Making The Switch To Encrypted Emails

This past February a US judge ordered Microsoft, an American based tech company, to honor the search warrants of American law enforcement agencies requiring the company to hand over any/all data, emails and the like which the company stores on servers located overseas. The ruling came in direct contradiction to a previous ruling from a Federal Appeals Court in August of 2016, which upheld a US Circuit court ruling from July 2016, prohibiting the US Government from seizing data stored on servers located outside of US borders.

The principle behind this case is very simple to understand, does the United States Government have the right to demand foreign businesses located outside of the United States hand over their records to the United States Government if that company happens to do business with a US citizen? In other words, are foreign nations forced to abide by US law and comply with all US based legal requests? Well, according to the most recent ruling, as of February 2017, at least as far as US courts are concerned, the answer is “yes.

What Other “Authority” Does The US Government Have?

Let’s use the world’s most popular email service provider as a quick example – Gmail. Quite literally, everything you do on your Gmail account is accessible by Google at any given moment in time. After-all, you are using their service. If the US Government ever wants to see your account or any of the information on it, then all they have to do is pull up the file of a generic document, insert your name on top of it, print it out and just like that they magically have a “subpoena” to obtain all of your information from Google.

Despite how simple of a process this is, it is all groundbreaking stuff too. Believe it or not, it was not until May 2016 that the US government even needed to get a warrant or legal document of any kind to search through all of your personal emails. Don’t believe me?

Read More – Email Privacy Act of 2016: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/699

For you international folk out there, the news isn’t much better. You see, the US Government has its own private court known as a FISC court which, historically speaking, blindly grants “99.96%” of all warrant request brought in front of it – but who’s counting, right?

With that out of the way, all of the information above only goes to show how easy it is for the US Governments to go about obtaining all your data “legally.” But as I think we are all aware by now, agencies like the NSA or CIA do not necessarily care about US law and have the very real authority to act outside of it – #PatriotAct. To be fair, this does not necessarily mean that someone working for the US Government is literally watching/reading every single email you write every minute of the day, but they theoretically could be if/whenever they wanted to.

To that very point, early in 2016 Google came out with a press release addressing how “state-sponsored hackers” had breached over 1 million Gmail accounts over the course of that year. This was also not an isolated incident and it’s not just Google which has been targeted by these types of breaches. Literally hundreds of millions of Yahoo and Hotmail accounts have also been exposed over the years.

Read More – 3 Billion Yahoo User Accounts Hacked, Including 500 Million Email Addresses: http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/03/technology/business/yahoo-breach-3-billion-accounts/index.html

So far I have only addressed how easy it is for the US Government and/or law enforcement agencies to access all of your personal accounts/information, this does not even account for all of the non-Government organizations or hackers out there or oppressive regimes located in countries all over the world. In fact, I am willing to bet that at least 95% of all hackers worldwide are non-Government affiliated. Moreover, Hillary Clinton, the DNC, CIA, John Brennan and John Podesta should all serve as evidence for just how easy it can be for hackers to compromise anyone’s email account if they really want to – even some of the most powerful people in society.

Quite frankly, there is a reason why politicians and members of the Armed Forces are told never to use their own personal or private email accounts, because none of these services are properly protected or encrypted! While members of the Government and Armed Forces use their own private versions of encrypted email services which are NOT open or available to the public sector, thankfully, there are a number of free and paid email encryption services out there open to the general public.

For Example:

Mailfence

Mailfence is a relatively new company globally, but one which I have already placed at the top of all encrypted email service providers. Mailfence operates their servers out of Belgium, a country internationally renown for having some of the strongest and most resolute privacy laws in the world. Unlike the United States, every surveillance request or request for information inside Belgium, including on Mailfence’s servers, must be legally brought in front of a Belgium judge and proven in court as legitimate. In this way Belgium protects user data and business confidentiality in a way that no other country in the world does.

