Are your emails safe from the ever-growing prying eyes?
Probably the answer is no unless you’re using a secure email provider that respects your privacy.
It is a bit surprising that even at this age of social media, emails remain one of the primary forms of digital communication across the world.
Unfortunately, you may not have much privacy in an all-seeing internet of today. Governments, hackers, big corporations, everyone is going after you online.
You don’t have to be a criminal to hate your emails being watched. The good news is that you can get a secure email service to provide you with security for your email activities.
Therefore, if you want your email messages and conversations to remain as private as possible, you’re at the right place. In this article, I will provide you with the best email services to take your email security to the next level.
But before that, let’s cover some basics.
Factors to Consider Before Going with a Secure Email Provider
There are a plethora of secure email providers out there, which makes it overwhelming for anyone looking to choose the best service.
Some individuals may be looking for a service with maximum security or robust encryption, while others may fancy simplicity and convenience.
Therefore, to help you come out with the “best” secure email service, here are some of the factors you need to consider:
Email Encryption – Before making a switch, ensure that you’re aware as to whether the emails are end-to-end encrypted or whether the emails, as well as attachments, are encrypted at rest.
Jurisdiction – You should be aware of where the service is located and how it will affect the user privacy – where is your data stored physically?
Security and Privacy – Make sure you’re aware of the provider’s security standards as well as policies. Also, you should know how the email service will protect your privacy, the data being collected, for how long, and why?
Features – Look for some essential features such as calendars, inbox search, contacts, file storage, support for DAV services, and collaboration tools.
PGP Support – Some services support PGP, while some don’t use PGP due to the vulnerabilities as well as weaknesses. It is recommended to go with a PGP-supported secure email provider.
Key Feature – Check if you can import existing contacts and emails. There is no harm in compromising this essential feature for security, but if you get both (email security plus essential features like importing emails and contacts) with one provider, that is an excellent win for you.
Email Apps – Most email services, due to encryption, won’t be used with third-party email clients; however, some offer dedicated apps.
15 Most Secure Email Services for Communication Privacy in 2020
Now that you know what to consider before opting for any secure email service provider, it is time to finally discover what are the most secure email providers.
Please note the list contains both the free and paid providers, but these are the top 15 best email services you can use today to protect your email privacy:
ProtonMail is a Switzerland based, encrypted email provider. It works with iOS and Android mobile applications. The program is built as an open-source service and includes end-to-end encryption.
ProtonMail appeared on the scene following Snowden’s revelations and has been even promoted by the USA media (Forbes to be specific) as “The Only Email System The NSA Can’t Access.”
They have pride with datacenters in under 1000 meters of granite rock, which can survive a nuclear attack.
This secure email service is also designed with the principle of zero knowledge and zero access, meaning even the staff and email servers cannot read or share your emails.
The ProtonMail free version supports 500 MB of email storage and limits your usage to 150 messages a day.
You can pay for the Plus service for more space, email aliases, priority support, tags, custom filtering options, automatic response, built-in VPN protection and send more e-mails every day. There also is a business plan available.
- 500MB free storage as well as 150 emails per day
- You use your very own domain
- Features two-step verification
- End-to-end encryption
- Free and paid options
- Self-destruct message functionality
- Mobile apps (Android and iOS)
- Swiss-based servers, hence excellent protection from Swiss privacy
- Zero-access construction
- Premium version is a bit on the expensive side
- Limited cloud storage space
Tutanota is a well-protected email service based in Germany that values the privacy of its users a great deal.
Although their service aims to offer the maximum level of email security, it remains easy to use and has quality features.
While comparing Tutanota vs Proonmail, I found that it is similar to ProtonMail in design and the level of security.
All Tutanota emails get encrypted from the sender to the receiver (the email recipient) and decrypted directly on the device. The private encryption key is not accessible to anyone else.
An email account is all you need to exchange secure emails with other Tutanota users.
For emails encrypted outside the system, you can simply specify a password for the email to be used by recipients when viewing the message in their browser. The very interface also allows them to respond securely.
Tutanota web interface is easy to use and navigate, allowing you to make an email private or non-private with just one click. However, there is no search function, so it is impossible to search for previous emails.
