Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. offer most of their services for free, but in exchange they collect your data to resell to third parties in order to create the most targeted advertising possible. This is how Google makes billions of dollars every year.
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Why use a secure email provider?
These “free” services are not really “free”, you pay for the product with your private data. This is an unethical business model based on the exploitation of your privacy.
We therefore recommend that you use privacy-friendly, secure and advertising-free messaging services. Some of these secure messaging services offer limited free subscriptions as well as paid packages offering more storage and premium features (this is the freemium business model).
Here are some examples of how some “free” messaging services violate your privacy and resell the information they get about you:
– A article in the Wall Street Journal revealed that Google gives access to the emails of some of its users to partner companies
– Yahoo and AOL allow advertisers to analyse their customers’ accounts to “identify and segment potential customers by detecting contextual purchase signals and previous purchases”.
– Yahoo has also been caught scanning emails in real time for US surveillance agencies in 2016.
– Declassified documents from the PRISM monitoring program reveal that Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and AOL grant U.S. monitoring agencies unilateral access to their servers to conduct “extensive and in-depth monitoring of live communications and stored information”.
That’s what we know but what about what we don’t know yet!
Fortunately, there is a simple solution to stop these practices… Use a secure email provider that respects your privacy.
The purpose of this article is to help you find the best secure messaging solution for your specific needs.
Features to consider when choosing a secure messaging provider
Jurisdiction – where is the service located and how does this affect user privacy?
Where is your data physically stored?
PGP support (cryptographic encryption software) – Some secure email services support PGP, while others do not because of its vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
Import – Can you import your existing email and contacts?
Email applications – Due to encryption, many secure email services cannot be used with third-party email clients, but some also offer dedicated applications.
Encryption – Are emails end-to-end encrypted while being sent?
Security – What are the provider’s security standards and policies?
Privacy – How does the email service protect your privacy?
What data is collected, for how long and why?
The best-known secure messaging providers
*from highest rated to lowest rated
Setting up a ProtonMail account is as simple as setting up an email address with Gmail or Outlook.
In terms of security:
Proton mail has end-to-end encryption. This means that every message sent from your ProtonMail account is protected from the moment you press send until the message is opened.
Moreover, it can only be viewed by the sender and the recipient.
Once received, the message is stored on ProtonMail’s private servers, only the sender (who has the public key) and the recipient (who has the private key), can read the message. Not even ProtonMail can read it.
You can also set an expiry time for encrypted emails that will be automatically deleted from the recipient’s inbox once they have expired.
Of course, end-to-end encryption only works really well if you send an email to other ProtonMail users.
For this reason, ProtonMail also supports sending mail to non-ProtonMail users (Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook, Apple Mail, and even AOL Mail), while providing the same type of encryption expected from their service.
These users will receive an encrypted link instead of the email, which they can decrypt using a passphrase that you have given them in private.
And, of course, you can also send unencrypted e-mails to these users.
As we have mentioned, ProtonMail strives to make its service easy to use.
There is no software to install on your computer, and no tricky configuration process.
In addition, ProtonMail offers applications for Android and iOS, both of which are well designed.
And last but not least, ProtonMail does not require any personal information to register.
Tutanota Mail provide a wide variety of security features.
Like ProtonMail, Tutanota automatically encrypts your email data on your device. This means that your email and contact list are kept confidential and secure.
Tutanota encrypts your messages end-to-end and all emails and attachments are stored directly on their servers, allowing you to easily access the content you need and send it to whoever you want, whether encrypted or not.
These servers are located in Germany, which means that all data stored on their servers is subject to German privacy laws.
As all data is encrypted from end to end, it cannot be viewed by other services or users.
Tutanota uses 2049-bit RSA keys and AES-128 encryption keys for enhanced security.
The service also offers applications for iOS and Android.
Tutanota is a cloud service, so there is nothing to download or install on your computer. Like Gmail and ProtonMail, Tutanota can be used from any device with an Internet connection and a browser, regardless of the operating system used.
Although far from the quality of ProtonMail, Tutanota can be a choice to consider.
Mailfence is a secure email provider based in Belgium that offers full functionality (calendar, contacts, file storage and PGP encryption).
It is based in Belgium, which is a good jurisdiction thanks to strict data protection laws.
Mailfence encrypts sent emails end-to-end, preventing anyone from reading the messages except the sender and recipient.
Mailfence uses AES-256-bit security, an even stronger standard than Tutanota.
Mailfence offers a number of applications and features including private calendars, a cloud document service and the ability to split contacts into specific groups and users.
Synchronisation is possible with another application via protocols such as IMAP, POP and ActiveSync. However, it should be noted that you will need to log in to a paid account to access these options due to maintenance and servicing costs.
Unfortunately, Mailfence does not have a mobile application in its free version.
