Private & Secure Email Services (including Free Accounts)

Now is the right time to get a secure email account because, finally, safe and private email can be user-friendly too. 

secure email image

Now is the time to sign up for a secure email service. 

Email is at the center of much of our online activity. It’s one of those services that even the most minimalist or privacy-oriented internet users can’t avoid. 

But is it safe? Should you really be entrusting your most revealing personal info and sensitive financial data to the likes of Google (Gmail), Microsoft (Outlook/Hotmail), and Yahoo? 

We don’t think so.

At a time when even the non-tech savvy are rethinking the information they share with tech giants like Facebook, you should be skeptical of your email provider as well.

Why You Should Use a Secure Email Service

Sending an email through a normal email provider is more akin to a postcard than a letter in a sealed envelope. The message travels as plain text, which is readable by not only the system operators, like the folks at Google, but also any snoopers that might intercept your email along the way.

Now, not every email you send may be cause for concern. But it becomes quite important when you’re sharing personal or sensitive info that’d either be dangerous or embarrassing for other people to see.

Disposable and temporary email services have their uses, but are no substitute for truly secure and private email. 

Plus, employers in the US are notorious for monitoring their employees’ communication, which means you, when you’re using an employer-provided email account or device, so that email isn't secure either.

The good news is, there’s a solution, and it comes in the form of two types of encryption. The first is an HTTPS connection, which will secure your communication with the email server. That will help deter hackers from intercepting your messages.

The second (and most important) is encryption for the email text itself, which makes it unreadable for anyone that doesn’t have the appropriate decryption key. And the most trusted method to do this is OpenPGP. Savvy users can encrypt their email with OpenPGP through a browser extension like Mailvelope, or by combining an email client like Thunderbird with a security plug-in like Enigmail.

But this process can be a little complicated for users who are less tech-oriented – or just don’t want to spend a lot of time fooling around with PGP keys and the like for every email they send. Fortunately, secure email services provide an easier option.

These services combine built-in end-to-end encryption with a host of other privacy features – and signing up couldn’t be easier. Many of them are even free!

Let’s take a look at the best alternative secure email services out there today.


protonmail secure email

ProtonMail Review

ProtonMail is probably the most popular of the secure email services – and for good reason. Not only does it offer end-to-end encryption for emails even when sending to non-ProtonMail addresses, they provide great protection against scammers through features like PhishGuard (which, surprise, guards against phishing) and two-factor authentication.

Then there’s the cool expiring messages feature, which makes an email inaccessible in the recipient’s inbox after a set period of time.

Protonmail is also very user friendly and offers dedicated apps for both Android and iOS, which makes it a great option for folks who want to make their switch to a secure & private email service quick and easy.

ProtonMail Pros:

  • User-friendly
  • Free plan available
  • End-to-end encryption
  • No IP logs
  • Supports two-factor authentication
  • Self-destructing/expiring messages
  • Open source
  • Based in Switzerland
  • Android and iOS apps
  • Bitcoin accepted

Cons:

  • Privacy and security features not as robust as some providers
  • Limited data on free plan

Cost:

  • Free or 4,00 € / 6,25 € / 24,00 € per month, depending on your plan

CounterMail Review

Want the email service that provides the absolute best security? CounterMail may be just what you’re looking for.

Along with end-to-end encryption, this secure email service protects its users in ways few providers do, with Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) attack protection and diskless web servers. The latter acts as a buffer between your computer and CounterMail’s hard drive servers, protecting your IP from being discovered and your emails from being stolen.

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Unfortunately, CounterMail’s user interface isn’t quite as sleek and easy-to-use as some of its major competitors – it’s quite outdated, to be honest. And that may be a turn off to more casual users who just want a more secure alternative to, say, Gmail. There’s no free plan either. And it’s based in Sweden, an EU country whose recent rulings on data retention and VPN registration leave much to be desired for the privacy conscious.

