Notes from the family IT department

Protecting personal accounts using Firefox Relay

Most apps & websites these days require an account, promising a tailored experience while collecting lots of personal data. Unfortunately, a regularly recurring news item is about companies getting hacked and the theft of user data. For decades, I was naively using the same email & often password everywhere and a quick look at my spam folder shows it. Checking on reveals my email address has been part of ten publicly known data breaches! For many of these breaches I didn't even remember I had an account. I, therefore, decided it was time for a more secure approach moving forward.

To defend against data breaches I opted to create email aliases / masks. My new email provider Migadu (see previous post) offers the option to create unlimited aliases such as that are linked to my primary account. If my email is part of a data breach or I start getting a lot of spam I can simply delete the alias. However, if the alias is used for multiple accounts, deletion is more difficult as I would first have to change my email on any accounts I want to keep. Ideally I could easily create unique aliases for each personal account.

To create unique addresses on the Migadu webportal is not practical. Firefox Relay by Mozilla is a much easier solution as they offer a browser extension to quickly generate new aliases. For $10 per year I can generate unlimited masks with the added benefit of having an easy overview of all the accounts I created in case I want to request the app or website to delete my data. The one downside is that there is no mobile browser extension which makes creating unique accounts a bit more work on my phone.

To add a layer of protection I combine the email aliases with unique passwords using a password manager, Bitwarden. Bitwarden helps to quickly generate new passwords using their browser extensions and mobile app.

Whenever I now open an account I have unique credentials thanks to Firefox Relay & Bitwarden. I realize my solution is not the most secure, as I put my trust into Mozilla (in theory they could read my emails), or the cheapest, as I could use plus addressing, but I do find it most practical especially due to the browser extensions.