CounterMail is a secure messaging provider based in Sweden with over 10 years of experience.
It uses OpenPGPG encryption with 4,096 bit encryption keys.
Countermail makes email titles anonymous and also deletes the sender’s IP address. All emails and attachments are stored and encrypted using OpenPGP on servers in Sweden.
The emails are encrypted from end to end and only the sender and recipient have access to them.
Although CounterMail is more expensive than some other secure email providers, this price difference is due to the use of high quality servers and the implementation of enhanced security.
CounterMail also protects users against identity leaks and Man-In-The-Middle attacks with RSA and AES-CBC encryption in addition to SSL.
Finally, CounterMail is also one of the few secure email services to offer its service on USB key.
Runbox is a Norwegian secure email provider established in 2000. It is important to note that Norway is an excellent jurisdiction with constitutionally guaranteed privacy rights. Furthermore, all Runbox’s servers are located in Norway.
All e-mails are physically stored in a highly secure data centre in Norway on servers owned by Runbox.
Although Runbox attaches great importance to confidentiality and security, its email service remains user-friendly and comprehensive. You can use Runbox on third party email clients. It also offers dedicated mobile applications.
Runbox offers a free 30-day trial period and simplifies the import of your existing emails.
Emails and attachments can be up to 100 MB in size.
Runbox supports IMAP, POP, SMTP, FTP and DAV services.
In addition, it provides advanced functions against viruses and spam.
Runbox encrypts your emails from end to end. Only the sender and recipient can read messages.
Finally Runbox accepts payment by Cryptomoney and even cash sent by post as well as credit card and paypal.
StartMail is a secure messaging service provided by the Startpage team, a private search engine based in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is a good privacy jurisdiction and StartMail aims to keep as little data as possible to manage its operations.
Unlike most secure email providers, StartMail manages encryption on the server side rather than in the browser.
StartMail allows users to use PGP encryption, as emails are also encrypted on their Dutch servers.
An interesting feature of StartMail is that it allows you to create temporary and disposable email addresses for use with different services.
IMAP and SMTP are also supported if you want to use StartMail with third party applications such as Thunderbird.
Mailbox is a secure email provider based in Germany.
The Mailbox.org team members are internet veterans with 25 years of experience. Mailbox.org was launched in 2014 to provide a secure and privacy friendly messaging service following the Snowden revelations.
Mailbox.org offers many exciting features such as a calendar, contact list, full PGP key management and secure cloud storage with all accounts.
Mailbox.org can be used with third party email clients supporting POP, IMAP, SMTP and DAV services.
All email is physically stored in two separate data centers in Germany.
Mailbox allows anonymous registrations and offers anonymous payment options (Cryptomoney and cash payment by mail).
It provides a spam and virus filter.
All accounts come with secure cloud storage.
Posteo is an affordable, trustworthy, highly privacy-conscious, secure messaging provider based in Germany.
It has been operational since 2009 in Berlin and is fully self-financed, with no loans, debt or foreign foreign investors.
Although Posteo offers you strong encryption options, it also supports IMAP, allowing you to use it on any device with messaging services.
Posteo goes beyond most messaging services to protect your privacy.
IP addresses are automatically deleted from e-mails, no logs are kept, and it offers strict encryption standards.
Posteo encrypts your sent emails from beginning to end and only the sender and recipient can read the messages.
It also supports anonymous registration and payment by cryptography. If you pay with a credit card or PayPal account, it manually separates account details from payment information to further protect your privacy.
KolabNow is a fully premium Swiss secure messaging service that primarily targets business users. The platform used by Kolab is far more powerful than most other secure messaging services, not only in terms of security and confidentiality protocols, but also in terms of what it offers its users.
The application is built as a complete office suite. For example, Kolab uses a contact system like a mini social network, making it easy to navigate through your contacts and organise groups.
The calendar system allows users to share it with colleagues and to keep up to 100 independent digital calendars. It even includes a system for browsing your files backed up in the cloud.
All this means that KolabNow is designed more as a suite for business users than as an offer for people looking for a basic e-mail address.
KolabNow offers a lot, providing an all-in-one suite in the style of Microsoft Office or Google Drive, allowing companies to focus on their work without having to deal with the limitations or privacy issues of its less secure services.
The service is designed to host your files and emails in a dedicated system in Switzerland, preserving the confidentiality of your information from hackers, governments and advertisers.
Unfortunately, Kolab does not indicate which security protocols they implement for your stored data and their e-mail service does not provide end-to-end encryption.
This means that users looking for this type of security will have to look elsewhere – too bad!
Please note that we strongly advise against HushMail.
Second, Hushmail registers your IP address and does not allow anonymous registrations. So keep this in mind and make sure you use a VPN when you use it or simply choose another one.
For us the test ends here. Husmail should not even be listed as a secure email provider.