A Review of the Pluses and Minuses of ProtonMail

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The internet can be a wonderful tool. With the help of the internet, you can find answers to your questions within fractions of seconds. You can connect with old friends. You can share thoughts and ideas with people around the world. Here is a ProtonMail review for your information.

A ProtonMail Review

But the internet can also be a dangerous place for your personal data. It seems there are new reports of data breaches at major companies every day. And there is the less dangerous, but still frustrating, presence of constant data mining. Sometimes it feels as if we only have to think about wanting a certain product and ads for it will suddenly be all over our social media feeds.

Security

The desire for personal security has never been higher. But most of us aren’t technically savvy enough to set up our own forms of security to protect our private information and conversations. Many companies, with this in mind, have tried to make the process of setting up personal security as simple as possible for the average computer user.
ProtonMail is one such company. Read on to get the details of our ProtonMail review and see if it delivers on the promises it makes or if it falls short of the goal.

ProtonMail Review: What Is ProtonMail?

Created in pursuit of the goal to protect civil liberties while using the internet, ProtonMail is an email service that provides data encryption for your outgoing and incoming messages. It uses what is known as end-to-end encryption, which means that an email is both stored and transmitted in an encrypted format. The decoding only occurs when the recipient enters his or her own password to read the message. This constant encryption means your messages are less likely to be intercepted. It also means that even the administrators of ProtonMail can’t access your decoded messages. If a third party, such as a governmental agency, did demand access to the ProtonMail servers, all they would gain is encrypted documents.

Cryptography

ProtonMail uses open cryptography, which means that anyone, or at least anyone who can read computer coding, can see how the encryption security is set up. Though it might seem as if this would compromise safety, it is, in fact, a method of assuring the user that there is no hidden code, such as a “back door,” that would allow anyone access to your information.

ProtonMail Review: The Pluses

Security is at the top of the list for the ProtonMail developers. So much so, in fact, that you need two passwords to access your emails. Your first password is entered at login and is sent to the ProtonMail server to make sure the account belongs to you. The second password is what decodes your messages, but instead of going to the ProtonMail servers, it only runs in your own browser. This is how the administrators can claim never to be able to access your data because they never have access to your second password.

ProtonMail Account

Another method ProtonMail uses to keep your messages private is not to collect personal information from its users. To get an account with ProtonMail, you simply choose a username and a password. That’s it. ProtonMail doesn’t even store the IP address you send your emails from. So if the unthinkable happens and your messages are breached, they won’t be able to be linked to you.

ProtonMail App

Though not offered initially, you can now access your ProtonMail account through an app on your smartphone, which is available for both iOS and Android. Believe it or not, the use of an app over a web interface is actually more secure. Using ProtonMail, or visiting any website, over the internet means loading JavaScript, or the code that tells the web page what to do. It is possible to locate your IP address and send you a version of the code that would allow access to your data. The use of the app neutralizes this threat.

As an additional feature that’s part security, part secret-agent-cool, you can set emails to expire, and when they do, they will self-destruct. They will no longer be accessible to read or view as if they never existed.

Features of ProtonMail

ProtonMail offers some nice features to make it easy to use. For example, the ProtonMail spam filter is very accurate and does a good job of keeping your inbox junk-free. You can also sort your inbox with custom labels that can be color-coded, and you can use different folders, such as spam and archive folders, to sort your email. Also, you can set a filter for your mail, and you can employ the use of a blacklist and whitelist for your contacts.

 

Electronic Mail

You can search your emails to some extent. Fields such as subjects, dates, senders, and recipients are all searchable. But any text that is part of the message is not. This is inherently due to the encryption process. And is a small price to pay in exchange for the security and privacy gained with the encryption. If you’re using ProtonMail through a web interface, there are several keyboard shortcuts that make for quick navigation.

Finally, ProtonMail allows for inline pictures, rich text formatting, and attachments within the body of your email. And of course, that’s all encrypted, too. Additionally, the speed at which files attach is quite fast.

ProtonMail Review: The Minuses

As mentioned above, using ProtonMail through a web interface opens up the user to possible hacking. An app would have to be downloaded to prevent any kind of security breach happening through the JavaScript code.

Some of the security features ProtonMail promises just aren’t possible. The company claims that strict Swiss law protects all user data because of the fact that ProtonMail became incorporated in Switzerland. And because its servers are all located in Switzerland. However, Switzerland has a treaty with the US that promises legal assistance, should the US government request information that the Swiss authorities have access to. This treaty renders those Swiss privacy laws indefensible, and the servers may as well be here in the United States. On the bright side, as noted earlier, should your data be handed over, it would be in encrypted form. As that is all that ProtonMail has access to.

Public Keys

Another potential problem with ProtonMail is the use of public keys. To send an encrypted email to another ProtonMail user, you need to know their public key. You get this information from ProtonMail. So you have to trust that ProtonMail isn’t also giving you its own key, thereby making it possible for the administrators to eavesdrop. And though the code for ProtonMail is open source, it is very complicated and would require extensive technical knowledge to be able to make sure this wasn’t the case.

Another downside to this email system is that it is designed to work best with other ProtonMail users. To send an encrypted email to a non-ProtonMail user, the recipient would have to use the ProtonMail interface rather than viewing it through their own email’s website.

ProtonMail Review: Usability

Besides the possible issues with security, the overall usability of ProtonMail isn’t as strong as it is with other e-mail services. Even free ones. For one thing, the storage limit is pretty low. For another, you have limited abilities to search and sort your mail.

One final downside to ProtonMail comes, ironically, because of the high level of security. If you forget your password, the administrator cannot retrieve it for you. Seeing as how it isn’t stored on the ProtonMail server. Anything you have in your account will be lost to you once your password resets.

ProtonMail Review: Overall Opinions of ProtonMail

While it isn’t a perfect system as far as privacy and security are concerned. ProtonMail still has a lot to offer. For people who just want to know that their emails aren’t being mined for data, ProtonMail can give you peace of mind. ProtonMail provides enough features to make it easy to use and navigate. Though it doesn’t offer quite as many benefits as other free email services. And as long as you aren’t planning on laundering money through your ProtonMail account, you don’t need to worry about the government getting a hold of your data through a mutual legal assistance treaty.

Other Options

But if you really need to know that your email is secure, you’re better off storing your own key rather than trusting another party, like ProtonMail, to do it for you. It will take some coding know-how to accomplish this. But there are programs that can help you achieve this without having to get a degree in computer coding first.

Almost every system has its weaknesses, and ProtonMail is no exception. However, it is nevertheless a worthwhile platform that still receives periodic upgrades. New updates make the system stronger, more secure and more accessible. In the end, it is up to you, the user, to decide if ProtonMail’s services will meet your privacy needs. We hope our ProtonMail review of the positive and negative aspects of the service will help you make your decision for your personal emailing needs.

Featured Image: CC0 Rawpixel via Pixabay.

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