Whether you’re Edward Snowden or just someone who doesn’t want their inbox mined for advertising insights, these encrypted email services will do a good job of protecting your privacy and your data.
Popular email providers make no secret of reading, mining and even selling the contents of private emails, so it’s no surprise that many people and organisations are looking elsewhere for their security and privacy needs.
Enter encrypted email services.
Encrypted email services are those that – you guessed it – encrypt your emails and prevent their contents from being unlawfully read or accessed. They’re a must if you’re really concerned about your privacy, or if incoming regulations have got you concerned about data protection.
To help, we’ve rounded up a few encrypted email services that you can start looking into today. These are probably the best options on the market, but there’s more out there; be sure to do your own research before making a choice.
OK, Mimecast is technically not an encrypted email service. But it deserves a spot on this list because the Mimecast Secure Messaging Service is a great, cloud-based tool for sending and receiving sensitive information via email.
It works like this: you create an email using Mimecast for Outlook or the Mimecast mobile app. You can then select 'Send Secure' to upload your message and attachments to the Mimecast cloud. Sensitive information never leaves the Secure Messaging portal, and your message recipient gets a notification to log into the portal and read your email.
The Mimecast cloud is encrypted, so your emails and attachments are secure. Mimecast Secure Messaging Service also lets you 'trigger' Secure Messaging when emails meet certain policy criteria, like recipient name or keywords (e.g. 'confidential' or 'board meeting minutes').
Our verdict: Mimecast is a great option for people who occasionally need to send or share sensitive information over email, but don't always need full blown email encryption. It’s an obvious choice for businesses that need a secure, transparent and reliable email service for employees.
ProtonMail’s security and privacy features can only be described as intense. It doesn’t keep IP logs (so your email account remains largely anonymous) and all your emails are automatically secured with end-to-end encryption, meaning that even ProtonMail can’t decrypt, read or share them. Emails also ‘self destruct’ in your recipient’s inbox after a certain amount of time.
Another interesting feature: ProtonMail’s physical infrastructure is split across several locations in Switzerland. Its primary datacentre is housed underneath 1000 metres of granite rock in a guarded bunker that looks like something in a James Bond film. This, according to ProtonMail, provides an ‘extra layer of protection’ by ensuring your emails aren’t easily physically accessible.
Our verdict: ProtonMail is one of the best encrypted email services on the market, and its features make it an obvious choice for people like spies, journalists or anyone who likes their privacy. Just don’t forget your password.
Tutanota is like ProtonMail’s younger cousin: it supports end-to-end encryption, but it’s a relatively barebones encrypted email service.
The service is privacy-focused, supports business accounts and is available on both Android and iOS (a big plus). It does, however, have one big drawback: it doesn’t support IMAP or POP3. On the plus side, Tutanota’s servers are located in Germany, a country known for its stringent privacy laws.
Our verdict: Tutanota is one of the more basic encrypted email services, but it gets the job done for little to no money. Just don’t expect a whole lot of features or swish user experience (UX).
Unlike many other encrypted email services, Mailfence uses OpenPGP public key encryption using AES-256 bit security. What does this mean? Without getting into the technical stuff, it means it supports end-to-end encryption with an even stronger security standard than what other services (namely Tutanota) offer.
Mailfence includes a few nice features, like cloud storage and a calendar. It doesn’t have a dedicated mobile app, which is disappointing, but the paid version does support POPS, IMAPS and SMTPS access. The light version of Mailfence is also quite usable on mobile.
Our verdict: Mailfence is a good encrypted email service with solid security credentials, but it may not be the best option for people who work on the go.
For all their security and privacy benefits, encrypted email services do come with trade-offs. If you lose your password, for example, you may never be able to retrieve your emails. And in many cases, sending an encrypted email to someone using a different email service requires you to somehow give them a password with which to decrypt the contents of your email. Depending on your needs, encryption may be more effort than it’s worth. In this case, something like Mimecast would be more appropriate.
But security and privacy are important, so think carefully about your needs and whether your current email service provider is up to standard. And while there are many good encrypted email services out there, not all were born equal. Be sure to do your research before you give your current email service provider the kick, and enlist our help if you need it.