Updated September 17, 2020 10:25 AM PT

The Best Free Secure Email

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You can stop companies from spying on your inbox. Take a look at these safe and private email providers to protect your messages.

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Many major email providers, like Gmail and Yahoo, have access to your data and your email content - and sell it.

Secure email services keep your communications private with end-to-end encryption. There are several secure email providers that offer a basic account for free.

Take a look at our complete guide of the most popular secure email services.

Here are the best free secure email providers:

ARE EMAIL ACCOUNTS SECURE?

If you are using a free email account provider such as Gmail or Yahoo, chances are you are paying in a different way: with your data.

Most large email providers do not protect or respect your privacy. Here are some of many examples:

WHY GET A SECURE EMAIL?

Secure email services allow you to maintain privacy and take back control of your data. With end-to-end encryption, no one can read your emails but you and recipient - not even your email service.

Many secure email services provide a free email account with a single email address for free. In addition, many offer access to their own iOS and Android apps as well.

When picking a provider, it's important to consider where it's located and the government laws. Some countries have strong data protection laws, such as Switzerland. Other countries have much weaker laws, such as the U.S.

The best email encryption standard for secure email is PGP (Pretty Good Privacy). This ensures end-to-end encryption, meaning that no one can intercept and read your emails.

Top 5 Secure Email Providers

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Here are some of the most popular secure email providers available for free.

ProtonMail: Best Overall

ProtonMail is the most popular secure email service with over 25 million users. It was created in 2014 by a team of MIT and CERN scientists. It's Edward Snowden's preferred email of choice and touted as the only email the NSA cannot access.

The company is based in Switzerland, which has one of the strictest privacy laws in the world. The primary datacenter is located in a guarded Swiss bunker 1,000 meter underground.

It offers a limited free plan with 500MB of storage, single email address, 150 messages per day, and 3 folders.

Features:

  • End to end encryption using PGP
  • Does not record IP addresses used to log in
  • Option to self destruct emails
  • Can send encrypted messages to non-ProtonMail users by sharing a passphrase
  • Supports two factor authentication
  • Apps for iOS and Android

Note that while PGP encrypts the body of your emails, it does not encrypt the subject lines.

Paid plans offer more storage and messaging. Paid users also get access to the Bridge tool, which automatically encrypts all your emails with Outlook, Apple Mail, and Thunderbird.

ProtonVPN is a transparent company. Each year, they release transparency reports detailing how many times they responded to government subpoenas, and more. All of the ProtonMail apps are open source. This is important for transparency and allows the community to test and search for vulnerabilities.

Tutanota: 1 GB Free Storage

German company Tutanota is one of ProtonMail's main competitors. It's an open source secure email service that also includes an encrypted calendar.

Instead of using the industry standard PGP, Tutanota uses its own encryption (based on AES and RSA), which fills in some limitations of PGP. For example, Tutanota is able to encrypt subject lines (while PGP cannot).

Emails sent to other Tutanota users are automatically encrypted. Emails sent to non-Tutanota users can be encrypted with a password key.

Tutanota offers a free plan with 1GB of email storage, one calendar, and one email address. It has a limited search function and you can only use Tutanota domains.

Features:

  • End to end encryption even to external recipients
  • Subject line, body, attachments are all encrypted
  • Encrypted calendar and contacts
  • Zero-knowledge full-text search
  • Supports two factor authentication
  • Apps for iOS and Android

The paid plans have additional features like importing external mailboxes, custom domain, shared mailboxes, group send, and offline access.

Mailbox.org: Full Set of Features

Mailbox.org is a German-based email provider that offers a full list of features: mail, calendar, contacts, address book, drive, spreadsheet, task planner, webchat, and more. It has a solid balance of both functionality and security.

The cool thing is that you can use your existing email address with mailbox.org. You can keep your domain and still get access to all of mailbox.org's security features.

Mailbox.org doesn't offer a free plan, but there is a 30-day free trial. Their first-tier plan offers 2GB of email storage, 100MB cloud storage, and 3 email aliases. The pricing is very reasonable at just 1€ per month.

