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In my ProtonMail review, I’ll take a look at the inner workings of this secure email client and see what kind of features it has to offer. Also, I’ll answer in detail the most frequently asked question – is ProtonMail safe? Finally, I’ll do a side-by-side ProtonMail vs Gmail comparison to see how they fare in terms of security and privacy.
But first, let’s talk about secure email clients in general. These services go above and beyond your regular free email. They protect your personal details and encrypt your messages to ensure that no third party, including ProtonMail, intercepts or reads them.
Compared to ProtonMail, a standard email provider can offer a limited amount of encryption only. It might be able to protect your email while it’s still on their server but cannot do anything as soon as it’s sent. Secure email services ensure that your message travels the whole distance safely.
|Features & ease-of-use||4.5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐|
What is ProtonMail?
ProtonMail is a web-based secure email service created by a group of engineers, developers, and scientists in Switzerland. The group is passionate about privacy and protecting the civil liberties of individuals online. The creators used their technical expertise to develop a safe and anonymous email system, including other products, such as ProtonVPN.
ProtonMail servers are in Europe’s most secure data center, 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) under solid rock. The company is already subject to the strict privacy laws in Switzerland and its mission to provide the utmost security. This equates to your emails being physically and legally absolutely secure.
The founding team at ProtonMail met while they worked at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. This group of technical-minded individuals started the company thanks to a record-breaking crowdfunding scheme. Since the company was founded in 2013, it has become the world’s largest secure email provider with more than one million users.
ProtonMail pros and cons
- Open-source and independently-audited
- Privacy-friendly jurisdiction
- Great free version
- Supports 2FA
- Apps for all major platforms
- ProtonMail Bridge allows using other mail clients
- Doesn’t allow bulk sending
- No POP3 support
Is ProtonMail secure?
ProtonMail uses the latest research and technology to ensure complete security for your emails. Messages are fully encrypted using open source code for complete transparency. The research team is constantly looking at technological advances and encourages others to contribute to make this the most secure email service in the world.
ProtonMail security features include:
- End-to-end encryption
- Two-factor authentication (2FA)
- Open source cryptography
- Zero access to user data
The Visionary plan also includes ProtonVPN. Together with ProtonMail, it provides great synergy for increasing your overall online security and privacy.
With the help of end-to-end encryption, ProtonMail blocks third-party access to your emails. It means that only the sender and the receiver can read the contents of the email. What’s more, even ProtonMail employees cannot look inside your mailbox.
The best part about ProtonMail encryption is that you can send secure emails even to those who use regular mail clients, such as Gmail. They will receive the link to the encrypted message and will be able to decipher it with a password.
Another important security feature of ProtonMail is two-factor authentication or 2FA. It requires not only your account password (something that you know) but also your smartphone (something that you have). Even if someone manages to get hold of your login information, they still need your phone for access.
ProtonMail support multiple authenticator apps, such as Google Authenticator, FreeOTP, and Authy. All three are available on Android and iOS and take just a few minutes to set up. You can also install them on multiple devices, which allows you to authenticate either with your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy tablet.
Open source cryptography
ProtonMail is committed to staying open-source and doing independent security audits. It means that its apps and the cryptography are thoroughly reviewed and have no backdoors associated with closed-source projects.
This is by far the best model for a secure email because virtually anyone can check the code for vulnerabilities. There’s even a bug-bounty program running that encourages security researches all over the world to help ProtonMail stay secure.
Furthermore, using the OpenPGP standard allows sending encrypted messages directly to any mail service that implements it. These include Mailfence and Hushmail, but the most popular ones can do that with the right plug-in.
Zero access to user data
As mentioned earlier, ProtonMail has no access to your mailbox content. That’s because the encryption happens on the client’s side using a key that’s unavailable to anyone else.
What’s more, you don’t need to enter your personal details when creating your account, which further enhances anonymity. Finally, ProtonMail has no way of tracking your IP that could be tied with your activities.
Is ProtonMail anonymous?
Rest assured that ProtonMail is completely anonymous. You don’t need to enter any personal information to sign up for an account. The company does not retain any IP logs so that your IP address is not linked to your email account in any way.
Your internet service provider and not even the government can access your email messages. The company feels strongly that both individuals and organizations have a right to communicate privately. It aims to make email messages as secure and private as possible.
However, many experienced users don’t go on the internet without connecting to a VPN (Virtual Private Network) first. This not only helps to anonymize them, but it also encrypts their information, often with military-grade encryption.
In addition to being arguably the most secure email provider, ProtonMail also has a number of useful features that may come in handy in daily use. Not all of them are available in the free version, and some require getting the priciest Visionary plan.
You can import contacts from the current email service in vCard or .csv format. All contacts are encrypted, but ProtonMail can see them so that it can offer extra functionality, such as spam filtering. However, paid users can also add phone numbers and addresses, which are available to you only.
ProtonMails allow you to set the date after which the email you’ve sent will be deleted from the recipient’s mailbox. You can set the deadline from hours to weeks. This actually works not only for fellow ProtonMail users but for any other service too.
Switching to ProtonMail doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to your favorite email client. With ProtonMail Bridge, paid users can continue using Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, or any other client that supports IMAP and SMTP.
Labels, filters, and folders
This set of features allows paid users to organize the mailbox with labels, filters, and folders. Labeling doesn’t affect the folder structure, which means that you can add or remove labels without “physically” moving the emails themselves.