Tutanota uses AES and RSA encryption standard.
- Applications for iOS and Android.
- No phone number required for verification.
- Automatic encryption of the entire mailbox and address book.
- Includes 1 GB of storage space.
- Open Source.
- The subject line, headers, body, metadata and all attachments are automatically encrypted; the IP address is deleted.
- Support for spam filtering.
- Features like aliases and messaging rules are only available for paid accounts.
- It does not support IMAP.
- Users cannot import contacts in bulk.
Mailfence, headquartered in Belgium, is a security-focused email provider that offers end-to-end encryption to ensure that no one can read your messages (except you and the recipient).
It is an excellent private email provider offering file storage, full calendar, and contact functionality alongside the PGP encryption.
Mailfence includes OpenPGP public-key encryption, and a free account gives you 200MB of storage.
Understandably, paid accounts offer more space, as well as the option to use your very own domain name for your Mailfence email address.
Mailfence software is not available for inspection as it is not open source. This might undermine the security and confidentiality of the system for some users.
Mailfence stores the private encryption key of users on its servers but claims that they cannot read it because it is encrypted with users’ passphrase (via AES-256).
As per the researchers, no root key would allow them to decrypt encrypted messages. A huge number of users online have reported Mailfence to be the most private email service.
- Digital email signatures prove the authorship of the author.
- Support for two-factor authentication.
- Includes a spam blocker.
- You can import contacts from Outlook, a CSV file, vCard, LDIF or Gmail.
- Includes a calendar and storage files for documents.
- Free online storage is limited to 200 MB only.
- Requires another email address to receive the activation key.
- Private keys are kept on Mailfence servers.
- Encrypted emails can only be sent to Mailfence or OpenPGP users.
- The email encryption code is not available for inspection.
CounterMail is a Sweden based secure email service provider that is up and running for more than 10 years.
For those who are seriously concerned about email privacy, CounterMail allows entirely secure execution of OpenPGP encrypted email with 4096-bit encryption keys in a browser.
CounterMail servers store only encrypted emails.
The Sweden servers do not store your emails on hard drives. All data is stored on CD-ROM only.
That helps prevent data leakage, and by the time someone attempts to directly alter the server, there is a chance that the data will be irrevocably lost.
Another thing that you can do with CounterMail is to configure a USB key to further encrypt your emails.
The decryption key is stored on the device and the user also required to log in to their account. That makes decryption impossible even if a hacker steals your password.
The additional physical security with the USB device makes CounterMail a little less simple and convenient to use than other secure email services.
But you do get IMAP and SMTP access, which you can use with any OpenPGP-compatible email program.
- Supports IMAP.
- It does not keep IP address logs.
- Includes an integrated password manager (called Safebox).
- All emails and attachments are stored encrypted on secure servers (and without logbooks) in Sweden.
- Compatibility with custom domains.
- Message filter and autoresponder functions.
- You cannot send encrypted emails to non-users.
- Free trial for a limited time. After a week’s free trial of CounterMail, you must purchase a plan to continue using the service. The test includes only 3MB of space.
- Expensive than other secure messaging options.
Hushmail is an encrypted email service designed for users who do not want to complicate life much while keeping their emails confidential.
The provider uses the OpenPGP protocol to encrypt the content of your emails through secure connections using SSL / TLS.
Hushmail is based in Canada, so it is protected by Canadian laws. Hushmail has personal and business plans; you can try any plan for 14 days for free without even providing your credit card information. The annual cost is $ 49.98.
- Supports IMAP and POP.
- Optional two-step verification.
- Contacts can be imported using a CSV file.
- Includes spam filter and autoresponder.
- 10 GB of storage.
- The free account includes little storage.
- Must use a different email address as well as a phone number when registering and verifying.
Runbox is a Norwegian company that offers secure email solutions since 2000. It is regulated by strong laws of privacy and consumer protection deployed within the country.
Runbox Mail Manager is your main product and unless an order from a Norwegian court requests your data, it will never be shared with any third party without your permission.
Besides, the provider does not store information about your traffic and uses SSL security certificates to verify the identities of website links. Runbox is a paid service that also offers a free one-month trial.
