ProtonMail – Review

I recently wrote about ProtonVPN, a VPN services from the creators of ProtonMail. And for those of you that don’t know, ProtonMail is a service that provides security and encrypted emails.
If I can remember correctly I was part of the in initial launch and was in a waiting list for a free account. And this was only due to seeing some stuff on Twitter about it and letting my curiosity get the better of me, and I’m glad it did.

So what is ProtonMail, well to put it simply it is an encrypted email client that is based in Switzerland, and by just saying that you should know that the privacy and security of its user will be fantastic. This is largely due to Switzerland having some of the best laws in place for online privacy and security. So you know from the start that they are going to make sure your privacy is protected as strongly as possible.

Creating you ProtonMail account is much the same as creating any email account these days, you chose a username and set you passwords. But unlike the likes of Gmail and setting only one password ProtonMail asks for you to set an account password and then another password for your mailbox. This is a second line off defense to prevent your account being compromised. You can also set up 2 factor authentication from the security tab in the settings later. This again adds another layer of security before you can even view your inbox. And don’t worry this isn’t just some SMS verification, you can use just about any authenticator application on the market.

The web client its self looks just like any other email client, this I feel is a great thing because it feels as natural an environment as you’d likely be use to. Before using ProtonMail I was skeptical that the user interface might have been lacking in the looks department as their main priority is the security and protection of their users. But gladly this is not the case. There are 2 options for the layout of your inbox, the first displays your emails in a column on the left and then display the selected email on the right. And then the section option is to just have the list of emails and you can open the emails you wish to view. Depending on where you are when you are using this client could depend on how you have it laid out.

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Reasons for Full Disk Encryption

To those who are unfamiliar with the concept of full disk encryption it is very simple, normal your computer or mobile devices will store data on a HDD (Hard Disk Drive) without the requirement for a password or any verification to access it bar maybe a password to log into the machine. And this is all fine and well in a lot of cases, your average user might simply use there laptop for basic web browsing or to use services such as Netflix or Gmail.

But for some users personal or sensitive information might be stored on the computer, meaning that if the devise was to be stolen then all of this information could be accessed and could potently have massive consequences. But by using full disk encryption it makes it almost impossible to gain access to the drive and therefore the information stored on it. The best part is you don’t need to be “tech-savy” or a “computer genius” to achieve this level of protection. And it is also a huge amount easier to achieve than it might sound.

Firstly there are a number off different methods to protect your computer with full disk encryption, this could be in the form of a downloaded application but most operating systems these days also allow the user the ability to use full disk encryptions.

Listed below are a few of the easiest options to secure your PC with full disk encryption

Bit Locker

Bit Locker is Microsoft Windows answer to full disk encryption, and was introduce with Windows Vista, but only on the higher tier packages such as professional and business. This could be a slight restriction to some users who have the home version of Windows.

But much it is a very effective and smooth process to encrypt your disk using Bit Locker, and with it being built it it is also very easy to set up and use. Unlike TrueCrypt this is ran through Microsoft, meaning constant updates and improvements to security and as a result making your data as safe as it can be.

TrueCrypt

Before Bit Locker was around full disk encryption was hard to come by, but there was an open source tool that gave users this ability. And this was TrueCrypt a very easy to use and secure full disk encryption software. That has unfortunately been unsupported since 2014. However your are still able to downloaded it, and even though it states on the website that you should migrate to Bit Locker I personally feel that for your average user that wants a little extra security it will still do an effective job. Largely due to the fact that if your devise was to get stolen, unless the thief was very technically able it would be incredibly challenging for anyone bar an expert to utilize the security vulnerabilities said to be within TrueCrypt.

TrueCrypt Disclaimer
Source – http://truecrypt.sourceforge.net/

 

Ubuntu Home Folder

If you are a Linux user then Ubuntu has you covered on the encrypted folder front, during the install process for Ubuntu you are given the option to password protect your home folder. If you opt to set up a password your home folder will then be encrypted requiring a password to access once logged into the system. It is really nice to see it in the installation stage as it means once your system has been installed everything is set up for you and you will not have to go and set it up after. Although if you use Ubuntu and didn’t do it during the start up, don’t worry about it because you can do it after while usng the system. There are guides to this on the official Ubuntu website.

 

In some cases there are different methods to unlock an encrypted drive, this could be done in a few different ways. One of the more popular is using a UBS drive as a decryption key. Meaning to access the encrypted drive the user will need to have access to the specific USB drive. This is very similar to using a key card to access the encrypted drive. In my opinion it is also a little bit more user friendly as you will not have to keep typing out what should hopefully be a lengthy and complicated password.

And one of my personal favourites is the use of biometrics such as a finger print scanner. These can be purchased online and with a little but of work in some cases, allows the user to have a scanner on the desk, and once a finger print is detected open the encrypted drive.

There are also other methods to be able to add secure sections to your files system, one I have a lot of experience with is use BitDefender. The BitDefender has an option to protect certain folders, Essentially setting up an encrypted location that requires a password to access, although it is not quite full disk encryption its a very easy and manageable way to secure some of your files. It also requires the user to select how much space is going to be need meaning that the area that you secure could be a large as you need.