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E-mail Security Configuration for POP Clients

Published: 01/29/2008

Web-based mail such as Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo! are very convenient because you can access your inbox from anywhere. However, I'm personally not a big fan of relying on a third-party to store my messages. I'd rather have my own repository that I store locally at home. This way, I'm not dependent on the mail provider in order to read old messages (and my archive spans back almost a decade). It's just a preference of mine. This does, of course, come at a cost because I would need access to my home network in order to look at my old mail. The days of pine are gone and I've been using Mozilla Thunderbird for a while now, and there are some benefits that a stand-alone client will provide that web-based mail providers (such as those from your ISP) may not.

We hear about security threats using e-mail as a vector all the time. In many cases, there's some social engineering involved to trick the user into clicking on a link which automatically opens a browser and connects to a website where a drive-by download of malicious code happens. But there are also some other sneakier ways that a spammer will do to discover whether you exist.

I'll quickly describe some of the configuration settings in Mozilla Thunderbird that I use to help mitigate some of these threats.

Disable HTML rendering

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Disable return receipts

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Use SSL or TLS if possible

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Use PGP (Pretty Good Privacy)

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The extra-careful sauce on those attachments

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