Another impressive thing about this secure email client is, it offers a 60-day money-back guarantee on all its plans.
- The servers run on the energy from renewable hydroelectric plants.
- Up to 100 email aliases.
- up to 25 GB email storage space.
- It does not offer a completely free account even with limited storage and features.
With more than 20 years of being in the business, Mailbox is one of the classics of the sector.
It boasts a native web client that users can access from anywhere, and offers useful add-ons such as calendar and task manager.
The provider has a simple and affordable account for individual users on top of advanced plans for groups and giant corporations.
- Simple and easy user interface.
- 30-day no-risk free trial.
- Anonymous, ad-free, and secure.
- Powered by eco-friendly energy (100%).
- Useful add-ons.
- A limited-time free trial.
- More expensive than some of the other secure email services available today.
Posteo is an affordable, German-based encrypted email app that has been around for a decade.
Like other email services featured in this article, Posteo also offers end-to-end encryption to keep your emails safe.
Although Posteo offers strong built-in encryption options, they also support IMAP, which allows you to use it on any device you want with different email clients.
Posteo goes beyond most email services to protect the privacy of its users. It automatically removes IP addresses from emails.
So anyone who monitors your email traffic cannot see the location from which you send your email or the location from which the email you receive is sent. Notably, the service keeps no logs at all.
Posteo goes even further in respecting the anonymity of its users by allowing them to pay for their email account via not only bank card or PayPal but also by paying money through courier, which guarantees that the account owner leaves no digital traces.
Although this option mostly gets utilized only used by journalists and activists working in countries ruled by oppressive governments, it shows how seriously Posteo takes your privacy.
And if you’re paying with PayPal, credit card, or some other digital payment method, they separate account information from payment details manually to further protect user privacy.
Posteo doesn’t have a free account, but its entry-level plan offers you 2 GB of email storage for just € 1 per month. If you need more email storage, you can add an extra gigabyte for € 0.25 per month, up to a limit of 20 GB.
- Subject, headers, body, metadata, and attachments, everything is encrypted.
- Mail, attachments, calendar, and contacts are encrypted with OpenPGP on secure servers in Germany.
- Completely open-source.
- Supports anonymous payment (in cash).
- Strong commitment to the protection of privacy, sustainable energy, and other social initiatives.
- Self-funded; good results (in operation since 2009).
- Maximum confidentiality: no logs, deletion of the IP address, secure storage of e-mails with daily backups.
- Unauthorized custom domains.
- No spam folder (spam is either rejected or sent to a normal inbox).
StartMail is a secure email service based in the Netherlands and managed by enthusiasts who also operate the private search engine Startpage.com.
It is completely interoperable with other PGP clients due to its integrated use of PGP. That enables the users to send encrypted emails to a non-PGP user, who knows a secret question to decrypt the email.
StartMail can create an unlimited number of disposable email addresses (aliases).
It has no dedicated mobile applications, but complete SMTP and IMAP support allow you to use any third-party email application with the service on almost all operating systems including Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, macOS.
StartMail does not have a free account but allows you to test its service for free for 30 days.
If you wish to upgrade after the trial, it will cost you € 49.95 (around 55 USD) per year, whether you choose the “Personal” (10 GB of storage and 10 addresses) or “Business” (1 mailbox, 10 GB, your own domain) option.
- PGP encryption in one click.
- You can send encrypted emails to anyone.
- 2fa support.
- Unlimited disposable email addresses.
- IMAP and SMTP support.
- Complies with GDPR.
- Possibility to import contacts from many email services.
- IP addresses and hostnames are obscured.
- Qualys SSL Rating: A + with HSTS and PFS.
- No real end-to-end encryption (e2e).
- Uses a mixture of open and closed source code.
- The Netherlands has adopted new surveillance laws.
Disroot provides secure email accounts that you can use either in your desktop client or through a web interface.
Communication between you and the mail server is encrypted with SSL, providing the highest possible level of privacy.
Besides, all emails that are sent from your server get encrypted (via TLS protocol) if the recipient’s email server supports it.
It means, in other words, the emails are no longer sent as a traditional “postcard,” but are entered in an “envelope.”
