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Old 29 Apr 2017, 11:03 PM   #1
TenFour
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Travelers' email solution?

What are your thoughts on the best email solution for a person that travels a lot, possibly to remote areas with limited access to Internet, phones, etc. The person might be living on a boat, for example.

One of the fundamental questions is whether or not a desktop email client is needed these days, with most people I believe (especially travelers) using some type of webmail: Gmail, Outlook.com, etc. I was thinking about the situations where you don't have Internet access and it is helpful to be able to access all your email in a desktop client. For example, when on a plane, on the boat, or just stuck someplace without a good Internet connection and no phone service. You might need to get to a copy of your airplane ticket in an airport without Internet access, or you might just want to be able to write an email home while on the train or bus. So, I thought, that makes a desktop client useful to have.

But then I thought of the negatives. All of your email, or at least a good chunk of it, will be stored on a local device that could break, be stolen, or be lost while traveling. If your computer security is weak and your emails are not encrypted that could be a security headache. These days you even have to worry about border guards snooping into your laptop and phone. Apparently, US border agents can vacuum out your entire hard drive in a matter of minutes.

Then there are articles like this one: https://www.mappingmegan.com/hotmail...-email-access/

That seems to occur all too frequently for users of Gmail too. It is a big problem for boaters that are traveling in odd places. Google and Microsoft have ramped up email security lately and it is locking out a lot of people. It happened to me in Australia a few years ago. I eventually got back into Gmail, but it took a day of being able to use a good Internet connection and having cell phone service. Those things would not always be available when traveling.

So, I'm wondering what you world travelers think is the best way to go for email? My initial thought process was to recommend a desktop email client backing up a webmail account, so that you have both. But, that wouldn't prevent the problem of Gmail or Outlook locking you out of getting new emails.

So, maybe the answer is to move your main email address to a provider that has real customer service and humans who can help, like Fastmail, Runbox, POBox.com, maybe Zoho, etc. Those cost money--up to $50 per year or so, but that might be money well spent if you are going to be traveling a lot in some backwaters of the world where "account recovery" options are limited. Does anyone have experience traveling extensively with these services, and are you still able to access your email when in Timbuktu?

G Suite might be an option too, since you supposedly get real customer service in exchange for paying for Gmail, etc. But, I would be worried that Gmail's strict security would still trip you up. It is easy to say just call for help, but there are many times when traveling that calling or finding another computer with email access is not so easy. For that matter, even here in the USA I have heard of people being locked out of Gmail when they travel to another state.

Thoughts?
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Old 30 Apr 2017, 12:14 AM   #2
FredOnline
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Providing that you think things through before travelling, the only problem you can have no control over is actually an available connection to the internet.

On my travels (admittedly not on a boat to some far flung region), I've never encountered a problem I couldn't solve.

For e-mails, having access to more than 1 e-mail account, and having it set up so you have all your e-mails available on separate accounts from separate providers (for example I have Google Apps, Fastmail and Runbox) that are secured with 2FA via Google Authenticator, and have up to date account recovery information in the event of any problem.

I also have travel documents (passport/tickets/travel insurance policies) stored in each of the files sections of the said providers.

As yet another failsafe, I travel with either a laptop or a Chromebook with local copies of e-mails and documents - with additional copies on at least 1 password-protected usb flash drive.

That might be classed as overkill by some, but at least it does give me piece of mind.

Last edited by FredOnline : 30 Apr 2017 at 12:16 AM. Reason: Added info:
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Old 30 Apr 2017, 04:46 AM   #3
Zach
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Gmail and Outlook are notorious for locking people out of their email accounts after using it in a different country. Maybe switch to another service - such as Tutanota or Yandex - that doesn't do that?
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Old 30 Apr 2017, 06:34 AM   #4
TenFour
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Quote:
Maybe switch to another service - such as Tutanota or Yandex - that doesn't do that?
Do we know they don't do that? And how easy is it to reach a human being in customer service if/when something happens?
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Old 30 Apr 2017, 06:38 AM   #5
TenFour
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Quote:
On my travels (admittedly not on a boat to some far flung region), I've never encountered a problem I couldn't solve.
Problems are always solvable. That's one of the "joys" of travel. But, I would like to reduce the possibility of an email problem in the first place. It sounds like you have a good redundant system, but it is complicated and requires some care to maintain.
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Old 30 Apr 2017, 04:31 PM   #6
Zach
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TenFour View Post
Do we know they don't do that? And how easy is it to reach a human being in customer service if/when something happens?
I have accounts with both services and neither has locked me out for using it in a different part of the world. Not sure about Tutanota, but the customer service for Yandex is good, even with free accounts. I messaged them once and got an almost instant reply.
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Old 30 Apr 2017, 04:44 PM   #7
Zach
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There's also ProtonMail that has good customer service and definitely doesn't lock people out for logging in from a different country, but their T&Cs says they reserve the right to close accounts that aren't used for 12 weeks. Not sure if the 12 week thing would be a problem for a frequent traveller.
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Old 30 Apr 2017, 06:40 PM   #8
Dutchie007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zach View Post
Gmail and Outlook are notorious for locking people out of their email accounts after using it in a different country. Maybe switch to another service - such as Tutanota or Yandex - that doesn't do that?
hear hear!!! Did you ever try using Gmail behind a VPN??? Suxxxx Monkey balls. If you are on holiday or whatever on another IP..it is realy a drag to connect to Gmail.