Sign Up/Create an Account Here: https://mailfence.com

ProtonMail

This email service provider offers free end to end encryption and hosts its servers in Switzerland, outside of US jurisdiction – theoretically. When signing up, at no point in time are you asked for any personal information and you do not need to attach any other emails account or phone numbers in order to register. This service also utilizes 2-factor authentication to log in, preventing hacking attempts. ProtonMail has also partnered with humanitarian organizations around the world, such as Amnesty International, in order to help fight back against Government surveillance and cyber censorship in developing countries around the world.

On a lighter note, if you are a fan of the Television drama “Mr. Robot” this is Elliot’s email provider of choice on the show.

Sign Up/Create an Account Here: https://protonmail.com/

Tutanota

This is another free encrypted email service that has become quite popular in recent times. In fact, earlier in 2016 Tutanota officially surpassed 1 million accounts – becoming the world’s largest encrypted email service provider. In 2017, Tutanota then went on to surpass 2 million accounts, furthering the countries rock solid reputation as an industry leader.

What makes Tutanota unique is that the company makes their source code “open source,” meaning that security researches investigate for themselves the level of encryption they are receiving. For all you n00bs out there, making your source code public record and still not having it hacked proves just how good the code really is.

Sign Up/Create an Account Here: https://tutanota.com/

Tech Review: Mailfence Encrypted Email

In my line of work, secure, private and encrypted emails are becoming an everyday necessity, especially these days. While the major players in the game remain ProtonMail and Tutanota, earlier this year I learned of a new up and coming provider operating out of Belgium – Mailfence – and decided to test the service out for myself. Here’s what I learned, and why I now run my business through their servers.

Customer Service

The first thing to catch my attention about Mailfence was their responsiveness to customer service inquires, even on social media and when dealing with free account holders. For example, even whilst hosting a free account on their service I received messages back from customer support within 24 hours time. Not only this, but their social media channels remain open to the public and are very responsive to messages. By comparison, other email service providers do not have any open lines of communication through social media, and most will only provide support to paying customers.

Accounts & Plans

Mailfence offers a wide range of account services including, free, entry, pro and business level plans. If you would like to learn more about each individual plan, as well as the added costs/benefits between them, please utilize the following link.

View All Plans Here: https://mailfence.com/#register

Even though the company operates out of Belgium, they do accept payments through foreign currency, including the American dollar, and perform the currency exchange on their end. This is important to understand because not every European based company is willing to do this. For example, in 2014 I was unable to register for Perfect Privacy VPN out of the Netherlands due to their reluctance to accept anything other than Euros. Perhaps most notably, even after submitting my debit card for payment, Mailfence enacted a delay on processing the payment in order to review my account/purchase – clearly indicating that the company isn’t just after some quick cash grab, but instead has a set of moral standards in place governing what they do and who they do business with. I know, imagine that – right?

Additionally, each Mailfence email address comes with built in data storage, acting as a de fecto Cloud storage account for all your important documents. Personally, I keep all of my most important documentation backed up through Mailfence. By comparison, I refuse to keep this sort of information stored on any other data hosting platform – especially Google.

Data Servers & Security

Mailfence‘s largest claim to fame, and what separates them from their competition, is the fact that the company hosts their data servers in and operates their business out of Belgium, which is known to have literally THE strictest privacy laws of any country in the world. Not only this, but Mailfence also goes out of its way to protect its website using TLS and SSL certificates which ensure that “no American certification authority is involved in the certification chain” – something I have personally never even seen before. Their site also enforces HSTS security headers and features state of the art encryption on all messages – more on that later on.

Data servers and country of origin is important to understand. As I have pointed out in a previous article on this subject, different countries have different laws when it comes to data storage and business/customer confidentially. Moreover, while countries like Switzerland would have you believe they hold the most secured privacy laws due to their world renown banking system, this just simply isn’t the case when it comes to cyber security. For example, ProtonMail tries to bank on Switzerland’s historic reputation, but ProtonMail was developed in part by researches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and their relationship to/with the NSA and US Government is more than just rumor at this point. The fact of the matter is that, at the present moment in time, Belgium does more to protect customer privacy and data confidentially than any other country in the world – period, end of story.

