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How to use Thunderbird with Tor Onion Router

The privacy protection service Tor Onion Router can be used for managing e-mails anonymously and avoiding unwanted surveillance. We at mailbox.org support this mechanism by providing a Tor Server in our data centre.

Required Software

In order to manage your e-mails anonymously via Tor Onion Router, you need the following software:

  1. The Tor Browser Bundle, which contains a Tor daemon that runs concurrently with the Tor Browser. Click on the link and select the package that fits your operating system, then download and install on your computer.
  2. Important: Please configure the tor daemon of the Tor Browser Bundle as recommended in our Tor Browser configuration manual. The connection security is similar to those in a Tor Hidden Service scenario but avoids Onion-host names and therefore, the SSL certificate errors experienced before.
  3. The e-mail client Mozilla Thunderbird with the add-on Tor Birdy installed. If you are already using Thunderbird as your e-mail client, simply open the built-in Add-On manager, search for Tor Birdy, and install. Linux users can also use their system's package manager to install the related package xul-ext-torbirdy.

Note that the above combination of using Thunderbird with the add-On Tor Birdy is the only solution currently recommended by TorProject.org for the anonymous management of e-mails via Tor Onion Router. We, too, will only support this particular software combination.

Mozilla Thunderbird Configuration

Install and configure all required software components as detailed above. Then start the Tor Browser first, before starting Mozilla Thunderbird. 

Please make sure the status bar at the bottom of the Thunderbird application window shows the status message TorBirdy Enabled: Tor.

For security reasons, the Tor Birdy add-on disables most parts of the software wizard for creating new e-mail accounts. You may still enter your e-mail address and password - however, the wizard will only ask whether to set up the account using either POP3 or IMAP as protocol.

Since the Tor daemon will channel all traffic through the Tor network to our data centre, you can leave all other settings the same as if you didn't use Tor.

Consequently, the following configuration scenarios for e-mail inboxes use exactly the same settings as those valid for Non-Tor users, described in our general FAQ.

All other settings need to be configured manually. Please configure any POP3 mail account as shown in the screen shot below:

  • Server: pop3.mailbox.org
  • Port: 995 (SSL/TLS) or 110 (STARTTLS)
  • Username: <Your mailbox.org E-Mail Address>
  • Connection security: SSL/TLS or STARTTLS
  • Authentication method: Password, normal

If you have an IMAP account then configure your server settings as follows:

  • Server: imap.mailbox.org
  • Port: 993 (SSL/TLS) or 143 (STARTTLS)
  • Username: <Your mailbox.org E-Mail Address>
  • Connection security: SSL/TLS or STARTTLS
  • Authentication method: Password, normal

After having set up the server for the receiving of messages, you need to configure SMTP using the following information:

  • Server: smtp.mailbox.org
  • Port: 465 (SSL/TLS) or 587 (STARTTLS)
  • Username: <Your mailbox.org E-Mail Address>
  • Connection security: SSL/TLS or STARTTLS
  • Authentication method: Password, normal
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