RiseUp - Secure Email Service

Short Description: 

Riseup is a collective organization dedicated to providing private and secure email and hosting services for individuals and organisations committed to political and social justice.



Computer Requirements


Required Reading

Level: 1: Beginner, 2: Average, 3: Intermediate, 4: Experienced, 5: Advanced

Time required to start using this tool: 20 minutes

What you will get in return:

Alternative Email Services:

Although RiseUp is a secure email service managed by trustworthy advocates of Internet privacy and security, an unusual email service may attract unwarranted attention. It might make more sense in some situations, to blend in by using a popular email service in your country. The goal is to make this decision without compromising your minimum security requirements. We offer the following points for consideration when choosing an email service:

  1. Does it permit the use of encrypted channels (like https, and other SSL encrypted versions of protocols like IMAPs, POP3s, SMTPs) for transferring all information (including login-in information, and your emails), and are there no encryption-related problems (for example, problems related to encryption certificates)?

  2. Are the email servers managed in secure way? Are they run by professionals who are committed to using the best practices for protecting your information? Do you trust them not to provide access to your information for any reasons (commercial, political, religious, etc.) to third parties?

  3. Do you know the geographical location of the servers, under which territorial jurisdiction they fall or where the company is registered? Are you aware of how this information relates to the privacy and security of your email activity and information?

In some parts of the world, Google Mail would prove a good alternative to RiseUp, offering a better "blending in" effect, without compromising much of the security (given its commercial nature)

1.1 Things you should know about this tool before you start

RiseUp is a collective dedicated to providing private and secure hosting, listing and mail services for individuals and organisations committed to political and social justice. Since their services are free, your email account is much smaller than at other, advertisement-driven and non-secure providers. A new account can only be registered by those who have received an invite code from existing members, or participants in our Digital Security Project.

RiseUp operates exclusively over the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), providing a secure connection between your computer and their server. This security is maintained when reading your email in a client program, over secure POP, IMAP and SMTP connections (these refer to special protocols used by a mail program to download your email). RiseUp is compatible with Mozilla Thunderbird. To learn how to set up Mozilla Thunderbird to access your RiseUp email account, please refer to the chapter on Thunderbird.

How to Create a RiseUp Account

List of sections on this page:

2.0 The Different Methods for Registering a RiseUp Account

RiseUp offers you three different methods for registering an email account. Each method requires a different investment of effort and time.

1). Individuals and/or organisations are invited to join by two existing RiseUp account members. This method requires that they each send you an invite code. To see how such codes are generated, please refer to Section 4.3 The Invites Page

2). Directly request an account from the RiseUp team themselves. Bear in mind that RiseUp generally runs on donations and the enthusiasm and goodwill of its volunteers - and this method requires some patience and time.

3). Participants in our training sessions will receive individual invitation codes, distributed with the hard copy edition of the Security in a Box toolkit.

After you have received your invite codes, perform the following steps to register your free RiseUp account as follows:

Step 1. Type https://mail.riseup.net into your web browser, to activate the RiseUp site as follows:

Figure 1: The https://mail.riseup.net/ page

Note: The s in the https:// address indicates that you are now communicating through a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) connection, and the message will appear above the login text fields.

For more information about this, please refer to the How-to Booklet chapter 7. Keeping your Internet Communication Private or to https://help.riseup.net/security.

Step 2. Click to activate the Request account page as follows:

Figure 2: The RiseUp Request an email account page

Step 3. Click to display the RiseUp Request an email account - About our email service page.

Important: The following options must be enabled to proceed with further creating your RiseUp account.

Step 4. After you have read the different RiseUp policies, click in the check boxes to enable the I accept riseup.net's social contract. option, the I accept riseup.net's privacy policy. option and the I accept riseup.net's terms of service. option.

Step 5. Click to begin creating your RiseUp account by filling out the following on-line forms: Account information, Password, Mutual aid and Activation.

2.1 The Account information form

Step 6. Enter a desired user name for your account. This will become your login and your email address. (In this tutorial, we based our example on 'ssayyed' to generate an email account known as ssayyed@riseup.net.

Important: Do not use commas, full stops or spaces, in the user name.

Figure 3: An example of a completed Account information form

Step 7. Click once you have chosen a unique user name, and proceed to the Password form.

Note: If a similar user name already exists, you will be prompted to create a different one.

