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Breaking News: ProtonMail: Why is this secure email service suddenly in the news? - Printable Version

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ProtonMail: Why is this secure email service suddenly in the news? - rahul1117_kumar - 03-16-2016

The Vijay Mallya saga has been in the news over the last few days. In the latest twist to the story, Mallya is denying the fact that he had given an interview to the Sunday Guardian website. He also claims no knowledge of using encrypted email service ProtonMail ever.

Sunday Guardian journalists have gone ahead and shared screenshots of the mail exchange between Mallya and the interviewer, which shows the mail sender as vjmallya@protonmail.com. Whether vjmallya@protonmail.com is the real Vijay Mallya is currently being debated between Mallya and the Sunday Guardian, let us take a look at what exactly is ProtonMail and why was that being used, in place of general email services such as Gmail.

One word: Security.

ProtonMail is a secure email service provider, with built in end-to-end encryption which was founded in May 2014. Created by former CERN scientists, ProtonMail ensures that the mails are encrypted at the browser level itself which means that the ProtonMail servers receive mails in an encrypted format. They are transmitted to the recepients also in the encrypted format. The decryption keys are only known to the sender and recipient. This reduces the risk of any third party intercepting your mails since the data is in the encrypted format.

While services such as Gmail also offer some level of encryption, it is not end to end – hence you get those targetted advertisements, because you have given Google permission to go through your mails to send you those timely Google Now cards.

Unlike popular mail services, most of whom have their servers in the US, ProtonMail servers are located in Switzerland. The main reason behind it was to prevent any pressure by US security agencies to give them backdoor access. The FBI is known to have used its clout to shut down secure mail services in the past – as had happened with Lavabit, the email service used by Edward Snowden to communicate with journalists.

According to co-founder Andy Yen, the company wants to keep its servers in Switzerland. “One of the key things we want to do is control our servers and make sure all the servers are in Switzerland which will increase privacy because Switzerland doesn’t do things like seize servers or tape conversations,” said Yen in an interview with Forbes.

ProtonMail uses a two-factor authentication technique, you will require two passwords to log into your private ProtonMail account. The first password is to verify user identity and the second password is the decryption password (which is the key which only the sender and recipient are privy to) which ProtonMail dosen’t have any access to.

Also ProtonMail mentions on its site that it uses Open source cryptography standards which ensures that there are no back-door entries in algorithms which can be exploited by hackers or authorities. It even lets you share emails with non-ProtonMail users provided the recipient has the passphrase to decode the mail sent by a ProtonMail user.

The service works on a freemium model – letting you register for a free account, but pay extra for extra storage facilities. It is currently available on the Google Play Store and the Apple store along with a web variant.

In case you are trying to register for a web-based account, note that it will not happen immediately. One of our colleagues got this response from the ProtonMail team.

“We have had an overwhelming response from users around the world. Right now, our team is working overtime to scale up an easy to use, encrypted email service that can reliably support millions of users including yourself. This is not a process that can be rushed. It requires careful and quality work to meet our high standards.
We are letting on new users from our waiting list every day as quickly as possible. Once your account is ready, we will email you a unique invitation link so be sure to keep an eye on your inbox and spam folder. We know that you care deeply about privacy and hope to have your account ready soon!”

http://m.tech.firstpost.com/news-analysis/protonmail-why-is-this-secure-email-service-suddenly-in-the-news-304401.html