What are email aliases
There are several implementations of email aliases but the principle remains the same. The whole system works on forwarding emails.
You keep your real email address almost secret. Instead, you use email aliases on all kinds of online services and e-shops (shady or not).
These are mostly paid services with a price of around $50 per year. There are also free plans, but they have so many limitations that the main advantages of using them are lost. (Tips on specific services at the end of the article.)
Alias looks just like any other email address. Ideally, you use a unique alias for each service or e-shop. A good practice is to name them exactly after the name/domain of the service (so for my site, you would make an alias in the form “email@example.com”).
“@alias-example.com” is obviously used here for illustration only and is not a real domain/email/alias.
How aliases work
As time goes by, you have hundreds of aliases, for example:
- and so on…
“That’s all well and good, but so far it just seems to be creating unnecessary work… why should I use it?” as I hear you argue. Don’t worry - the whole process tends to be automated - you don’t have to set up or manually create anything anywhere.
So what’s next?
If you’re surrounded only by good people and entrust your aliases to honest services, nothing really changes. Any email that arrives at the alias address (for example, firstname.lastname@example.org) will then be forwarded to your real email. Voilá - email as usual.
Scammers, spammers, hackers…
Finally, some excitement! And the main point of this post and email aliases.
Now consider these two very real scenarios:
- someone hacked that bizarre e-shop where you bought that one Christmas present 5 years ago and they stole the email database from it
- XYZ company makes some additional money by selling the personal data they collect from users of their free service/application
Your alias (formerly your real email) is now in the hands of crooks. You’ll start getting tons of spam and possibly phishing attempts. No one wants to really access a mailbox like that.
But you log into your alias service and simply deactivate the compromised alias. You effectively break the link between the alias and your mailbox. The crook’s hands are left with a worthless email and you’re in the clear.
If you use unique aliases for each service, you can beautifully see “where the wind is blowing from”. Are you getting ads for magic tablets from the alias of that hotel you booked last holiday? Hmmm…
We’ve covered the main one in detail. So the rest is in a nutshell.
Your own domain
Yes, you can run aliases on your own domain (in paid versions).
Phishing and spam filter
Some services can alert you to potential phishing attempts, i.e., when someone is impersonating someone else in an attempt to extort sensitive information from you.
They usually also have an additional anti-spam filter - so you’re protected on several levels.
Multiple target addresses
You don’t have to pair the aliases you create with just one email address. Some aliases can forward emails to your personal email, for example, others to your work email. Or maybe to your partner’s email. Or - drumroll please - to both of you!
That means you can also create “couple” (family or group, if you like) aliases.
More on the topic of couple/family lifehacks in my next article: Lifehacks for couples
Disadvantages of aliases
Every coin has a flip side. If you run your emails through another service, they will logically have access to them. So it’s not a good fit if you’re very paranoid or if you receive sensitive data.
Aliases always work best in tandem with traditional email (no need to give a unique alias to all your friends..).
Another fact is that if you’d like to take advantage of aliases, it’s ideal that the crooks don’t have your real address anymore. This generally means setting up a brand new main email address so you can start with a clean slate.
Tips on alias services
Personally, I use SimpleLogin.io. This entire post is written based on over a year of experience with this service. And no, (unfortunately) this is not a paid post :)
As an alternative, you can try AnonAddy. Both of these services offer a very stripped down free trial so you can get a feel for them.
And if you’d like to dig even deeper into the topic, check out Privacy Guides > Email aliasing services.
Are you tempted to use aliases and tame junk email?
Or have you already used a method of email masking that saved your neck?
I’d love to read your stories!