Are Email Clients Insecure?

@bryanleeward asked on the thunderbird discourse:

PLEASE HELP… this effects many Thunderbird & gmail users:

Every few months I get “Security” alerts from Google re my gmail Security Settings, saying: “Turn off less secure access.” IF I do that, then I can’t boot Thunderbird! I’ve had same problem with Thunderbird-gmail using Debian, Trisquel, and Ubuntu.

Yet ironically, when I receive these Google alerts, Thunderbird gives also gives me a warning - “To protect your privacy, Thunderbird has blocked remote content in this message.”

IE to get Thunderbird and gmail to work together, I have to disregard BOTH your security alerts! WHY?.. but more importantly:

  1. Is there a way to keep max Google Security Settings AND still use Thunderbird?
  2. Is Thunderbird really less secure, even with other email systems?

Thanks for any help, Bryan

Google considers all 3rd party access to email i.e. Thunderbird, Outlook ect to be Less secure than the web interface. This is both correct and incorrect depending on your situation. Google’s max security disables 3rd party access to your emails, this allows them to: block bad IP’s, use two factor auth and use browser fingerprinting to detect illegitimate access.

Thunderbird is not insecure at all. Google just want’s the majority of users to go through a more limited access method.

I don’t ever see such emails because I enabled two factor auth and use an app password with a limited scope to the Mail app. Consider going this route if it concerns you.

Thunderbird blocks remote content. I.e. it stops images and other files from being loaded from the internet when viewing an email. As email is mostly html automatically loading images from the web is not a great idea security wise. Initially this will be a pain point but you eventually build up a white-list of legitimate remote content, nice and secure.

I recommend using the allow from domain names rather than sender address as that’s harder to spoof than an email address: