CERN and MIT chaps' secure webmail stalled by stampede of users

  • 22 May 2014
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Proton Mail encrypts text in the browser and doesn't collect metadata
By Richard Chirgwin, 22 May 2014
A bunch of CERN alumni has taken time out of the weighty world of particle physics to take another shot at cracking the e-mail encryption nut.
Their offering, Proton Mail, has gone into public beta, and proved so popular the group has had to suspend new registrations while it upgrades its servers.
 As a concept, encrypting e-mail goes back at least to the earliest days of PGP – Pretty Good Privacy – that got Phil Zimmerman in so much trouble back in the day (he suffered a long criminal investigation by the US Customs Service, as outlined briefly at Wikipedia) .
PGP, which lives on in various open-source tools today, ran encryption alongside users' e-mail clients and was widely seen as too difficult for the average user. In the world of Webmail, encryption happens at the server end, and as Lavabit found to its cost, that leaves user data subject to the demands of law enforcement.
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