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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

the cryptic Protonmail ...... at Switzerland !

You have the brush with technology everyday ~  right from the morning till one hits bed, one dabbles with gadgets and most require login IDs and passwords.  Some want communication to be encrypted and gets bowled over by beautiful terminology.  There would be terms of remote server, encrypted message,  'hard-core predicate', 'trapdoor function', '  'impossible differential cryptanalysis'- and  'zero knowledge' !

The proton is a subatomic particle, symbol p or p+, with a positive electric charge  and mass slightly less than that of a neutron. Protons and neutrons, each with mass approximately one atomic mass unit, are collectively referred to as "nucleons".  The Large Hadron Collider is being brought back to life, ready for Run II of the “world’s greatest physics experiment. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) had shut down for two years to upgrade following the discovery of the Higgs boson.

Dan Brown’s ‘Digital Fortress’ published in 1988  was a real techno-thriller…… The story was about the theme of government surveillance of electronically stored information on the private lives of citizens, and the possible civil liberties and ethical implications using such technology.  In the beautiful World of innumerable IDs and multiple PWs, one may not desire to have a new e-mail account – yet there could be compelling reasons for what is known as ‘freedom of expression’ ….

ProtonMail was founded in summer 2013 by CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) scientists  Andy Yen, the systems administrator and a Harvard and CalTech trained physicist; Jason Stockman, the front-end developer who previously worked for Epson, 3M, Versace and the International Red Cross; and back-end developer Wei Sun, an MIT-trained physicist who built the software for AMS Collaboration.  While the founders are centered in the U.S., ProtonMail is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, due to the country’s privacy laws.

To its makers, privacy is a fundamental human right that must be protected at any cost. The advent of the internet has now made all of us more vulnerable to mass surveillance than at any other point in human history. The disappearance of online privacy is a very dangerous trend as in many ways privacy and freedom go hand in hand.  ProtonMail uses breakthrough web technologies and proven cryptographic algorithms to protect your privacy. Because of its end-to-end encryption,  the data is already encrypted by the time it reaches its servers. Even its administrators have no access to the messages, and since they  cannot decrypt them,  the messages cannot be shared with third parties.  The servers are in  Switzerland outside US and EU jurisdiction so all user data is protected by strict Swiss privacy laws.

It is claimed that ProtonMail is completely free and works on smartphones and tablets as well. Because of end-to-end encryption, all data is already encrypted by the time it reaches the ProtonMail servers – so there would be no targetted ads. The service received initial funding through a crowdfunding campaign, and will be sustained long-term by multi-tiered pricing, although the default account setup is free.

Unlike host of other mails, one requires two passwords –  first to authenticate the User and the second to decrypt access to one’s mail box.  The Mailbox Password is not stored even on ProtonMail’s servers and hence if lost, there is no way, you get access to your mails – there would be no ‘forgot password option’ !!!  The encryption is a technology known as ‘Zero-knowledge proof’, a concept from cryptography, an interactive method for one party to prove to another that a (usually mathematical) statement is true, without revealing anything other than the veracity of the statement. If proving the statement requires knowledge of some secret information on the part of the prover, the definition implies that the verifier will not be able to prove the statement in turn to anyone else, since the verifier does not possess the secret information.

Proton mail also includes a message expiration feature: messages can optionally self-destruct from the ProtonMail system after a period of time.

              ProtonMail is in beta right now, and one can open an account only with an invite ~ there are perhaps so many waiting to join the ‘encrypted way’ – are you on the queue ?

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
18th Feb 2o15.   


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