Last year I wrote a post about Mailvelope — an easy way of sending encrypted plain-text Gmail messages. Since the idea behind Mailvelope was picked up by German companies GMX.de and Web.de to provide end-to-end encryption for their users. And that’s great news!
With ProtonMail you get a full-fledged email encryption system without the need to install and set up anything.
What will you learn in this post?
I will show you:
- that it is important to protect your online privacy
- how to use ProtonMail to send encrypted email to anyone
- how to reply to such an encrypted email even without having a ProtonMail account
- how to sign up for your own ProtonMail account
Why Encrypt Your Email?
This is what Andy Yen, CEO of ProtonMail, had to say about the reasons for creating ProtonMail at his TED speech:
Today, there’s a new generation that is being taught from a very young age to share everything online. And this is a generation that is not going to remember when data was private.
Privacy doesn’t have to be difficult, it doesn’t have to be disruptive. If we change the goal from maximizing revenue to protecting data, we can actually make it accessible.
We need to build an internet where privacy is no longer just an option, but is also the default.
Without protecting our [online] privacy, we simply cannot have a free society.
What is ProtonMail?
ProtonMail is a freemail service that comes with end-to-end encryption for all its users.
End-to-end encryption means that you, as a user of ProtonMail, can send an encrypted email to anyone inside or outside ProtonMail.
If you send an encrypted email to a Gmail user, they will get a notification to their email inbox like this:
When you click on the
Replying to Encrypted Emails
Once you have read the message you can reply to it using the same secure ProtonMail platform. You don’t need to have a ProtonMail account to do this.
You just type in your reply message and the same password will be reused. You may even add attachments which will be also protected by the encryption system.
Encryption for the Average Joe and Jane
This is an excellent solution to the problem of encryption in everyday use. Most email users are put off by the complexity of setting up their own email encryption.
With ProtonMail, you basically just exchange messages (in email format) on ProtonMail’s servers and the whole process is encryption-protected at all times.
That’s why you set not only a login password for your account but also a mailbox decryption password:
This eliminates the possibility of message interception — there’s nothing to intercept, since nothing relevant ever leaves the ProtonMail servers.
The people behind ProtonMail never have access to your passwords, so they cannot decrypt your messages either.
The whole thing is open-source which is an extra step of trustworthiness in my eyes.
Even the user interface of ProtonMail bears a significant resemblance to Gmail — so you don’t have to learn anything new or experience anything out of the ordinary.
The lock and timer icons are the only notable differences.
Clicking on the
Encrypted messages for non-ProtonMail users are stored on ProtonMail’s servers only for a limited amount of time. Clicking on the
Get an Invitation
To start using ProtonMail, all you need to do is sign up for an account at protonmail.com.
They currently have an invitation-only model working. It seems that the user demand is higher than expected.
Anyway, as they are adding servers constantly, all you need is a bit of extra patience. (Something almost non-existent in the on-demand, real-time world of our online experience of today.)
It took them 2 weeks to send me an invitation email but it was worth the wait.
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