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I love ProtonMail

April 7, 2015

General Alex Nuta No Comments

Let’s face it.

My blog has been a vent to bitch about stuff, sometimes; rarely accented with useful technical information. This time around, for once, I love something enough to blog about it. I’m talking about ProtonMail, the free encrypted email service from Switzerland.

Amidst revelations that the US has been spying on its citizens for years without the general public’s knowlege, and the Canadian version where the government is openly trying to suppress privacy through legislation such as the Bill C-51 a.k.a. the Secret Police bill, a handful of scientists at CERN figured the problem is solvable through technology.

Not that they invented anything revolutionary.

Encryption has been around for a long time. Even back 15 years ago, I was using PGP to encrypt sensitive messages and data. Later, when Symantec raised the prices across the board for their products they didn’t forget PGP and licenses went up over 200$ a piece, we started looking at alternatives like GPG.

More recently I’ve been using Kleopatra successfully and even got GPG keypairs to work on my Android phone  using K-9 Mail.

Aside from a few IT professionals, though, few people ever communicated with me through encrypted communications. An exception to this are the guys at Varibase, because honest to God, they’re just that cool. Despite many advances, encryption is still too difficult for most people to manage. I mean, just choosing the type of encryption key is a nightmare.


Crazy, right?

And then of course, there’s the process diagrams



I’m guessing about 70% of people would find this too complicated and cumbersome to use.

Which brings me to ProtonMail.

What the guys at CERN did invent is encryption my grandfather can use.

They created a site where you can get a free email account that is protected by two layers of passwords.
First you log in to the system. Then you log in to your mailbox. Once you’re there, your encryption keys are active. You can send email to anyone on the protonmail system securely. You can also send secure mail to other people, which will generate an email with a button to click that brings you to a ProtonMail decryption page where the person can enter a password you sent separately or by phone to decrypt their message online.

Now you might say “What’s the big deal? They do all this on their own servers, the keys are there, the passwords are there, this is not special.”
What’s special is that it’s very hard to invade the privacy of this system. There are two layers of passwords, the data is stored encrypted on the servers, and local laws in Switzerland prevent the company from trying to read their clients’ emails.
Of course, they created this system and insulated themselves from being able to read the emails precisely because they wanted to provide as bulletproof a privacy system as is currently possible, but one which your grandmother can use.

Now that’s what I call special.

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