Security

Top Private & Secure Email Providers [2021]

Some popular companies that come to our mind when it comes to email providers are Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo Mail, iCloud, etc. In this article, I am going to list the top private & secure email providers in 2021.

Emailing is one of the first digital ways of communication. It’s old, but still, we use emails for almost everything we do on the Internet. It can be user registration, two-factor authentication, or sending private emails to somebody important.

What’s wrong with Gmail?

One might ask, in the times of Google, why are we even thinking about the alternatives. Gmail is the best email out there. Right? Well, no. Not at least for privacy. If you have just started using the Internet, you know Google allows you to create free email accounts. Gmail, no doubt, is the most popular email provider on the earth, but it’s not a private email at all.

Google and other popular email providers rely on the ads. In the last article, I talked about how Google earns from its free services such as Google Search. Similarly, popular email providers earn from their users by collecting and using their personal information, such as reading the content of the email.

You should never get shocked when you see ads across the web regarding the product you mentioned in one of your recent emails. Watch the documentary “The Social Dilemma” for more information on how tracking works on the Internet and how personal information is used to show ads.

Government can access data easily through legal ways or other ways

The biggest reason why Gmail and similar email providers can not be trusted for protecting users’ privacy is that they can share users’ data if demanded by the Governments through the courts. So activists around the World are under continuous threat by their country’s Government.

Jamal Khashoggi

Today, most Governments are the biggest threat to their citizens’ privacy and data security. We have recently seen how governments worldwide have used popular apps to track & take down their opponents. Read about Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, an author, and columnist for the Washington Post who the Saudi Government allegedly assassinated. Hundreds of such assassinations take place each year around the World. For more information on journalists’ assassinations, there is a Wikipedia page just dedicated to this topic.

For years activists around the World trusted WhatsApp, Gmail, and other popular services for protecting their privacy, but recent incidents show they aren’t as private they might think.

citizenlab.ca has published multiple pieces of research that prove how governments across the World are using popular apps to target journalists.

Recommended to watch

Top Private & Secure Email Providers In 2021

I have compiled the list of top private & secure email providers based on features provided to enhance the users’ privacy and their servers’ locations (also their track records). Servers’ locations play an important in keeping companies’ data private & secure.

One of the best locations to have private servers in Switzerland. Switzerland is the most secure place for keeping private data. It is called the data heaven on the Earth.

It’s important to note that all the data stored in Switzerland isn’t illegal. Most companies keep their databases in Switzerland to keep their users’ data out of the reach of private and government agencies.

Now without any further adieu, let’s get started!

1. TutaNota

TutaNota is the second most popular secure email provider. TutaNota provides an encrypted inbox, and its servers are located in Germany.

TutaNota’s servers are based in Germany, which is also known for its strong privacy protection laws. The company has written a detailed guide on why TutaNota’s servers are located in Germany. It will help if you read it for more in-depth knowledge about how the company protects users’ data.

Basic use of TutaNota is free. Free users get 1 user, 1 GB storage, limited search, and one calendar. In just a small amount of 12 euros, you get to use the premium features of TutaNota, including 1 custom domain, unlimited search, multiple calendars, 5 aliases, Inbox rules, and email support. With a paid plan, you also get to add users for an additional price of 12 euros.

If you want more, go for the Teams plan that costs 48 euros/year. Users can also choose to pay for a specific feature to get more aliases, more storage, Whitelabel, etc.

Install TutaNota Apps

TutaNota apps are available for all major platforms, including Linux, iOS, Windows, macOS, Android, and web browser clients.

2. Ctemplar

Ctemplar is another great private and secure email provider. Its servers are based in Iceland. Iceland is also known for its strict privacy laws to protect citizens’ privacy & freedom.

The email service provides a free plan for basic usage. The free plan allows 200 sending emails/day, 10MB attachments, 10GB storage, unlimited folders, and all encryption features. To increase or uplift limits, subscribe to their paid plans.

Ctemplar provides an encrypted inbox with a ton of other security features. Users can set an anti-phishing phrase to avoid phishing attacks.

Currently, Ctemplar is an invite-only service. To receive an invite code, you should know a paid user and ask him for an invite code or request support for an invite code through social media. They easily provide the code if you request it on their Reddit page.

Install Ctemplar Apps

There is a client for all major operating systems, including Linux and major mobile operating systems.

3. StartMail

StartMail is an email service developed by the creators of StartPage, a private search engine. Its mail servers are located in the Netherlands and comply with EU GDPR privacy laws.

StartMail is a premium email service available to only paid customers. To test the service, users can signup for a free trial account.

The email service provides encrypted emails, unlimited aliases, sends password encrypted messages to anyone regardless of recipients’ email providers, 10GB email storage, and a business plan for using a custom domain with StartMail.

The base plan costs around $35.99 $59.95/year.

