UPDATE: Lavabit has now shut down, due pressure from the US government.
To avoid to possibility of having your email hacked into or continuous monitored, you must choose an email provider that does not have access to your emails.
Lavabit is an email provider who’s system is designed to so that even the Lavabit administrators can’t read your e-mail. This is possible because your email is encrypted before it leaves your computer. Lavabit offers free accounts with 1024 MB of storage, and paid account for $8 or $16 per year. Only the paid accounts are encrypted however. You can access your email via a web browser interface, POP or IMAP.Here’s how the company explains the system:
The secure mail storage process uses asymmetric encryption to ensure the privacy of messages while being stored on the Lavabit servers. Asymmetric encryption is a process that uses public key and private key encryption to make messages unreadable without knowing a user’s plaintext password. Presently we use Elliptical Curve Cryptography (ECC) with 512 bits of security to encrypt messages. The private, or decryption, key is then encrypted with a user’s password using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and 256 bits of security. The result is that once a message is stored on our servers in this fashion, it can’t be recovered without knowing a user’s password. This provides a priceless level of security, particularly for customers that use e-mail to exchange sensitive information. You can learn more about our asymmetric encryption technology by reading our white paper on the subject.
Countermail is another private email provider we recommend.