Have you ever asked yourself why it seems like everybody knows your e-mail? It is because we use it everywhere. Name them: for purchases, newsletter sign-ups, at the doctor’s office, and government websites! This one unique identifier links all our activities together and unfortunately, this e-mail is easily findable on the web in countless data breaches where it is used to tie all kinds of personal information about us together and track us all over the Internet.
Data Brokerage is a billion-dollar industry that we are all part of. But allowing people to learn so much about us by using a unique identifier for everything we do is dangerous. This is where burner e-mail addresses and email aliases come in handy.
What is an email alias address?
An email alias is an alternate email address that is associated with a real email account without a way of identifying the real email address. It can be used to send and receive emails just like a primary email address, but all messages sent to the alias are delivered to the primary email address.
What is a burner email / temporary email?
Burner emails allow you to have many different e-mail addresses that you use for different purposes to help silo various parts of your life. You do not need to set up multiple accounts or log into different accounts. You do not even need to create these e-mail addresses in advance.
What are the benefits of using email aliases and Burner emails?
Email aliases will help you reclaim control over your inbox
You can create aliases and use them when signing up for online accounts or services that you think might send you spam or unwanted emails. This way, you can keep your real email address private and avoid receiving spam or unwanted emails at that address. You can then set up filters or rules in your email client to automatically delete or move emails sent to the alias to a separate folder, so they don’t clutter up your primary email.
If you use your email for both personal and professional purposes, it can be helpful to create aliases specifically for professional communications. This way, you can keep your personal and professional emails separate, and you can focus on one set of emails at a time.
If you’re tired of receiving emails from a particular sender or email list, you can use an email alias to unsubscribe from the list. When you receive an email from the sender, simply click the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the email and provide the email alias as the address you want to unsubscribe from. This way, you can unsubscribe from the email list without revealing your primary email address.
By using email aliases in these ways, you can reclaim control over your inbox and reduce the amount of spam and unwanted emails you receive.
Email Aliases help protect from identity theft.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s personal identifying information, like their name, identifying number, or credit card number, without their permission, to commit fraud or other crimes (Wikipedia).
If you have one e-mail that ties together all aspects of your life. It is easier for someone to find out enough information about you to impersonate you.
See which sites are sharing or selling your data.
You can easily monitor the sites that are sharing your emails when you start getting random marketing emails on one of your burner emails that were used on a different website. You can easily block them or even dispose of the email completely.
Easily identify scammers by using an email alias
If you use a different email alias for each online service or account, it can be easier to identify which account has been compromised if you receive a suspicious email. For example, if you use a unique email alias for your online banking account, and you receive an email claiming to be from your bank using a different email address, you’ll know that the email is likely a scam.
What is the problem with the available solutions?
While there are companies out there offering to filter your inbox of all the spam, there is a huge risk to this method. For them to be able to filter out the spam, you need to give them access to your inbox. This is a notable risk, especially if you deal with classified information or highly confidential communications.
We also have temporary emails, which we defined as burner emails, from very many providers. They allow creating email addresses for a few minutes after which the messages received are deleted or the email itself is destroyed altogether. It is a feasible solution, especially where you do not care who has access to the message you are receiving. Of course, the downside of this solution is you will never have access to the accounts created again once they are gone. You also do not know who is controlling the service or if the messages are being stored elsewhere. Also, the email might end up landing on someone else who might get sensitive information they were not supposed to.
Google G-Mail email plus sign (+)
Gmail also came up with a feature, self-addressing, that allows you to add a plus sign to your normal e-mail address to create an infinite subaddress. For example, you might have the address thisismyemail[@]gmail.com, thisismyemail+unigue[@]gmail.com creates a unique email address and messages sent to this address will just go straight to your normal inbox.
The downside is the plus trick is well known and many websites don’t allow e-mail addresses that contain a + sign. It’s also quite easy to remove the plus part to reveal your e-mail address, which does not help your privacy. This is what people do in dark web data breach searches, so they are still able to correlate all your activities and accounts using this sub-addressing tool for your address does not help your privacy.