4. CounterMail

CounterMail is one of the most secure email providers available today. They encrypt all the data with OpenPGP encryption protocol with 4096 bits encryption keys. Besides providing encryption, end-to-end security, anonymous email headers, etc., they also provide unique features to improve privacy and security further.

CounterMail uses Diskless web servers to store users’ data. There are no hard drives on their servers; instead, they use CD-ROM to boot up & run their servers. For more information on how their server setup works, refer to this guide.

They also focus on providing MITM protection. MITM stands for Man-In-The-Middle attack. To protect users from MITM, CounterMail uses RSA and AES-CBC underneath the standard SSL protocol. That means four layers of protection, SSL encryption, Session encryption, OpenPGP encryption, and Server-side disk encryption. 

At the moment, CounterMail is an invite-only email service. You can get an invite code either from a premium member of CounterMail or request an invite code from the support team (it takes too much time).

5. ProtonMail – Encrypted emails based in Switzerland

ProtonMail is the most popular “private” email provider out there. At least most of my life, I thought they’re clean unless a website, “privacy-watchdog.io” made some shocking claims regarding the involvement of CIA/NSA in creating ProtonMail.

The proofs provided by privacy-watchdog.io show that the PM creation started at MIT under CIA/NSA oversight.

Protonmail’s cryptography code written by Wei Sun was written at MIT with CIA & NSA oversight…

privacy-overwatch.io

As I studied more about the case, I found out that there is no clear or convincing answer supporting the creation of PM not by CIA/NSA. Actually, a Reddit moderator of ProtonMail tried to get rid of the questions by saying the claims being made are old.

Still, we are waiting for clear answers from ProtonMail countering claims made by privacy-watchdog.io. Right now, I suggest reading the entire case and decide for yourself. All the links are available here –

Protonmail’s MIT Creation & CIA/NSA Oversight

Reddit discussion

Here is my review of the ProtonMail service as claimed by their official website & my experience. I don’t suggest activism through ProtonMail, at least, before they prove they are not just another company monitored by the big brother.

Based in Switzerland, ProtonMail provides a private email account that’s encrypted by default. It does not log users’ IP addresses, encrypts emails with an encryption key. If the user forgets his account password, they will have to reset the password to reset the encryption key.

It is how encryption works. Users’ emails can only be opened with the encryption used to encrypt them in the first place. Once the encryption is reset, all the emails in the account will be lost.

Because ProtonMail servers are based in Switzerland, their servers are protected by strict Swiss privacy laws.

Best of all, it’s free for basic usage. If you want more features such as remove messages per day limit from 150 to 1000 or unlimited, priority support, email filters, autoresponder, multi-user support, custom domain, etc., upgrade to one of their paid plans.

6. SecureMyEmail (Not for Linux)

Here I am going away from email providers to a service that allows users to encrypt their emails regardless of their email providers. With SecureMyEmail, you can encrypt your emails without moving to a new email provider.

SecureMyEmail is for people who don’t want to switch away from their current email provider. It easily allows encrypting sending/receiving emails without changing the email provider.

Here is how it works — SecureMyEmail provides its client for Windows, Mac, Android, and iPhone users. After signing up, you can synchronize your personal email account (Gmail, Microsoft, iCloud, etc.) with the SecureMyEmail client, and it’ll set up the encryption automatically.

If you are on Linux, you don’t need to use SecureMyEmail because better/easier alternatives (Thunderbird) are already available.

Conclusion

We don’t lack a number of email providers. We have too many, but only some of them stand in front of the Government agencies and big corporate. While compiling this list, I tried my best to find out any suspicious past of the email providers, and in the case of ProtonMail, I did find their shady history.

If you prove any of the email providers listed above is/are involved in sharing users’ data, I will raise my voice by adding your proof to the article and removing the company from this list.

Lastly, I request ProtonMail to contact me through the website’s Contact Us page rather than my personal email account that I have never revealed on my website or anywhere else. 🙂

Sohail

Mohd Sohail is a web developer and a Linux sysAdmin. He also loves to write how-to articles, applications reviews and loves to use new Linux distributions.

View Comments

  • "3. StartMail
    ...

    The base plan costs around $35.99/year."

    This is not accurate information. The $35.99 is a summer special only and the website misleads you to think its per year and it is not. Its for 1 year as a discount offer, the base plan is $5/month ($60/year).

  • How in God's name can a journal named Linux&Ubuntu include an encryption solution - not E-Mail provider for Windows only no less, and not include KolabNow E-Mail Services provider, one of the largest, and more established E-Mail services providers in Europe and growing rapidly elsewhere, including in the Americas.

    Change the journal name if you will be constantly highlighting Microsoft Windows tools, which most Linux users have no need or desire for. If you
    Want to go on incessantly, like many other Microsoft only journals, about what desktops are dominant, then start discussing Chromebooks, which currently comprise about 55+ percent of desktops in US school systems, and millions more in corporations like Cisco using thousands for their field engineers.

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