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Stay Safe Online: 5 Best Secure Email Providers of 2024

Just when we assumed private encrypted email servers were safer than the so-called secure email providers, WikiLeaks dropped and proved us otherwise [1].

That was not the first time we had heard of email hacking cases. But, it was the ultimate confirmation that our regular email accounts might not be that safe after all.

By breaching the email servers of high-ranking government personnel, hackers demonstrated that they can access even the cybersecurity capital of the world.

That alone is reason enough not to keep your sensitive messages on standard email servers. 📫 You might, instead, want to consider alternative solutions from the best secure email providers.

secure email providers

This guide makes that quest particularly easy for you. It offers a crash course on the best secure email providers – some of which are free. 🤑

What to consider when choosing the most secure email providers

Encryption protocol 🔰

The best secure email services protect your messages using end-to-end encryption (E2EE) protocol. You can equate it to putting your letter in a lock box, where only the recipient has the key. This means that no one – not even the email service provider (postal service) – can read the contents while the email (letter) is in transit or even when it’s stored on their servers (post office).

That’s unlike Gmail’s Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption protocol, which leaves your emails exposed to the service provider. It’s like Gmail puts your letter in a lockbox for transport, but then removes it from the lock box when it arrives at the Gmail server – where it’s momentarily stored in an opened state. This allows Google to read your emails for ad targeting and spam filtering, before the content is ultimately returned to the lockbox for secure transmission to the recipient.

Encryption algorithm 🧬

Within the E2EE protocol category, you’ll find email service providers running different encryption algorithms and methods, each with varying security levels.

Here, the most secure email providers can be placed into four encryption categories:

  • Asymmetric encryption (RSA, 2048-bit, 256-bit): Comes with a pair of encryption keys – the public key is used for encryption and the private key is used for decryption. Its encryption strength increases with higher bit numbers. So RSA 2048-bit encryption (as used by Tuta) is considered to be more secure than 256-bit encryption (as used by ProtonMail).
  • Symmetric encryption (AES, 128-bit): Runs a single key for both encryption and decryption (e.g., Tuta’s AES). It’s robust but less secure than asymmetric encryption.
  • OpenPGP: This is a standard that uses a combination of both symmetric and asymmetric encryption, making it robust and versatile (e.g., Mailfence).
  • S/MIME: S/MIME (used by Zoho) is not inherently less secure than OpenPGP, but it’s a little more complex to use and set up.

Headquarters and email server location 📧

The location of the email provider’s servers and headquarters determines who has legal jurisdiction over your email data.

Some countries, such as the US, have enacted data surveillance laws that could potentially compromise your privacy. They give government agencies the right to not only pull intel from data servers but also share findings with allied nations.

One such arrangement is the “14 Eyes Alliance,“ through which 14 countries have agreed to share intelligence and surveillance data with each other. They include the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Spain, the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, and France.

As such, email services based in any of these territories could potentially have their data accessed by multiple international bodies.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have countries that are fully committed to protecting data privacy. Switzerland and Iceland, for instance, allow secure email providers to run servers autonomously. Not even foreign powers can bypass their strict data privacy legislation.

Multi-factor authentication 🧑‍💻📱

A strong password may help in securing your email account, but it’ll never be foolproof. 80% of data breaches today are, in fact, facilitated by brute force attacks and stolen access credentials [2].

To mitigate those vulnerabilities, the most secure email providers rely on multi-factor authentication. Access is only granted through a layered verification process.

For instance, after confirming your username and password, the system might prompt you to enter a code generated by an app like Google Authenticator, Sophos Intercept X, or similar. These apps provide a time-based one-time password (TOTP) that changes every few minutes, thereby guaranteeing email security without the need to use personal information like a phone number.

Spam and malware detection 🔎🐞

Hackers are also notoriously fond of using emails for phishing attacks and malware transmission. So much so that a whopping 94% of malicious scripts are reportedly originating from emails [3].

As such, you might want to look out for an email provider that has already integrated anti-spam and antivirus software.

You need an automated system that screens every email for malware and spam. It should accurately detect any anomalies, quarantine all forms of malicious scripts, as well as filter out spammy emails.

Metadata stripping ⌛

Every email that you dispatch has an email header. This is raw metadata that conveys the technical details of the message path – including the sender’s and recipient’s names, email addresses, specs, server IP addresses, etc.