2.2 The Password form

In the Password form, you must create both a security question and answer, and a strong password to protect your account, otherwise you will not be permitted to proceed any further in the account creation process. RiseUp encourages you to create these in the event that you forget your password. However, this well-intentioned measure unfortunately also presents a security risk.

For instance, your adversary may only have to correctly guess the answer, or intercept a new password being sent to you. We strongly recommend that you spoil the answer to your question, to remove any threat of someone guessing the answer to your secret question. This can be done by spoiling the two fields as shown in the example below:

Figure 4: An example of a question and spoiled response in the Password form

Warning: This also means that it will be virtually impossible to reset your password. You must remember your password! This is the most secure (if not the most convenient), option.

The password for your RiseUp account is the most important factor in the security of your account. To learn how to create a strong password, please refer to the How-to Booklet chapter 3. How to Create and Maintain Good Passwords and to the manual on KeePass.

Figure 5: The completed Password section in the Password form

Step 8. Click to proceed to the mutual aid form.

2.3 The Mutual aid form

RiseUp is completely dependent on the generosity and kindness of strangers in terms of donations and volunteers. Although their requests for financial support are legitimate and necessary, RiseUp also encourages users to invest their money in their local social justice projects. It is entirely up to you to decide whether or not you, or your organisation, could make a contribution here.

Note: Your decision will not affect your account registration process in any way. You can still continue to create your free RiseUp account.

Figure 6: The mutual aid form

Step 9. Click to proceed to the Activation form.

2.4 The Activation form

You are required to enter your invite codes in the Activation form.

Step 10. Type the Invite codes into their respective text fields.

Figure 7: An example of a completed Activation form

Step 11. Click to finish creating your RiseUp account as follows:

Figure 8: An example of an account successfully created confirmation

Step 12. Click to return to figure 2.

Congratulations! You have successfully created your RiseUp email account and will be returned to figure 2 above.

How to Log into Your RiseUp Account

List of sections on this page:

3.0 How to Log in to Your RiseUp Account

To log into your RiseUp account, perform the following steps:

Step 1. Open the RiseUp home page in SSL mode as follows: https://mail.riseup.net/

Figure 1: The RiseUp mail login page

The RiseUp mail page is divided into the login section on the left, and the News on the right.

Note: You may use either of the two webmail systems presented, although IMP Webmail is more suited to non-English language interfaces.

Step 2. Type your information into the User: and Password: text fields in either the Squirrel Webmail or IMP Webmail section; however, do not include the @riseup.net part of the address in the User: field.

Optional Step. Select your language of choice from the Language drop-down list in the IMP Webmail if necessary.

Step 3. Click to display your account as follows:

Figure 2: An example of RiseUp Squirrel Webmail Account

Optional step: If you are primarily writing and receiving email in a non-Latin character set, then you may wish to specify this for the webmail account. Select from the top menu. The Squirrel Webmail options window appears as follows:

Figure 3: The SquirrelMail Options pane

Step 4. Select to activate the Options - Display Preferences pane as follows:

Figure 4: The SquirrelMail Options - Display Preferences pane

Step 5. Locate the Language drop-down menu, as displayed in figure 4 above, and then select the appropriate character set for your email messages.

This option will help with determining the correct encoding for the email messages you send and receive.

3.1 How to Use the Virtual Keyboard

If you are using a computer in public setting (an Internet café, community centre or library for instance), you can enter your password by using the Virtual Keyboard. It offers your system another layer of protection from key-logger programs. Key-logger programs are designed to monitor a user's physical key strokes to figure out passwords, user names and other vital information. Virtual keyboards allow users to circumvent this security vulnerability, by letting the user enter her/his password using the mouse.

To use the RiseUp Virtual Keyboard, perform the following steps:

Step 1. Open the RiseUp home page in SSL mode https://mail.riseup.net/.

Step 2. Click to activate the RiseUp Login page as follows:

Figure 5: The RiseUp Login page

Step 3. Click to activate the Virtual Keyboard as follows:

Figure 6: The Virtual Keyboard

Step 4. Click your mouse on the different keys (or just position the mouse pointer above given character for 2 seconds), that make up your password.

Step 5. Click to access your RiseUp account.