Features:

  • End to end encryption using PGP
  • Encrypts all emails at rest in your inbox
  • Full text search for all emails
  • Spam and virus protection
  • Offline access to emails, calendars, contacts, and tasks
  • Create and send MS Word docs from your browser
  • Tor Exit Node with Hidden Onion Services
  • Supports two factor authentication

Mailbox.org lets users sign up completely anonymously with no personal information on the service's Tor relay.

Mailfence: Free Document Storage Included

This Belgium-based secure email provider offers secure email, calendars, contacts, and file storage. Belgium has strong data protection and privacy laws, but it is part of the 14 Eyes Surveillance.

This email provider comes with spam blocker and does not have any tracking or advertising. It does not allow third-party access to your data.

Mailfence offers a free plan with 500MB of emails, 500MB of documents, and a single email address with Mailfence domain.

  • End to end encryption using PGP
  • Send encrypted messages to non-Mailfence users
  • Create groups to share data
  • Digital signatures
  • Edit and share documents online
  • Supports two factor authentication

Mailfence currently does not offer mobile apps. However, with a paid plan, you can access your Mailfence account through another email app.

Mailfence is closed source, which means the software is not audited by independent security experts. This may be important if you value transparency.

Hushmail: 14 Day Free Trial

Hushmail is a Canadian secure email provider. It offers accounts for both personal and business use. But it lacks some other features, such as calendar and file storage.

Hushmail doesn't offer a free plan, but it has a 14-day free trial for the personal account. There's no credit card info required.

Features:

  • End to end encryption using PGP
  • Replaces your IP with an IP of their own when sending emails
  • Can send encrypted emails with third-party email app
  • Unlimited aliases
  • Create secure web forms
  • Supports two factor authentication
  • Apps for iOS and Android

Hushmail also has various tailored business plans, such as for healthcare, law, nonprofits, and enterprise. For example, the Healthcare plan helps you ensure HIPAA compliance.

Note that Canada is part of Five Eyes. And its parent company is U.S.-based, which has weaker data privacy laws. In addition, it's a closed source mail client.

Hushmail does keep some data. It keeps your IP address when you sign in to your account and send an email. When you sign up for an account, you will need to provide personal information, billing address, and alternate email. It also record the IP address from where you made the payment.

WHAT IS THE MOST SECURE FREE EMAIL PROVIDER IN 2020?

There is no best "secure email provider," especially with so many different types of users and so many different needs.

Some users may want the most secure service available, while others may want a mix of security and easy-to-use user interface.

When picking a secure email provider, consider these options:

  • Jurisdiction: The location of your secure email provider is important and will dictate how the law views data privacy and user security. Where is your data physically stored? Does the country have strict or lenient data privacy laws, and can the company be legally compelled to hand over user data?

  • Encryption: What type of encryption do they use? Are they end-to-end encrypted, and are attachments encrypted? End-to-end encryption means only the recipient can decode and read your email.

    PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) is the industry standard for secure and private communication. It's basically impossible for anyone to break this type of encryption.

  • Importing Emails: How easy will it be to import any existing or important emails into your new, secure email provider?

  • Email Apps: Because of encryption and security, many encrypted email providers cannot be used with third-party apps like AppleMail or Outlook. Instead, they provide their own apps on iOS and Android.

  • Data: What data does the email provider collect? Some companies will require you sign up with personal info and an email address, and some will store IP addresses when you log in.

  • Features: What features do you want your new email provider to have? Do you need a certain amount of storage, or a calendar?

  • Transparency: Is the software open source? How transparent is the privacy policy? Do they release a transparency report to detail the number of times they have handed over information to law enforcement?

What Experts Say

As part of our series on cyber security, CreditDonkey asked a panel of industry experts to answer some of readers' most pressing questions:

  • What happens if you send an unencrypted email?

Here's what they said:

BOTTOM LINE

Keep your communications private with a secure email service that offers end-to-end encryption. Start your search with this list of the top secure email providers.

Even though the free accounts all have some limitations, they're a good way to try it out and decide if you need more.

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