I say..YANDEX...all the way. It's rocksolid. Customer service of Yandex is very good, also for free accounts. They answer...even if it is 2 days later...and they DO speak English,-) Second best would be Mail.ru.
Some years Gmail locked me out of my account...just like that, no reason. Took me nearly 10 days to get back in...and i was LUCKY!! I learned my lesson,.-)
NO MORE Gmail for this guy.

Dutchie
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Old 30 Apr 2017, 10:00 PM   #9
TenFour
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Don't think I can trust Yandex with my email. More points in another thread, but basically using a Russian email service is just asking to have your email intercepted and here in the USA we don't have much taste for Russian services after they hacked our election. http://www.emaildiscussions.com/showthread.php?t=72658
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Old 11 May 2017, 12:12 AM   #10
jhollington
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Originally Posted by TenFour View Post
I was thinking about the situations where you don't have Internet access and it is helpful to be able to access all your email in a desktop client. For example, when on a plane, on the boat, or just stuck someplace without a good Internet connection and no phone service. You might need to get to a copy of your airplane ticket in an airport without Internet access, or you might just want to be able to write an email home while on the train or bus. So, I thought, that makes a desktop client useful to have.
These are the main reasons why I've always used a desktop e-mail client. The closest I ever came to webmail-only was when I was heavily into using Gmail, and I took advantage in those days of Gmail's "offline" mode which uses a browser cache for recent stuff. Sadly, that doesn't work so well on mobile, but Gmail's mobile apps do provide some degree of caching (moreso on Android than iOS).

Not to mention that actual e-mail apps are almost always easier to work with on a mobile device than a web browser interface.

Quote:
But then I thought of the negatives. All of your email, or at least a good chunk of it, will be stored on a local device that could break, be stolen, or be lost while traveling.
Well, the obvious solution to this is to use an IMAP e-mail client. Then your e-mail isn't stored only on your device. If your device breaks or you lose it while travelling, it's not really going to matter whether you're using webmail or not as you'll still need to find another device to access your email, but as long as you're using IMAP, which mirrors what's on the server, you'll still have webmail. It's really the best of both worlds in this case.

Quote:
If your computer security is weak and your emails are not encrypted that could be a security headache. These days you even have to worry about border guards snooping into your laptop and phone.
For those who are concerned about such things, it's a valid point. Keep in mind, though, that unless you're exceedingly careful to log out of all of your services before crossing the border, your e-mail accounts will still be accessible from your browser. This is even more of an issue on a mobile device.

Frankly, if you're that concerned about border inspections, you're better off to wipe your device entirely before crossing the border, and then reload it when you land at your destination. Of course, there's also a downside to that if you're using a newer device... When returning home, customs officials are more likely to think you bought it elsewhere and are trying to smuggle it back in.
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Old 11 May 2017, 05:59 AM   #11
TenFour
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Quote:
Well, the obvious solution to this is to use an IMAP e-mail client. Then your e-mail isn't stored only on your device. If your device breaks or you lose it while travelling, it's not really going to matter whether you're using webmail or not as you'll still need to find another device to access your email, but as long as you're using IMAP, which mirrors what's on the server, you'll still have webmail. It's really the best of both worlds in this case.
I was assuming IMAP would be used leaving the mail stored somewhere up in the cloud, but I know that most people do not use a local email app, myself included. It isn't a perfect solution because you still have the danger of losing private information if your device is stolen or searched. Also, it can take some time to resync a new device, and I find it usually creates a mess of some sort. I've ended up with everything duplicated, for example, which is a problem when you sync 10-years of email!

I guess I would rate the travelers' problems in this order approximately:

1. Access to email (not getting locked out, and then how to get back in when blocked for some reason)
2. Local access when there is no Internet.
3. Theft resistance.
4. Redundancy in the event of breakage or loss of local device.

