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I've always used webmail instead of a client to download mail to my local machine. That seems more secure to me, because if someone steals my notebook, they won't have access to my mail. With a local client (even an IMAP client that downloads everything), it seems like they could just open my mail client and read everything even if I've since changed my mail password.

Is this correct? I would switch to a nice desktop email program if not for this security issue.

Thanks for any feedback.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

In your scenario, you are right - it's more difficult to hack into a webmail (unless you forgot the webmail opened in a public computer)

If you use Windows 7, you could encrypt your files using Bitlocker (I think Windows 7 Professional or more). I don't like this approach because if something goes wrong, you will lose everything.

I use FreeOTFE for an encrypted virtual drive, where you could have your Thunderbird folders.

I hope you use SSL for retrieving your emails; it's extremely easy to use a sniffer to read passwords and emails if you are in the same segment.

You could also use IMAP, so you have an encrypted (using FreeOTFE) version and, in case you lost access to your local emails, you still have them on the server.

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Actually, I would argue that using a client such as Thunderbird would be more secure than using a web-based client. I would suspect that it is more probable that someone hijacks your web-based client than having your laptop stolen. There are tons of Thunderbird plugins you can use to encrypt and digitally sign your emails so that no one can send copycat emails or intercept your mail without having a supercomputer or knowing your password. My yahoo account was compromised sometime back so I switched to gmail which I personally think is better, but that's just opinion. It is a fact that desktop clients are more secure. Just be sure to have your antivirus up to date and if you are really worried encrypt/sign your mail and as always, password protect your computer so no one can even boot into windows without the password. Best of luck!

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Webmail is the most secure imho, I have used Hotmail for 13 years without a problem. I pop my hotmail using a mail client when needed, you can set the login password not to save so you have to type it in to pop your mail, It will not save any mail in the client unless you have it configured to do that.

I also use Mailwasher (Windows only) to pop all email accounts to read, This is the main way I read emails and delete what I need before I pop them in my main email client to view/download attachments or print them if needed.


Mailwasher is marketed as a spam filter (I don't get much spam), I turn off most of the advanced features such as "learning" and just use it to quick read and delete emails, its wonderful, light and fast.


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