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Encryption Measures are Second To None

While there is a lot of competition out there on the encrypted email market these days, I have not seen one company offer more options to encrypt individual emails as Mailfence now does. For example, not only does Mailfence offer end to end encryption for all of its users, but the service also allows its users to create digital signatures, implements Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) – preventing email forging and ensuring all emails attached to your domain/account are exclusively sent via Mailfence servers. These are options which simply do not exist on other encrypted mail service platforms.

On top of this, Mailfence also implements two-factor authentication for all account holders using something known as “Time-based One-time Password” algorithms – also something I had never seen before. This technology ties a unique bar-code to an individual device or cell phone, ensuring that only that one device can have the means of generating a secondary code necessary for login. Combining their sign in methods with the sites security, along with their email encryption options, from login to transit, no email company I’ve ever seen does more to protect data/privacy than Mailfence now does.

Belgium Is The Future – IMO

While Mailfence is a relatively new and upcoming name, they have already sold me and I am happy to make the investment in the future. Moreover, reading international security headlines for a living such as I do, I am noticing an increase trend in the exploitation of encrypted email services for illegal means. For example, Tutanota accounts are behind nearly every single major ransomware related incident over the course of the last two years, and it is a general fact that all of the world most famous hackers and hacking groups operate through ProtonMail accounts.

Not all publicity is good publicity. The fact that nearly all major hacking and hacking related incidents are being conducted through ProtonMail and Tutanota servers is not a good look for business, and the longer this behavior continues the more likely it is that international authorities are going to compromise these services in one way or another – if they haven’t already quietly done so. As I have already pointed out, Mailfence is careful to choose who they do business with and whom they do not, and given that they are a relatively new service globally, ensures that their reputation has not been tarnished. As a new business owner myself, I feel much more comfortable attaching my name to Mailfence than I am any of its competitors.

Lastly, with the Netherlands essentially out of the privacy/security game and the pressure slowly mounting on all of these Swiss based companies, I see Belgium as the future leaders of cyber security over the course of the next 5-10 years. Not only is Belgium at the literal center of the European Union, which enacted revolutionary new data privacy laws in 2018, but some of the worlds most innovative security companies are starting to emerge there. This is true of services like Mailfence and DNSBelgium, which is leading the charge towards blockchain dns, which has the possibility changing the course of internet history. Given the way the country structures its laws, I see several major computer or cyber security based companies either starting up in or moving to Belgium in the years to come.

Making The Switch To Encrypted Emails

This past February a US judge ordered Microsoft, an American based tech company, to honor the search warrants of American law enforcement agencies requiring the company to hand over any/all data, emails and the like which the company stores on servers located overseas. The ruling came in direct contradiction to a previous ruling from a Federal Appeals Court in August of 2016, which upheld a US Circuit court ruling from July 2016, prohibiting the US Government from seizing data stored on servers located outside of US borders.

The principle behind this case is very simple to understand, does the United States Government have the right to demand foreign businesses located outside of the United States hand over their records to the United States Government if that company happens to do business with a US citizen? In other words, are foreign nations forced to abide by US law and comply with all US based legal requests? Well, according to the most recent ruling, as of February 2017, at least as far as US courts are concerned, the answer is “yes.

What Other “Authority” Does The US Government Have?

Let’s use the world’s most popular email service provider as a quick example – Gmail. Quite literally, everything you do on your Gmail account is accessible by Google at any given moment in time. After-all, you are using their service. If the US Government ever wants to see your account or any of the information on it, then all they have to do is pull up the file of a generic document, insert your name on top of it, print it out and just like that they magically have a “subpoena” to obtain all of your information from Google.

