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Technology is already confusing, but sometimes it can just get downright daunting.
Especially these days, between the little microphones in TVs and the GPS in our smartphones, it’s easy to feel like there’s just no possibility of getting a little privacy. However, I’d have to disagree on two points.
First, Hollywood’s portrayal of tech/spy agencies is bogus. (Consider those rooms that are full of intimidating computers, making it look like their in-house hacking staff has your profile on screen as we speak — and they’re sending a strike team to reprimand you for that Facebook comment). In reality, their jobs are probably quite a bit less theatrical.
Secondly, these agencies are by no means omniscient, as they depend on the very same technologies that they attempt to exploit. Sure, they might have access to supercomputers, but even those still can’t crack a good encryption or open a bitcoin wallet without the password. You can, in fact, communicate private and confidential information over email, and the NSA couldn’t even touch it if they wanted to. There are many ways to accomplish this, but in my opinion, ProtonMail is the best by far.
ProtonMail: The Swiss Email Account
To its most basic definition, ProtonMail is a service that provides a secure server which houses email inboxes that run by default on ironclad end-to-end encryption and account anonymity. Because the system was designed in such a way that the email was encrypted by the sender’s device and only decrypted by the recipient’s device, even ProtonMail couldn’t see what the email said. Why? Because it’s Greek to them. Their servers are flowing with private, secure emails consisting of encrypted mumbo-jumbo. Sure, the NSA could try to break in … but that would be pointless. And that’s not all …
Founded in 2013, ProtonMail is based in Switzerland. Yes, the country that enjoys a good belly laugh whenever they receive a subpoena from other nations to snoop around.
Features & Other Goodies
But just because ProtonMail is based in Switzerland doesn’t mean you have to be super-rich in order to open an account. It’s free (and open source). And let’s not forget …
- Protonmail offers totally anonymous accounts.
- Its security capabilities are years ahead of the NSA.
- It was created and built by an international group of scientists.
- Its servers are housed under “1,000 meters of solid rock.”
- Email accounts are easy to use with a gorgeously modern design.
On their own About page, they share their reasons behind the creation of this privacy fortress in the mountains of Europe:
“We are scientists, engineers, and developers drawn together by a shared vision of protecting civil liberties online. This is why we created ProtonMail, an easy to use secure email service with built-in end-to-end encryption and state of the art security features. Our goal is to build an internet that respects privacy and is secure against cyberattacks.”
Yeah, But Really?
February 2017 was an eventful month for the technologically savvy and privacy conscious, as Wikileaks dumped another motherlode affectionately known as Vault7. What did we learn? Well, lots. But in relation to the topic of ProtonMail, we learned that U.S. spy agencies would still have never been able to penetrate the big PM (nor other end-to-end communication services, like Whatsapp). And unless they use a keylogger — basically cheating by peeking at what buttons your fingers are pushing — they’re just plain old out of luck.
According to Warwick Ashford in Computer Weekly, “After an in-depth analysis, we can confirm that none of the [WikiLeaks] disclosures indicate any compromise of the core cryptography that underpins ProtonMail and other popular encrypted services.”
What Have I to Hide?
Services like ProtonMail are invaluable for individuals who work overseas in hostile zones with tyrant regimes — not to mention, it’s perfect for private investigators, journalists, whistleblowers and getting around monitors from within non-government organizations. It’s also good for people who don’t want Google (or any other company) marketing to them through their emails. There are actually quite a few reasons to encrypt your comms, but fortunate for us, there’s ProtonMail.
Have you ever used ProtonMail? What are your thoughts on email encryption? Share them in the section below:
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