Using Email Alias Service
Aliasing services allow you to mask your real email addresses. Instead of sharing your real email address, you add aliases that you can share, and any e-mail to that aliases will be directly forwarded to your real email, unlike other alias services that just give you access to temporary addresses.
There are free and paid tiers for these options, and even if you stop paying, Simple login allows you to you get to keep all the existing aliases. You can choose from the two, but we will focus on Simple Login in this article.
How Email Aliases Work
As opposed to catch-all email addresses, aliasing allows you to receive emails at your alias address and send replies from your alias, using reverse alias. If someone sends an e-mail to your simple login alias, simple login forwards it to your inbox, then from inside your inbox, you can reply from your regular e-mail using the reply button as usual. The reply gets routed back through simple login which removes all information about your real email address and replaces that address with your alias and your real email address stays invisible to the original sender.
You can also set a catch-all e-mail for simple login addresses, which allows you to create any alias on the fly without having to generate that specific address in advance and gives you a degree of separation that you do not necessarily get from a domain you own.
Both Annondady and Simple login are fully open source, so anyone can freely inspect the code. There are no ads or trackers involved, and simple login does not store the emails for you. They redirect them straight to your inbox and they don’t keep a copy. This is better for privacy, and it’s also convenient because it means that you never have to log in to another account to check your e-mail.
They also say they will never sell your info to third parties and take care to minimize the data they collect.
For Simple login, there are free and paid tiers and if you have a Proton Mail premium account, you automatically get a premium simple login account too, and if you do not want to pay for a subscription, you can also self-host the code yourself. It’s all publicly available if you choose this route, it’s usually a good gesture to donate to the open-source project to thank them for their efforts.
What is the downside of using email aliases?
A downside though, is that e-mail alias domains are sometimes more likely to be flagged and blocked by certain services as not being legitimate addresses. To create email aliases on simple login, you create an account and set your e-mail address where your mail will be forwarded.
Catch all e-mail addresses using Custom domain e-mail.
A custom domain email allows you to use an email with your domain name instead of using generic emails like @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, etc.
Besides being professional, it also gives you control over your account. While it is possible to set up your mail server, it is not recommended. Instead, you can choose from the various service providers out there. The popular ones include Google(G-Suite), Zoho Mail, Microsoft (Outlook), Proton Mail, and many more.
You can switch from one provider to another, but this is not recommended, especially if you have been using your email for a while. So, choosing an e-mail provider is quite a weighty decision for your needs.
Several guides exist out there on which is the best email provider for your needs, but most of them focus on the features and process and forget about privacy. While there are good reasons to choose one of the above for the features they offer, Proton Mail is highly recommended for its privacy-first business model. There is a good video here that explains how you can set this up and be up and running. Tutanota is also another great alternative for privacy, and I recommend checking them out.
An advantage of having email addresses in your custom domain is that you can have catch-all Email addresses. Setting catch-all lets you catch all emails sent to your domain regardless of whether the specific e-mail address it was sent to exists.
This means that you can hand out unique e-mail addresses on the fly without having to create any of them in advance. Proton Mail allows you to receive emails to all different addresses and domains from within your one Proton Mail account, which makes things easy to manage. You can keep them all organized by creating filters for different addresses as they come in.
One thing to keep in mind with using catch all’s is privacy. If all your e-mail addresses end with your domain name, it will allow these addresses to all be tied back to you. The workaround is using different domains, some of which aren’t associated at all with your real identity. Another thing to note is that catch-all emails are used as receive-only addresses. This means that you cannot send emails from them.
Creating a catch-all e-mail address for a domain that you own and using simple login aliases are great ways to use unique e-mail addresses for everyone you interact with. Every e-mail you receive is easily accessible within one account and gives you control over who can reach your inbox.