Despite how simple of a process this is, it is all groundbreaking stuff too. Believe it or not, it was not until May 2016 that the US government even needed to get a warrant or legal document of any kind to search through all of your personal emails. Don’t believe me?

Read More – Email Privacy Act of 2016: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/699

For you international folk out there, the news isn’t much better. You see, the US Government has its own private court known as a FISC court which, historically speaking, blindly grants “99.96%” of all warrant request brought in front of it – but who’s counting, right?

With that out of the way, all of the information above only goes to show how easy it is for the US Governments to go about obtaining all your data “legally.” But as I think we are all aware by now, agencies like the NSA or CIA do not necessarily care about US law and have the very real authority to act outside of it – #PatriotAct. To be fair, this does not necessarily mean that someone working for the US Government is literally watching/reading every single email you write every minute of the day, but they theoretically could be if/whenever they wanted to.

To that very point, early in 2016 Google came out with a press release addressing how “state-sponsored hackers” had breached over 1 million Gmail accounts over the course of that year. This was also not an isolated incident and it’s not just Google which has been targeted by these types of breaches. Literally hundreds of millions of Yahoo and Hotmail accounts have also been exposed over the years.

Read More – 3 Billion Yahoo User Accounts Hacked, Including 500 Million Email Addresses: http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/03/technology/business/yahoo-breach-3-billion-accounts/index.html

So far I have only addressed how easy it is for the US Government and/or law enforcement agencies to access all of your personal accounts/information, this does not even account for all of the non-Government organizations or hackers out there or oppressive regimes located in countries all over the world. In fact, I am willing to bet that at least 95% of all hackers worldwide are non-Government affiliated. Moreover, Hillary Clinton, the DNC, CIA, John Brennan and John Podesta should all serve as evidence for just how easy it can be for hackers to compromise anyone’s email account if they really want to – even some of the most powerful people in society.

Quite frankly, there is a reason why politicians and members of the Armed Forces are told never to use their own personal or private email accounts, because none of these services are properly protected or encrypted! While members of the Government and Armed Forces use their own private versions of encrypted email services which are NOT open or available to the public sector, thankfully, there are a number of free and paid email encryption services out there open to the general public.

For Example:

Mailfence

Mailfence is a relatively new company globally, but one which I have already placed at the top of all encrypted email service providers. Mailfence operates their servers out of Belgium, a country internationally renown for having some of the strongest and most resolute privacy laws in the world. Unlike the United States, every surveillance request or request for information inside Belgium, including on Mailfence’s servers, must be legally brought in front of a Belgium judge and proven in court as legitimate. In this way Belgium protects user data and business confidentiality in a way that no other country in the world does.

Sign Up/Create an Account Here: https://mailfence.com

ProtonMail

This email service provider offers free end to end encryption and hosts its servers in Switzerland, outside of US jurisdiction – theoretically. When signing up, at no point in time are you asked for any personal information and you do not need to attach any other emails account or phone numbers in order to register. This service also utilizes 2-factor authentication to log in, preventing hacking attempts. ProtonMail has also partnered with humanitarian organizations around the world, such as Amnesty International, in order to help fight back against Government surveillance and cyber censorship in developing countries around the world.

On a lighter note, if you are a fan of the Television drama “Mr. Robot” this is Elliot’s email provider of choice on the show.

Sign Up/Create an Account Here: https://protonmail.com/

Tutanota

This is another free encrypted email service that has become quite popular in recent times. In fact, earlier in 2016 Tutanota officially surpassed 1 million accounts – becoming the world’s largest encrypted email service provider. In 2017, Tutanota then went on to surpass 2 million accounts, furthering the countries rock solid reputation as an industry leader.

What makes Tutanota unique is that the company makes their source code “open source,” meaning that security researches investigate for themselves the level of encryption they are receiving. For all you n00bs out there, making your source code public record and still not having it hacked proves just how good the code really is.

Sign Up/Create an Account Here: https://tutanota.com/