Pros:

  • No IP logs
  • Diskless web servers
  • IMAP support
  • Supports two-factor authentication
  • End-to-end encryption
  • Anonymous email headers
  • Affordable plans
  • MITM protection
  • Bitcoin accepted

Cons:

  • Outdated user interface
  • No free accounts (limited to 7-day trial)
  • Based in Sweden (one of the "Fourteen Eyes" countries)
  • No Android or iOS apps

Cost:

  • $4.91 to $6.33 per month after trial period

mailfence secure email logo image

MailFence Review

If you’re looking for a Gmail replacement, complete with a productivity suite that includes calendars, contacts, and document storage, MailFence is a good option. Because along with those features, it also provides email encryption, digitally signed emails, two-factor authentication, and more.

It’s not quite as secure as some of the other entries on our list – for instance, MailFence does log IPs – but the folks using email for business-related tasks may still want to take a look.

Pros:

  • Productivity suite that includes calendars, document storage, and more
  • Supports two-factor authentication
  • Digital signatures to prove authorship
  • End-to-end encryption
  • Free plans available
  • No ads, spam, or trackers
  • Bitcoin accepted

Cons:

  • Logs IPs
  • No dedicated Android or iOS apps (Progressive Web Apps only)

Cost:

  • Free or 2,50 € to 7,50 € per month

Other Secure, Private Email Services to Consider

These services didn’t make it into our top 3, but they’re still worth considering.

Tutanota: Tutanota is similar to ProtonMail in a lot of ways, but its overall security (and encryption) isn’t as robust, plus it’s based in Germany. Free accounts. 

Mailbox.org: Encrypted emails and cloud storage, 2FA, and other goodies make Mailbox.org an excellent private email service. Plans start at €1 per month, with no free accounts available. 

CTemplar: This Iceland-based private email service has some excellent security features, but free accounts are only available by invitation and their paid plans start at a steep $8 per month. 

Startmail: Startmail is another fairly new offering, started by the same folks that brought you the privacy-oriented search engine, Startpage. Free trial is only 7 days.

Hushmail: Hushmail has been one of the most popular secure email services for years, but that popularity means they no longer offer free plans.


Anonymous Email Forwarding Services

If you’re not quite ready to switch email accounts – or you want even more security and privacy – than an email forwarding service is worth a look. These create a sort of middle-man email address that allows you to send and receive emails privately, without revealing your real email address.

All emails to and from youremail@email.com are forwarded through youraliasemail@aliasemail.com, allowing you to hide your identity, avoid spam and profiling, throw off stalkers, and more. Though the lack of encryption means this isn't a true private email replacement. 

Diagram showing how email forwarding services make for more private email

AnonAddy: Provides unlimited free aliases and even supports GPG/OpenPGP encryption. Browser extensions and third-party mobiles apps available.

SimpleLogin: Free account only allows 15 alias emails, though that should be more than enough for most people. It’s also open-source and has first-party iOS and Android apps. 


Email Encryption Programs

Another option to increase the privacy and security of your normal, non-private email service is by using a program that encrypts your messages for you. These come in the form of both browser extensions for desktop users and mobile apps for smartphone users.

Firefox and Chrome (Desktop)

If you’re sending email for your Windows, Mac, or Linux device, check out:

Mailvelope: Helps you encrypt and sign emails with OpenPGP and is compatible with most popular email services, including Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook/Hotmail.

Available for Firefox and Chrome.

Android and iOS (Mobile)

Unfortunately, Mailvelope doesn’t work on mobile, but there’s another great app for you to try:

CanaryMail: Offers end-to-end encryption and other features, like a biometric app lock, for mainstream email providers: Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and more.

Available for iOS, Android, and Mac with a Windows version currently in beta. 


Protect Your Email Privacy

It’s a well-established fact that companies like Google and Microsoft are collecting and selling your personal information. That’s not to mention the government-backed snooping that takes place through these platforms.

But switching email providers today can be a great way to start protecting your privacy, and it’s quite easy – and often free.

Which secure email service will you choose?

Let us know which one you’re using in the comments! And feel free to mention any services that we may have missed.

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