Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

You are right not to send it from work or your home. It's going to take some extra steps to keep from being traced.

There are problems at work that I need to inform my main office about. The problem I'm having is that the emails sent to the office are seen by several people if I send them at work. If I send from home, my personal email address will be revealed and I need to remain anonymous. The politics at my workplace are vicious to say the least. What software is available so that I can send them an anonymous email and my email address be hidden?

In this excerpt from Answercast #19, I look at the steps necessary to remove personal traces from an email and then suggest an older method of communicating.

Send an anonymous email

You've got the classic whistleblower problem.

Someone who's working in an organization who needs to safely and securely inform someone about a problem at that organization.

You should obviously not do it from a work computer. Regardless of what technologies you use, it's very likely that the computer can be traced. In other words, the organization could have lots of different technologies in place that will allow them to identify which computer it came from and potentially even who was at the computer at the time.

Your home computer is not anonymous

I agree you should not do this from your home computer, but not for the reasons you think.

If you were to send email from your home computer (even if you were able to do it anonymously), if you're not extremely careful, you could send the IP address of your home computer. That, once again, could be traced back to you: to you specifically in your home. It's not a guarantee that your IP address is included in the email that is sent, but it is a possibility, and clearly, it's a possibility that you want to avoid.

Hiding your email address

Of all things, hiding your own email address is the easiest thing to do. The right way to solve that problem is to set up a brand new, free email account: potentially a Hotmail account. When you set it up, use completely bogus information. Use information that says, maybe "company.name.whistleblower@hotmail.com" or whatever.

Use none of your personal information; make sure the name is bogus, the recovery information is bogus, everything associated with that account is bogus.

Don't set it up from home because, once again, if you set it up on your home computer, some how your home IP address could be associated with that account. That could be recoverable... not necessarily easily... but potentially, in response to things like a court order.

Go to a library, or some other place that's not your home, that's not your company, and that has a public computer. Set up the account there. Make sure it's completely bogus and send your email from that account at that other location.

It's still not 100% guaranteed. It depends on the location. For all I know, they're tracking you with cameras and they could say that this email was sent at 10:30 am on Tuesday and when they go back and look at security cameras; maybe they see you sitting at the computer. I honestly don't know.

But that's the level at least, at which the technology needs to be fooled. Use a different computer. Use a different account. Make sure it's completely disassociated from you personally.

Will the email be seen?

My assumption here is that the content of your message will be sufficiently legitimate so that they will recognize it as being from someone who is truly part of your company; who truly has something legitimate to say.

Please understand that it is very possible that they will not pay attention to this kind of thing. Again, especially when you're dealing with companies that have that kind of politics going on, they may just be ignoring these kinds of things as they come in anyway.

So, I can't really say that I have a lot of hope for you.

What about a letter?

The other approach, by the way, might be to completely avoid technology. Send a letter. Write something up. Drop it in the mail. Obviously, don't include any of your personal information. That bypasses all of this technology; all of these attempts to hide who you are and where you are.

Potentially a letter could have a bigger impact than a random email message (which could easily end up filtered as spam.)

Article C5369 - May 21, 2012 « »

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

11 Comments
Rahul
May 22, 2012 11:44 AM

How about using a proxy server aling with email anonymizer?

John Servis
May 22, 2012 7:01 PM

Good call Leo. Sometimes the good "old fashoned" way works the best. I'm all for the letter (snail mail) idea.
J.

John
May 22, 2012 7:14 PM

Proxy servers are a joke for a number of reasons. Tor is also junk. A paid vpn from a non Hague state is better but still defeatable.

WhistlersMum
May 22, 2012 8:01 PM

At my local library, when I use their computers, email sites are blocked.
Places I've gone online while traveling are airports and truck stops. Internet cafe's are another option.

GREG JACKSON
May 23, 2012 1:05 PM

Use a letter. It has the greatest impact. Especially if it's a document size envelope used by most overnight services [FedEx, USPS] rather than a regular business size envelope. Remember to mark it "Personal & Confidential". Request a signature upon receipt. With this method, you can also enclose other items of importance to back up your statement. Low-tech still has an important place in a high-tech world. Trust me on this....it's worked for me.

Mark J
May 23, 2012 2:07 PM

@Greg
The return receipt would defeat the purpose of anonymity.

Mike
May 24, 2012 5:02 PM

Funny. I thought of the same suggestion about going to a library, etc. and setting up a new email account---but the idea of sending an actual paper letter never crossed my mind. Technology can sometimes give you tunnel vision, too.

lynn
June 16, 2012 2:34 PM

This may not be true, don't recall if I saw it on a crime drama or a crime reality show, but I believe it's possible to determine what printer printed what (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/18/AR2005101801663.html). I'd suggest writing the letter by hand in block letters.

Snooper
June 28, 2012 2:40 PM

Send a singing telegram.

Bill
August 28, 2012 1:30 PM

I notice that an email I sent to myself from my hotmail acct showed an IP address. When I googled the IP it correctly I.D.ed from where (town) I sent the email.

HAH
April 8, 2013 11:54 AM

Bill, unless you are the only guy living in that town, I think that's acceptable.

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to http://askleo.com/ask to ask your question.