Table of contents
Start for free
Eli MacKinnon / 1.30.2023
Free encrypted email—six providers to considerOnline privacy shouldn’t be a luxury. Learn which free encrypted email services can keep your data safe from prying eyes without breaking the bank.
As users awake to the importance of online security, the email encryption market is expected to hit $166.85 billion by 2030—a massive jump from $23.73 billion in 2021. Individuals and businesses are searching for the best ways to keep their correspondence private, preferably without burning a hole in their pockets.Here’s some good news—you can find free encrypted email providers and have complete control over your data. The only problem is that many services make bold promises about encryption but fall short when delivering on them.Our guide will help you weed out such providers and find the email service that meets all your privacy needs by pointing out:
- Issues popular free email providers suffer from
- Only encryption type that fully protects your data
- Most secure email services on the market
Fully encrypt your emailsSkiff Mail's free plan includes 10 GB of end-to-end encrypted storage, four email aliases, and popular crypto integrations
Common pitfalls of free email servicesThe term “encryption” is being thrown around quite loosely in the online security space. It’s often intentional as some providers use it to make customers think they offer more protection than they actually do.Misleading marketing tricks can make you opt for a service with significant drawbacks, most notably:
- Storage of encryption keys on servers
- Partial encryption advertised as full-scale protection
- Outdated encryption protocols
Who should own the decryption keys?There’s only one correct answer to this question—the email recipient. Your ESP (email service provider) shouldn’t store the key on its servers, yet this is precisely what most of them do. It gives them access to your email’s content and metadata, so your correspondence isn’t private.Ever wondered how Gmail’s features like Smart Compose or Smart Reply work? They use historical data from your previous conversations to offer predictions while you’re typing an email. While the practice optimizes your workflow, it relies heavily on your private correspondence.You can opt out of such data collection from your Gmail settings. Still, the fact it’s on by default speaks volumes about the platform’s murky privacy standards.Gmail isn’t the only free ESP that can access users’ emails. It’s common knowledge that Yahoo! and other giants use your data for advertising purposes. While this is more of an annoyance than a major security issue, every user has the right to communicate online without their data being tracked or analyzed.
End-to-end encryption is the only way to stay fully protectedWhen a provider claims to offer free email encryption service, you must scratch beneath the surface to see what encryption type they use. There are three possible options:
- Encryption at rest
- Encryption in transit
- End-to-end encryption (E2EE)
Not all E2EE services are created equalWhile E2EE is the best security standard for information sharing, its implementation can vary greatly between providers. Many services still rely on the PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) protocol, which has become outdated.Despite its many benefits, PGP is complex, especially for users new to cryptography. It also involves using dedicated software with limited interoperability, so the overall user experience is subpar.Worse yet, a team of experts discovered the so-called EFAIL exploit back in 2018, which leaves encrypted messages vulnerable to attacks involving malicious code.With the above in mind, a handful of providers like Skiff have moved beyond such worn-out methods in favor of cutting-edge solutions with less friction and greater security.Another way to compare the effectiveness of E2EE options is by knowing whether they use symmetric or asymmetric key encryption. Both options have benefits and shortcomings, as shown in this breakdown:
The best free private email service should use a combination of symmetric and asymmetric cryptography to give users the best of both worlds.
|Encryption type||Symmetric key encryption||Asymmetric key encryption|
|Number of keys||One key for encryption and decryption||One public encryption key and a private decryption key|
|Key length||128 or 256 bits||2048 or higher|
|Security features||Confidentiality||Confidentiality, non-repudiation, and authenticity|
|Efficiency||High—can handle large amounts of data||Comparatively lower|
Enjoy E2EE service without compromisesWith modern design, custom domains, and the latest security features, Skiff Mail is the ultimate email service
Free private email services worth checking outIn the sea of ESPs giving free services a bad reputation, a handful of providers live up to the expectations of privacy-conscious users:
- Proton Mail
Founded in 2014, the Swiss secure email provider also stands behind the wildly popular Proton VPN. ProtonMail has amassed an impressive user base by providing comprehensive security solutions.The platform’s E2EE ensures peace of mind when sending emails, even if a recipient is a non-Proton user. The Password-protected Email feature lets non-users reply to encrypted emails without privacy concerns. However, note that ProtonMail does not end-to-end encrypt email subjects, while Skiff and Tutanota do.Proton Mail is open source and has undergone independent reviews attesting to its security. Signing up is free, and you get 500 MB of storage, which might do it for an average customer but leaves advanced users needing more.The platform’s reputation was impeccable until October 2021, when it was dented by Proton Mail’s collaboration with the authorities. The service had to turn over the data of its user, a French climate activist under criminal investigation. This information handover made users slightly doubtful about the platform’s privacy standards, but it’s an isolated incident. ProtonMail is still a decent choice for users looking for airtight email security.
