ProtonMail, an email service favored among privacy advocates due to its automatic use of end-to-end encryption, has launched a new product aimed at bringing that same level of privacy to the most popular desktop email clients.
The Geneva-based company calls its new app ProtonMail Bridge and is touting its ability to “revolutionize encrypted email” through its integration with Thunderbird, Microsoft Outlook, and Apple Mail. By that, the company means it’s easy as pie. ProtonMail is hoping the service will catch on among users who desire the security encryption affords but lack the time and patience necessary to learn how to manually use PGP, the gold standard of email encryption.
“The ProtonMail Bridge is literally a bridge between the unencrypted and encrypted worlds in the sense that it allows your average user to benefit from the added security and privacy of end-to-end encryption without having to make any changes to their email usage behavior,” ProtonMail co-founder Dr. Andy Yen said in a statement. “No longer is email encryption limited to just the tech-savvy and advanced users.”
The company, which offers free email accounts and relies on Open Source technology, says the “Bridge” acts like a layer between the email client—Outlook, for instance—and ProtonMail’s servers. Since the Bridge encrypts the emails on your local device, at no time are the messages sent in an unencrypted format.
For those of you familiar with using PGP, ProtonMail Bridge is essentially a dumbed-down alternative that excludes the need to share public keys, post your PGP fingerprint for verification purposes, or any of the other clunky steps that make PGP mildly annoying. (Honestly, PGP isn’t that hard.) The downside is, both you and whoever you’re emailing have to use ProtonMail to make use of the service’s end-to-end encryption feature.
Even if your recipient isn’t using ProtonMail, however, it still offers benefits. The service uses “zero-access encryption,” meaning that people at ProtonMail, unlike Google, can’t read your emails. They also claim not to monitor any user activity, “not even IP addresses.”
There remain a few threats to your secret emails, however. Since the encryption and decryption of messages take place on your computer, if the computer itself is compromised by a hacker, the messages might also be accessible.
Aside from the more popular clients, ProtonMail Bridge currently supports any IMAP email client used on Windows and MacOS, the company says. And a version for Linux users will be available early next year.