How to Change Your Account Settings

List of sections on this page:

4.0 How to Change Your Account Settings

RiseUp lets you modify different settings for your account. You can specify the size of your email box, change your account name and address, add aliases and much more. You can also create invite codes to help your friends and colleagues register their own RiseUp account.

Step 1. Open the RiseUp Account Settings page as follows: https://user.riseup.net/

Figure 1: The user.riseup.net page

Step 2. Type in your user name and password into their corresponding text fields.

Step 3. Click to activate the following screen:

Figure 2: The riseup.net user control page

4.1 The My Settings page

The My Settings page displays all the information that you originally entered in Section 2.1 The Account information form.

Step 1. Click to activate the following screen:

Figure 3: The Settings page

You can change your user name on this screen, which will also change your email address. The new user name should also be unique. Here you may also change any other account details such as the alternative email, password and so on.

Step 2. Type in your new information, then click to display this message:

Figure 4: Successfully updated your changes

4.2 The Email settings page

The Email settings page lets you modify or view information related to email storage. You can even set the 'quota' or amount of space reserved for your email account on a RiseUp server.

Step 1. Click to activate the following screen:

Figure 5: The Email settings page

Step 2. Enter an appropriate number into the Quota text field.

Note: Your account is limited in size to a maximum of 47 megabytes. This is considered enough for important email communication. However, RiseUp may not be the optimal choice if you regularly send and receive email with large attachments or embedded graphics.

You may also create aliases for your account on this page. An alias is like a nickname for your account. Whilst the main account will remain as before, people will be able to send email to your alias address as well.

Figure 6: The Aliases section of the Email settings page

Example: ssayyed@riseup.net account now has two aliases. Email sent to safeandsecure@riseup.net and salsaytest@riseup.net will be forwarded to the main account. This maybe a useful practice to keep your real account address private.

Step 4. Click to save your new aliases.

4.3 The Invites page

The Invites page lets you generate invite codes that are used to invite your friends and colleagues to join RiseUp.

Important: Each new account needs an invite code from two different users. You may generate as many invite codes as you wish.

Step 1. Click to activate the following screen:

Figure 7: The Invites page

Step 2. Click to generate invite codes as follows:

Figure 8: An example of generated invite codes

Note: Each invite code is valid for only for a month.

Step 3. Click Print invites to print out a copy of the invite codes and give them to the person wishing to create a RiseUp email account.

Step 4. Click to log out of the user panel.

FAQ and Review

5.0 FAQ

Muhindo and Salima are delighted at how relatively easy RiseUp is to use, and impressed by its commitment to progressive social values. However, there remain a couple of nagging questions. Fortunately, their father Assani can help them find answers to them.

Q: In which circumstances would I use IMP webmail as opposed to Squirrelmail?

A: Good question! Basically, there is no real difference. If for some reason, one email service is down or has to undergo routine maintenance or servicing, you can always continue working on the other without interruption. Also, the IMP webmail service provides better support for languages other than English.

Q: As I was creating my account, I realised that I don't really have to give out any information about myself.

A: Indeed, you are not required to do so. Don't forget to change your password every 3 to 6 months.

Q: Now that Muhindo and I have a RiseUp account, how can we register one for you, Assani?

A: You both need to generate an invite code each and send this to me. When I create and register my RiseUp account, I will use your invite codes to do so.

Note: As RiseUp depends on donations and the goodwill and hard work of many volunteers, competing with commercial email service providers has certainly proven challenging. However, RiseUp has now launched its own free and opensource alternative to Facebook, referred to as Crabgrass. It delivers improved privacy and security features, and is targeted at Community Service Organizations (CSO) or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), as well as grassroots organizations. Ambitious, committed and energetic, RiseUp anticipates providing the following competitive or even revolutionary new email services in the near future:

  • Collaborative Document Editing (etherpad): This service allows multiple users to edit the same document at the same time.

  • Encrypted Internet Proxy (openvpn): This service allows you to browse the Internet using an encrypted Internet proxy server similar to Tor.

  • Real-Time Chat (XMPP): This service allows you to chat in real-time and is the RiseUp equivalent of Gmail chat and Microsoft Instant Messaging.

5.1 Review Questions

  • What is the difference between reading your email over webmail or through an email program?
  • What is a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and how does it work?
  • What is a virtual keyboard and how does it work?
  • How can you add an alias to your email account?
  • For what length of time is a newly created invite code valid?