Encrypted email provider ProtonMail announced the global availability of its privacy focused email service to the public this week.
Offering end-to-end encryption in its email service, ProtonMail was launched in beta in May 2014 by CERN scientists and has been available on an invite-only basis for the past two-years.
With more than 1 million users participating in its closed beta, the service is now open to the world to allow more people take advantage of its privacy protection.
To ensure that user data is not accessible by third-parties, not even by ProtonMail itself, the company says that it stores data in an encrypted format and uses two passwords, one required to identify the user, and the other to decrypt the data. The second password is never sent to the server but is used only on the device, making the data unavailable to anyone else but the user, the company explains.
The global availability of the service comes at a time when encryption and privacy are under great scrutiny after Apple refused to help the FBI unlock the iPhone belonging to the Islamic terrorist behind the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. While compromise appears elusive in this battle, the UN believes the FBI risks setting a dangerous precedent that could have a chilling effect on human rights.
Tech companies have already announced their support for Apple in the legal fight over encryption, and ProtonMail says that it now has the occasional needed to fight governments to protect user privacy. The recent challenges against encryption and privacy determined ProtonMail to open the service for public registration, allowing anyone to obtain an encrypted email account immediately.
While governments might be concerned about terrorism and encryption, weakening encryption would undermine the collective security, which is the wrong approach, ProtonMail says.
The email provider explains that the general public needs to be provided with the right tools to defend the rights to privacy, so that the decision is transferred into the hands of the people and not governments. For that, ProtonMail provides users with free email service as a basic offer, although it also offers premium accounts, which offer additional features and benefits.
In November 2015, the Geneva-based encrypted email provider was targeted by a powerful and continuous distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that crippled its network for days. Initially believed to be the work of a cyber-extortionist group, the attack was later suspected to have been launched by a state-sponsored actor, given that it took down the ISP’s datacenter and routers in Zurich, Frankfurt, and other nodes.
“Strong encryption and privacy are a social and economic necessity, not only does this technology protect activists and dissidents, it is also key to securing the world’s digital infrastructure. This is why all things considered, strong encryption is absolutely necessary for the greater good,” ProtonMail Co-Founder Dr. Andy Yen says.
“The best way to ensure that encryption and privacy rights are not encroached upon is to get the tools into the hands of the public as soon as possible and widely distributing them. This way, we put the choice in the hands of the consumer, and not government regulators,” Yen added.