Filtering in ProtonMail is done by using Conditions and Actions. This works similarly to setting custom rules on most apps with the formula “If X is Y and/or A is B, then C.” The spam filters work in a similar fashion.
Plans and pricing
ProtonMail has four pricing plans: Free, Plus, Visionary, and Professional. The paid plans give you the option to pay annually or monthly. Here’s the list of ProtonMail prices:
- Plus – monthly, $5/month
- Plus – $48 annualy, $4/month
- Visionary – monthly, $30/month
- Visionary – $288 annualy, $24/month
- Professional – monthly, $8/month per user
- Professional – 75$ annually, $6.25/month per user
You can pay by credit card or PayPal.
Is it easy-to-use?
There’s a web-based version of ProtonMail available, plus apps for Android and iOS mobile devices. There is no software download required for the web version. Your account syncs between devices while maintaining complete security. The apps are currently available in up to 14 different languages.
There’s a sending limit for the free accounts. You should send no more than 50 emails per hour and 150 emails per day. This is intended to prevent bulk emailing, spamming, and returned emails to maintain the integrity of ProtonMail. Using your account normally without any spam reports or upgrading to a paid account will increase your sending limits.
ProtonMail doesn’t offer POP3 services for forwarding mail from another address. Perhaps the company simply wants you to switch over to its service completely. It also encourages users to recommend the email service to their friends to reduce sending limits and build a network of users.
For professional and personal use
If you need to use a personal email address for work-related correspondence, ProtonMail is a great option. Any sensitive information sent via email regarding your work or clients is protected. Passwords or financial information can be sent without fear of being compromised.
ProtonMail Professional offers a secure email service for organizations. Benefiting from the same encryption as the regular email accounts but with more storage, users, and admins permitted. Encrypted emails help organizations to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
In July 2020, the ProtonMail team announced the upcoming launch of ProtonDrive. With it, users will be able to store their files in one place, as well as easily upload and download them when needed. ProtonDrive will have end-to-end encryption to make sure that your data is well protected.
How to delete ProtonMail
If you would like to delete your email account, simply go to the Account tab in the Settings menu and choose Delete. You will need to enter your password to confirm you want to delete the account. Be aware that the deletion is final, your account cannot be restored, and none of your data can be recovered later.
ProtonMail vs Gmail
Gmail is one of the most popular free email services in the world, but does it offer the security you are looking for? Let’s take a look at how the secure email service of ProtonMail stacks up against Gmail.
|Founder||Andy Yen, Wei Sun, and Jason Stockman|
|Released||2013||2009, after 5 years of beta testing|
|Free version available||Yes||Yes|
pay for extra storage, domains, or addresses for $1-2/month.
|Upgrade to Gmail One starts from $1.99/month, including extra storage and expert Google help.|
|Mailbox storage||Free version: 500 MB|
Paid: 20 GB
|Free version: 15 GB, shared alongside other Google services|
Paid: 100 GB – 2 TB
|Max. attachment limit||25 MB and 100 attachments||25 MB|
|Security features||2-factor authentication sign-in process|
End-to-end encryption to ensure complete privacy
|Basic password sign-in method|
Transport Layer Security (TLS)
ProtonMail was released in 2013. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and was founded by Dr. Andy Yen, who was a researcher at CERN and was working on particle physics applications. Gmail is owned by Google, it has been around since 2005, and the headquarters are in California, USA.
Free versions are available from both providers on the web and mobile platforms. ProtonMail packages cost $4-24/month, or you can also just pay for extra storage, domains, or addresses for $1-2/month. You can upgrade to Gmail One starting from $1.99/month, including extra storage and expert Google help.
ProtonMail offers 500 MB of encrypted storage with the free version, or you can pay for up to 20 GB. The maximum attachment limit is 25 MB and 100 attachments. Gmail gives you 15 GB of free storage and has an attachment limit of 25 MB and a standard account. Various additional storage packages are offering up to 20 TB for a monthly fee.
Security features ProtonMail uses a 2-factor authentication sign-in process and end-to-end encryption to ensure complete privacy. Gmail uses a basic password sign-in method and Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt messages when possible. If the email providers of both the sender and the recipient do not use TLS, your email cannot be encrypted by Gmail.
Overall, ProtonMail is an excellent secure email provider. We only have a few small issues with the service, including the sending limits and no POP3 services. We were impressed with the technical team behind the company and the level of security that they offer. The free version will probably be sufficient for most users, and the paid packages offer more storage and features for those who need it.
Is ProtonMail safe?
ProtonMail is safe to use. It uses end-to-end encryption, two-factor authentication and doesn’t log your data.
Is ProtonMail safer than Gmail?
ProtonMail is much safer than Gmail. ProtonMail uses end-to-end encryption and 2FA, while Gmail offers only basic sign-in and TLS. Finally, ProtonMail has a strict no-logs policy, while Google makes the best of your personal information.
ProtonMail premium, is it worth buying?
Most users will be content with the free ProtonMail version. However, if you need lots of storage or send hundreds of emails each day, upgrading to a Plus plan would be a good idea.
Can ProtonMail be hacked?
Like any other online service, ProtonMail can be hacked. However, the chance of this happening is minimal. This email provider is open-source and undergoes rigorous independent audits, making it way safer than Gmail or any other regular email.
Disclaimer: Affiliate links help us produce good content. Learn more.