While such data helps in mail deliverability, it sabotages your privacy by leaking confidential information.

Thankfully, there are secure email providers that come with a metadata stripper. You can set them to cut out all those sensitive bits automatically, leaving just the essential file data.

No-logs policy 🚩

The best secure email providers can also be identified from their data logging policies.

Whereas regular email services keep stockpiles of usage data, the most secure email hosts tend to clean out all the sensitive records from their servers. They call this the “no-logs policy,” and it’s meant to get rid of stuff that data miners would be interested in.

Some of them are even backed by audit reports from third-party auditing firms.

So, if you’re curious about the credibility of those email services, you can go ahead and review their audit reports. They’ll tell you what the email providers are logging, how the data is logged, where the logs are stored, and how long they retain the logs.

The top 5 secure email providers for privacy in 2024

1. Proton Mail

ProtonMail most secure email service.

At the top of the list is Proton Mail, an open-source email service that’s based in privacy-friendly Switzerland.

It secures your emails with end-to-end asymmetric 256-bit encryption, which is engineered to lock out even the mother company from your messages.

ProtonMail additionally gives you the privilege to delete emails from the recipient’s mailbox. You just need to set an expiration date before dispatch, and the email will proceed to self-destruct after delivery.

On PC and Mac, the secure email service is accessed through a web-based client. You could otherwise switch to its mobile version, which is available in Android and iOS apps.

Whichever you pick, ProtonMail won’t be logging your IP information. What’s more, anything that you delete from your email account will be permanently purged away.

🛡️ Proton Mail email security and privacy features

  • 256-bit end-to-end encryption.
  • No IP logging.
  • Android and iOS mobile apps.
  • Self-destructing emails.
  • Open-source framework.
  • Switzerland-based.

💳 Proton Mail pricing

If you’re in the market for the best free secure email providers, you could try out Proton Mail’s free package. But, keep in mind that it only supports one user with 150 messages per day and up to 1 GB of storage.

Otherwise, for more capabilities, you could go ahead and upgrade to one of these:

  • Mail Plus for $4.99 a month.
  • Mail Essentials for $7.99 a month.
  • Proton Unlimited for $9.99 a month.
  • Business for $12.99 a month.
  • Enterprise for a custom rate.

2. Mailfence

Mailfence most private email provider.

Mailfence is another service that fits into not only the list of the best free secure email providers, but also the corresponding ranks of the best premium private email providers.

Its email servers operate from Belgium – which, unfortunately, happens to be a member of the 14 Eyes Alliance [4].

That, however, only slows Mailfence down in its quest to quest to guarantee ultimate email security. Top among its privacy-friendly provisions is OpenPGP end-to-end encryption and self-managed encoding keys. The service itself even comes with a Keystore, which is a built-in tool for creating, applying, holding, and controlling your OpenPGP keys.

Other than that, you get to enjoy a neat and intuitive user interface, which operates a lot like Gmail or Outlook. You’ll find tools for creating digital signatures, managing contacts, setting up calendar events, configuring two-factor authentication, as well as saving, editing, and sharing docs.

🛡️ Mailfence email security and privacy features

  • Two-factor authentication.
  • OpenPGP end-to-end encryption.
  • Email servers in Belgium.
  • Supports POP, IMAP, and SMTP.
  • Supports custom domains.
  • Digital email signatures.
  • Document storage.
  • Spam blocker.
  • Keystore encryption manager.

💳 Mailfence pricing

  • Free starts you off with 500 MB of emails and 500 MB of documents.
  • Entry charges about $2.68 per month for up to 10 aliases, 5 GB of emails, and 12 GB of documents.
  • Pro charges about $8 per month for up to 50 aliases, 20 GB of emails, and 24 GB of documents.
  • Ultra charges about $26.80 per month for up to 100 aliases, 50 GB of emails, and 70 GB of documents.

3. Tuta (formerly Tutanota)

Tuta is one of the most secure free email providers.

“Tutanot” is Latin for “protect.” And just as Tuta’s former full name – Tutanota – suggests, Tuta is a highly secure email provider that prioritizes privacy protection above everything else.

You can tell by its end-to-end encryption system, which relies on 128-bit AES and RSA 2048 cryptography instead of the more popular OpenPGP.

Even more impressive is the amount of content that Tuta protects.