- A free 2 GB storage mailbox.
- Allows up to 10MB for documents attachment at once.
- Accessible by POP3, IMAP and web page.
- Boasts a multi-lingual user interface.
- Open-source software.
- Offers useful additional services including cloud storage, a social network, forums, and chat to name a few.
- Limited storage space.
- A project maintained only by volunteers.
Criptext is a free encrypted email service with open source applications for Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, and iOS devices. As I write this article, the service is still in the Beta phase.
Criptext began its journey in 2014 as a simple encryption extension for the Gmail mail service that allowed users to have more security in their mailbox.
However, in 2015 the company became a victim of state intervention by the government of Panama. This, together with the increase in privacy invasions around the world, motivated them to create a secure email service like no other.
- One of the pioneers of secure email service solutions.
- Completely free.
- No ads or no gimmick.
- Allows sending emails to people who do not have a Criptext account.
- Unsend email feature.
- You cannot use a Criptext email on Mail or Outlook.
- Stores user information including name, primary and recovery email addresses, approved devices, and the last active date.
This Swiss-based company is possibly the most competitive alternative to free email service providers.
Users have access not only to an email service, but to a whole suite of online apps (without adverts) such as file editors, calendars, and many more, which can be synchronized with all their devices and accessed collaboratively, similar to Google Drive.
Kolab Now guarantees that your files and data are safe from the interference of ad companies.
There are two packages available, first up, a group plan (approximately $ 5.56 per user, per month) that offers custom domain support, admin tools and support for up to 100 users in a single plan.
The second one is an individual plan (approximately $ 4.56 per month based on currency conversion) that includes all the features mentioned above. You can also try any of the options for with its 30 days money-back guarantee.
- Open-source program.
- Based in Switzerland, a country generally seen an incredible one for privacy.
- Powerful tagging and text search.
- The service only saves its debug report records when necessary.
- A bit on the expensive service.
FastMail is a private mail service based in Australia (has offices in the US, too). The provider uses encryption for every operation including sending your emails and store them, accessing your account, and everything else.
The company does not participate or cooperate with any government surveillance program and they are committed to being transparent with its users if they are asked to provide some type of information.
Fastmail is not free; they have different payment plans that range from $3 per user per month to $9 for up to 100 GB of storage.
- IMAP access.
- No hidden or complicated policies.
- Simple and easy to use interface.
- Got launched 20 years ago, back in 1999.
- No free plan available.
14. Librem Mail (Librem.one)
Librem Mail is an end-to-end encrypted email service.
It is among the most private email services out there and uses K-9 Mail alongside OpenKeychain. This combination simplifies the use of encrypted mail.
Librem Mail users can exchange encrypted email with anyone whose email is encrypted using OpenPGP.
The provider offers two different premium packages as well as a free plan. However, if you intend to make use of its secure email solution, the free plan offered by the provider will not be of any help to you.
Its free plan, dubbed as the basic bundle, only offers social and chat services to the users. The two paid plans range from $7.99 to $14.99.
- Not just secure emails, Librem One is a one-stop-shop for confidentiality and digital security.
- The Android application uses the code from OpenVPN. The iOS application is based on an open-source Private Internet access client, too.
- Built-in VPN for maximum security.
- It does not track users.
- Librem Mail (the end-to-end encrypted email provided by the firm Librem One) is not available for iPhone users yet.
- Librem One is entirely based on existing free software projects.
Founded in the USA by a group of people obsessed with security, this private email service provider offers top-level encryption and allows sending encrypted messages to any web user.
Unlike other services, SCRYPTMail also encrypts metadata on its servers, putting a barrier between hackers (or government agencies) and user data.
- Storage limits are generous, and almost all services offered by SCRYPTMail are free, so they are doubly attractive.
- Accepts Bitcoin, which means users can pay anonymously using cryptocurrency.
- A bit on the expensive side.
Additional Steps for Keeping Your Emails Private and Secure
If you are using a secure messaging service that boasts end-to-end encryption, you have taken an important step to make your messaging truly secure and private.