I could see going all web interface and relying on your phone app to provide some access for #2. All web also protects you from 3 and 4. #1 could be solved with the right provider.
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Old 11 May 2017, 07:01 AM   #12
jhollington
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TenFour View Post
I was assuming IMAP would be used leaving the mail stored somewhere up in the cloud, but I know that most people do not use a local email app, myself included. It isn't a perfect solution because you still have the danger of losing private information if your device is stolen or searched.
That's a valid point, but for most people it doesn't really matter. How many users actually log out of their cloud services in their browsers? Further, while my e-mails are sensitive, they're certainly far from the only sensitive data on my laptop, and in some cases not even the most sensitive.

Quote:
Also, it can take some time to resync a new device, and I find it usually creates a mess of some sort. I've ended up with everything duplicated, for example, which is a problem when you sync 10-years of email!
Well, I guess it depends on which client or service you're using, but I've got almost 20 years of mail in my IMAP mailbox, and I've been using IMAP clients almost exclusively for most of that time period. I've never had a problem setting up or syncing new devices over IMAP, at least not with standard-complaint e-mail services (don't get me started on what Gmail calls "IMAP" ).

Quote:
I guess I would rate the travelers' problems in this order approximately:
I'd agree with those priorities, except that all web doesn't inherently protect you from #3 unless you're very careful to stay logged out of any browser sessions, or just use incognito sessions all the time, preferably with 2FA as well. On the other hand, whole disk encryption is usually enough to protect you against privacy breaches resulting from simple theft ó most thieves are after your hardware, not your data.

Of course, border searches are an entirely separate issue, but IMHO the only way to avoid that issue is to go through with as little data on your device as possible, and always use only incognito mode to prevent even browser caching.
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Old 24 May 2017, 08:57 PM   #13
1508
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I've used Hotmail for a long time, but each time I traveled abroad, my account blocked me being suspicious to my new location and informing that someone trying to hack it. Iíve tried many methods to stop it from locking me, but nothing worked. Anyway, now I use Google mail that works pretty good (but in some regions it operates with VPN only).
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Old 25 May 2017, 06:43 AM   #14
TenFour
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I'd agree with those priorities, except that all web doesn't inherently protect you from #3 unless you're very careful to stay logged out of any browser sessions, or just use incognito sessions all the time, preferably with 2FA as well.
Not quite sure what you mean above. If I shut down my computer I am logged out of most things by default. Only a few sites like Gmail offer me the option of staying logged in. If I don't select that option, won't I be logged out if I close the browser and turn off the computer? I typically do that with a laptop before I move anywhere. On laptops just be sure to select to have to log in for each session (at least when traveling).
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Old 25 May 2017, 07:10 AM   #15
jhollington
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Originally Posted by TenFour View Post
Not quite sure what you mean above. If I shut down my computer I am logged out of most things by default. Only a few sites like Gmail offer me the option of staying logged in. If I don't select that option, won't I be logged out if I close the browser and turn off the computer? I typically do that with a laptop before I move anywhere. On laptops just be sure to select to have to log in for each session (at least when traveling).
Actually, with the exception of obvious things like online banking services, a lot of sites do offer you the option of staying logged in, and far too many of them use an "opt-out" checkbox, such as "This is a public computer" so it's definitely something you have to be cautious about in many cases.

That said, they are getting better in this regard... I'm seeing more sites use something like, "Keep me logged in" as the option, rather than "This is a public computer" but it all depends on what services you use, and as you point out, Google is pretty pervasive at wanting to keep you logged in across all of its services.

You'd also be surprised at what's left laying around in your browser cache, even after you've explicitly logged out of a webmail service. I've been involved in forensic investigations and gleaned quite a bit merely from leftover cached data from people's Hotmail and Gmail accounts, even when there wasn't a single valid cookie to be found anywhere.

It's not an insurmountable problem, but people definitely have to be cautious and aware of this sort of thing. If you're only concerned about border crossing scenarios, than it's easy enough to reset your browser, flushing all caches, cookies, and even history before your travel, but if you're concerned simply about your laptop being stolen, there's going to be a good chance that most people aren't that much on their guard one hundred percent of the time.

However, while border inspections are becoming more of an issue, I honestly don't think that pure "theft resistance" is a serious concern when it comes to data anyway ó at least not to the extent of it mattering which e-mail strategy you use. In this day and age, I wouldn't use a system without whole disk encryption anyway, and in all probability, somebody stealing my laptop or mobile device is after the hardware, and not my data. Even the most basic encryption will dissuade any casual attempts at snooping, since they're more likely just interested in selling off the stolen device anyway.
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