Review. We use email accounts to subscribe to an event, book hotels, and talk to our doctor, lawyer or accountant. Thus, protecting your email account is essential.

ProtonMail: ‘atomic’ security

The password for your phone, or your laptop, or your favorite social network is always the first defense against those who want to turn your digital life into a nightmare. And this is especially true for email. But now there’s finally a secure email service called ProtonMail.

ProtonMail is an encrypted email provider created at Geneva’s CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in 2013. It uses cryptography to provide a more trustworthy email system than the unencrypted ones, such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo (the latter two are among the world’s most hacked systems).

An entire community of scientists and privacy activists spearhead the project. ProtonMail is based on open-source software, it’s easy to use and boasts a modern design. Its email servers are in Switzerland, and its business model is based on donations and micro-payments rather than advertising or personal data gathering and sale.

The first email address is free for each user; extra addresses and other additional services are for sale for a few euros.

Surely our security is worth the price. But if you still want to use one of those free email accounts that work so well, go ahead, but always ask yourself: why are this service and all those gigabytes of storage free to use?

If you’ve heard of micro-targeting and artificial intelligence that reads private emails, you have your answer.

From the day New Yorker engineer Ray Tomlinson invented email in 1971, the volume of emails has never stopped growing, in spite of the development of chats and cell phones.

Statistics experts say over 269 billion emails are sent every day across the world, including spam (junk email bears the name of a brand of canned meat, ungenerously accused of being low quality).

We use email accounts to subscribe to an event, book hotels, and talk to our doctor, lawyer or accountant.

Thus, protecting your email account is essential. On “dark web” sites that can’t be found using Google, there is still Antipublic, a huge database of about 1.5 billion account names and matching passwords — with many Italians in it, including about 900 politicians and 1,000 journalists.

Many accounts appear several times for their bad habit of using the same email and password combination for Facebook, Twitter, Booking, TripAdvisor, Dropbox or YouPorn. The phenomenon is known as “password reuse.”

To know if your email address has been hacked in one of last year’s major data breaches — such as the ones at LinkedIn, DropBox and Yahoo! — you can visit the website Have I Been Pwned?

If you find out you’re one of those people, don’t worry. Even Mark Zuckerberg is on it because he used the same credentials for Twitter and LinkedIn.

Back to ProtonMail: if you use its mobile app, your contacts too are encrypted, which will make it even more difficult for cybercriminals to know whom you talk to.

Speaking of which, Ray Tomlinson died on March 5, 2016. Knowing him, he’s probably still worried about how we’re use his invention from up there.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!