To make life difficult for even the most passionate hackers, you can take a few extra precautions:
- Beware of keyboard recording software that captures what you type directly from your keyboard. Such software, dubbed as keyloggers, can completely defeat encryption if the password is all that a hacker needs to access your account.
- Do not leave your mobile devices and computers unattended. Also, make sure that your devices are protected by strong passwords or biometric data and do not allow guest accounts or similar unprotected access.
- Be careful of social engineering. Remember, phishing attempts often occur via email, instant messaging, VoIP or social media. Also, keep in mind that a hacker can design them carefully or adapt to your case.
- Do not write or share any password. Never write down the password that allows you to decrypt secure emails. However, you can store it in a secure password manager.
Need Extra Protection? The VPN Can Help a Great Deal
Gaining complete internet security is like assembling numerous pieces to complete a puzzle.
And a VPN is probably the most vital tool to complete your internet security puzzle for thorough protection online.
Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a connection method utilized to add privacy and security to the public as well as private networks (e.g. WiFi and the Internet).
Using a VPN is becoming more and more popular with corporations and individuals as this security tool protects a user’s information while it travels through the internet.
With a VPN, you can increase your privacy to the maximum level possible as you get to change your real IP address with a fake one provided by the VPN provider.
In simple words, the VPN is just a way to join a network without being physically in it.
Advantages of using a VPN
And now that you understand what a VPN is, it’s time for you to know all the benefits of using it:
- Bypass geographical restrictions
- Avoid censorship
- Makes your browsing more private as a whole
- Encrypts your data transfers
- Masks real IP (hence location)
- Enables users into accessing the blocked websites
As you can see, alongside enabling you to surf the internet securely, a VPN provides an accountable number of other benefits.
But here you might be wondering which VPN provider I may go with for optimum results? The answer is ExpressVPN (if you ask me). ExpressVPN is one of the most renowned companies in the world of VPNs.
But why is that fame?
What does the rest do not offer?
What are its main characteristics?
What can you do with your service?
Is it really safe to use?
Let’s find that all together (quickly).
ExpressVPN is a company founded in 2009 in the British Virgin Islands that, as you may have guessed by the name, offers a super-fast VPN service worldwide.
It is a premium VPN provider that allows you to surf the internet anonymously through a Virtual Private Network (hence its acronym). It boasts apps that secure, user-friendly, reliable, and well-designed.
What does the ExpressVPN offer?
So you already know the advantages offered by any VPN, but what makes ExpressVPN superior to others? All this:
- Super-fast connection speeds: With more than 3,000 servers spread all over the world, you can be sure to get a faster connection speed no matter where in the world you are.
- Unlimited bandwidth: No bandwidth restrictions for the users, so you can browse and download content you love without any fear.
- Dedicated applications: This VPN provider works with literally all the devices on the planet, and has dedicated apps for all the major operating systems. That means you can get started with it in a flash.
- You can be sure about our data safety: The British Virgin Islands is a country with no data retention laws. That, together with not keeping records of your activity or connection, ensures your privacy.
- Has not been compromised ever: ExpressVPN servers have the latest technology to prevent hacking attacks.
- Money-back guarantee: You have 30 days to get your money back if the service does not live up to your expectations. No questions.
The ever-growing email privacy and security concerns have made it very clear that, in standard free email services (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, etc.), you pay dearly with your data.
Typical email providers are free because they generate profits by spying on your inbox to collect and sell your data.
Of course, not everyone does that, but the point is you cannot trust a typical email service for the security of your emails.
If you want to maintain your privacy, you must turn to secure email providers that emphasize privacy and security.
Many free email providers do not take measures to protect your privacy, or even take steps to undermine it.
Switching to an encrypted email account is a change worth making. When choosing, it is essential to evaluate the provider on their encryption methods, how they finance the service and where the servers are located.
Each of the secure email services listed above is way better at keeping your communications private than Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail, and others.
Of course, no online service is completely secure, regardless of ethics narrated by the provider. There will always be hackers and surveillance agencies looking to expand their constantly growing databases.
To increase your email safety, don’t forget the basics and always use your common sense.
And as noted in the article above, on top of using a secure email provider, use a quality VPN service for full peace of mind during your email communications and other activities online.