Whereas secure email providers like Proton Mail encrypt just the email message, Tuta extends its encryption coverage to all the data in your mailbox. This includes your address books, calendars, email signatures, etc.

You also get to capitalize on metadata stripping, image blocking, phishing detection, and a strict no-logs policy.

That’s after you’ve securely logged into your email account using two-factor authentication, facilitated by U2F and TOTP.

All these features are available on Tuta’s web-based client, as well as its accompanying iOS, macOS, Android, and Windows email apps.

The only downside is its host country, Germany, which is a member of the 14 Eyes Alliance.

🛡️ Tuta’s email security and privacy features

  • 128-bit AES (for non-Tuta recipients) and RSA 2048 (for Tuta-to-Tuta emails) end-to-end encryption.
  • Two-factor authentication, powered by U2F and TOTP.
  • Full mailbox encryption.
  • Spam filter.
  • No-logs policy.
  • iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows email apps.
  • Metadata stripping.
  • Support for custom domains.
  • Open-source platform.
  • Numerous add-ons.

💳 Tuta (Tutanota) pricing

You can start off on a permanently free package – but, since it doesn’t offer full encryption, it would be inaccurate to count Tuta among the most secure free email providers.

An upgrade would otherwise elevate you to:

  • Premium for about $2.57 per month.
  • Teams for about $6.43 a month.
  • Pro for about $9 a month.

4. Zoho Mail

Zoho Mail most secure email provider for businesses.

For businesses seeking the most secure email providers, Zoho Mail would be a great fit.

It combines asymmetric end-to-end encryption with a productivity suite, allowing teams to work and correspond privately without the risk of industrial espionage.

Encryption here uses S/MIME cryptography, while productivity is driven by spreadsheet software, word processing applications, collaboration tools, and chat streams.

You also get access to two-factor authentication, malware and spam protection, plus universal integration with third-party email clients.

🛡️ Zoho Mail email security and privacy features

  • Global network of email servers.
  • Collaboration tools.
  • Malware and spam protection.
  • Email recalling.
  • iOS and Android apps.
  • Support for custom domain.
  • S/MIME end-to-end encryption.
  • Support for POP and IMAP.

💳 Zoho Mail pricing

For small teams, Zoho Mail happens to be one of the best free secure email providers. Its Forever Free Plan accommodates up to five users, with each getting an allocation of 5 GB.

Growing businesses can otherwise go for yearly subscriptions, such as:

  • Mail Lite, whose cost equates to $1 – $1.25 per user, per month.
  • Workplace, whose cost equates to $3 per user, per month.
  • Mail Premium, whose cost equates to $4 per user, per month.

5. Hushmail

Hushmail is one of the most secure email providers.

Hushmail is another secure email service for businesses. But, unlike Zoho Mail, it comes with industry-specific features.

In healthcare, for instance, Hushmail is popular for supporting HIPAA compliance. Medical practitioners use it to securely build, send, receive, and archive health information.

Such emails are typically secured using HIPAA-compliant OpenPGP end-to-end encryption.

Other types of users that you’ll find here include lawyers, solopreneurs, and startups.

🛡️ Hushmail email security and privacy features

  • OpenPGP end-to-end encryption.
  • HIPAA compliant.
  • Drag and drop builder.
  • Digital signature.
  • Private message center.
  • Canada-based email servers.
  • Spam filter.

💳 Hushmail pricing

  • Hushmail for Healthcare starts at $9.99 a month.
  • Hushmail for Small Business starts at $5.99 per user per month.
  • Hushmail for Law costs $9.99 per user per month.
  • Hushmail Premium for personal users goes for $49.98 annually.

Parting shot: Which is the best secure email service? 👮

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with email security features, you’ll agree that the most popular email services are not really the best in terms of security and privacy. The likes of Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo Mail, and AOL are only ideal for regular, everyday emails.

But, if you’re a journalist, activist, doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, detective, or banker, we’d recommend that you invest in one of these best secure email service providers.

In that case:

  • Proton Mail or Tuta would be a good fit for someone who needs the best encrypted email service.
  • Zoho Mail is the most secure email solution for businesses.
  • Hushmail is the best secure email provider for healthcare practitioners and lawyers.
  • ProtonMail and Mailfence offer the most secure free email services.

In which category do you belong?

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