|Open source, strong E2EE, and password-protected emails||Low free storage and previous collaboration with the authorities|
Tutanota has been growing in popularity for several reasons. Unlike many providers, it doesn’t use PGP keys to encrypt emails and relies on solid AES-128 (Advanced Encryption Standard) and PFS (Perfect Forward Secrecy). This makes sending private emails more convenient whether the recipient is a Tutanota user or not.For added security, the platform takes your IP address off the email headers and offers metadata encryption. It does have some metadata logs, specifically for emails sent in the last five days. The issue is not major, but it’s also not the most secure practice.Tutanota is more generous with storage, offering 1 GB for free. The free plan doesn’t support unlimited search, so you’ll have to pay extra for this feature.
|No PGP, hidden IP address, and 1 GB of free storage||Metadata logs and no free unlimited search|
Mailfence is another comprehensive solution using various protocols to ensure powerful end-to-end encryption. It still relies on OpenPGP for data encryption and digital signatures, which is a bit outdated.The provider is based in Belgium, which is a double-edged sword. It means there are no gag orders, NSLs (National Security Letters), or other practices used to secretly collect and store user data. Belgium is still a member of the 14 Eyes alliance, which shares intelligence between the participating countries.To mitigate any related concerns, Mailfence is highly transparent and maintains the Warranty Canary and Transparency Report. Users can see all legal data requests from the past six months, which brings some peace of mind.Mailfence offers 500 MB of email storage and an additional 500 MB for documents. The free plan also offers a calendar with a maximum of 1,000 events. If you want to bump up these numbers, you’ll have to opt for a paid plan.The overall user experience is smooth, but the interface could use a revamp. It’s not the most design-focused option, so the visuals are underwhelming.
|No risk of NSLs or gag orders, transparency Report and Warranty Canary, and file storage and calendar available||Low email and document storage and slightly outdated UI and encryption protocols|
This platform takes a different approach to security—instead of being a dedicated ESP, it lets you encrypt your existing account. It’s another PGP-based service but should offer enough protection to an average user. The process is somewhat inconvenient, as the creation of PGP keys involves a separate passphrase different from the account password.SecureMyEmail is free, but only if you have a Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo! account. You can encrypt eight email addresses at no cost and test the waters with a 30-day free trial if you use a different ESP.The service offers multi-platform support. Besides desktop, there are dedicated apps for:
|Comprehensive free plan, encryption of up to eight accounts, and multi-platform support||Only free if you use Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo and not fully confidential or anonymous|
PreVeil works similarly to SecureMyEmail, letting users encrypt their existing email addresses. It offers Gmail, Outlook, and Apple Mail integration, so you’ll have to install it manually if using another provider.The platform allows login via trusted devices, so no master password is required. If you lose the trusted device, you can regain access to your account through PreVeil’s recovery system.Besides E2EE email encryption, you’ll also get secure storage. PreVeil offers 5 GB with the free plan, which is more than most competitors do. You’ll have to splurge a bit if you decide to upgrade to a paid plan, as the platform is pricey compared to most encryption solutions.
|Login via trusted devices, generous free storage, and integration with Gmail, Outlook, and Apple Mail||Manual installation required for unsupported ESPs, pricey paid plans|
You can’t (and shouldn’t) put a price on privacy—Skiff offers unparalleled security at no costSkiff Mail is a privacy-first, open-source platform leveraging state-of-the-art solutions packed in a beautiful UI. Skiff’s end-to-end encrypted email service can streamline your workflow without compromising privacy and security.
Skiff doesn’t have access to email contents or decryption keys—they’re safely stored on the user’s devices, making email interceptions virtually impossible. The public key can be distributed among users and is mathematically related to the private decryption key, ensuring only the intended recipient can access the message.
What makes Skiff stand outBesides E2EE, you get plenty of handy features:
- Lightning-fast unlimited search—You don’t need to sift through hundreds of threads to find the info you need—files and conversations are readily available whenever you need them
- User-friendly interface—Skiff’s intuitive UI is straightforward and easy to use whether you’re a newbie or a tech pro
- Confidential signup—You don’t need to disclose any personal information to start using Skiff
- Open source platform—Transparency is at the core of what Skiff does, so anyone can review its code and validate the security measures. Check out the provider’s whitepaper for more details
- 10 GB of storage—Skiff mail’s free storage size is well above the industry standard, which makes it perfect for transferring and storing larger files
- 4 Skiff.com aliases—Funnel multiple email addresses to one inbox for added convenience
- Crypto integrations—Skiff is on top of all web3 trends. We’ve partnered with various crypto wallets to let users enjoy safety and anonymity:
- Coinbase Wallet
- Brave Wallet
- Keplr Wallet
Beyond mail—explore Skiff’s rich suite of privacy-first productsIf you want to take your workflow to the next level, check out other Skiff products:
- Skiff Pages
- Seamless real-time collaboration and secure file sharing
- Private, decentralized docs
- Skiff Drive
- Support of all file types
- 10 GB of free encrypted storage
- Cross-device syncing
- InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) integration
- Skiff Calendar
- Complete privacy of events, locations, and attendees
- Customizable features
- Support for scheduling and invitations from other calendar apps
One account, unlimited access to Skiff productsSigning up for Skiff is quick and easy—you can get started in three steps:
- Head to the signup page
- Create your free account
- Start using Skiff Mail and other secure products