What you don't want to do is use a mainstream service like Gmail, Outlook.com, or Yahoo. These services require a mobile phone number and other identifying information when registering, making an anonymous email account completely useless.
Two good options are Hushmail and the Disposable Inbox from VPN provider Hide My Ass. Hushmail has had some privacy issues. Despite this, well-known privacy-minded individuals and companies such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Phil Zimmermann recommend the service.
Hide My Ass's solution isn't perfect either. For example, when registering, the company asks for your real email address so that they can notify you when you have new posts. This is not a good idea as connecting your official email account to your anonymous account makes the whole hassle useless. There's no need to enter your real email address, though, so just skip that step.
A nice feature of the Hide My Ass disposable inbox is that you can make the email address disappear after 24 hours or up to a year.
Once you've chosen your email provider, you really need to use the Tor Browser every time you connect to the service. If you make even one mistake, your real location will be revealed - be it your home or a nearby cafe.
You should also ensure that you always connect to your anonymous email account via HTTPS. This should happen by default with the two providers mentioned above, but check anyway.
Creating an anonymous email account takes some time, but the Tor Browser and these two anonymous email providers make it a lot easier.