A place to discuss privacy and freedom in the digital world.
Privacy has become a very important issue in modern society, with companies and governments constantly abusing their power, more and more people are waking up to the importance of digital privacy.
In this community everyone is welcome to post links and discuss topics related to privacy.
- Posting a link to a website containing tracking isn’t great, if contents of the website are behind a paywall maybe copy them into the post
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- Try to keep things on topic
- If you have a question, please try searching for previous discussions, maybe it has already been answered
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much thanks to @gary_host_laptop for the logo design :)
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Really what is the average person suppose to do to have a private email? I heard Edward Snowden say that email is fundamentally flawed and will never be secure. I’ve thought about hosting my own email server, but even then i need to buy a domain name likely with my own card, buy a VPS with my own card and it traces back to me.
Email has not been designed with security in mind. Even if the content is encrypted, email still leaks a lot of metadata, including:
Using PGP is not helping since it is a phased out - and obsolete - technology which has a lot of problems:
The PGP Problem
More PGP Problems
Whonix article about PGP
If you need secure communication a good solution is E2EE which is enabled by default in signal and in element. Ideally, you should use e-mail to receive newsletter, sign in to sites and nothing more.
Now, if this is a real concern for you, then you should not using their service. Otherwise, go for it. ProtonMail is still a valid choice.
Edit: However, it’s important to understand that every time you visit a website, you automatically send a set of features to it , including your IP address. It’s just how internet works. The whole “no log policy” is not something you can verify. You have to fully and blindly trust the provider whether it is located in a 5 Eyes country or in Iceland.
Edit: self hosting a email server it’s actually really, really difficult. It’s not something that a unskilled person could do.
Just in case, perhaps one can get away with dynamic DNS sort of pseudo domain, not a full domain, so that you can access services you host at home, without having to know the IP. At any rate, whether pseudo DDNS or full DNS, the IP is fully recognizable.
The advantage of a VPS might be some protection against home blackouts and internet lost every now and then, depending where you live. However, self hosting poses several issues. Isolating your network (firewalls plus kernel hardening), hardening the servers,protect against common attacks such as denial of services, as well as infiltrating the services. All than not to mention dealing with spam and much more.
However, I’m tending towards the idea the we have to self host, now a days. Trusting providers is not wise. Granted email is not secure, neither private, however the same applies to other services. FB is even looking at ways to extract information from whatsapp without decrypting messages… Signal leaks quite some information about its users, and though the advertise themselves about not able to decrypt messages, they can and probably do share all metadata they grab.
I’d really like distributed mechanisms, to take over, and become mainstream, not just decentralized, because then there are no servers to depend upon, and the information is just shared among those whom the information was generated for, no trusting in servers, not even your own.
I like the idea of self hosting email - it just seems to be a total pain however. I’ve done it a few times but the process is so fragmented and I just don’t have the time to dedicate to maintaining it.
“Private” and “Anonymous” are different things.
You can protect privacy with encryption, and I believe ProtonMail does work for that, but trying to protect anonymity is an entirely different beast. I’m not convienced it’s possible at all in any way that’s reliable (not just email but also even simple web browsing) unless there’s a change in how routing works in the internet, or a new layer is developed (like I2P, but even that’s not really a warranty).
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Sure, someone can have high standard for privacy and at the same time have no desire for anonymity. But what was compromised in this case is the identity of the person who owns the email. The email remains private, just not anonymous.
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What the email provider snitched is the IP address (which wasn’t “tori-fied”). So it was anonymity what was compromised in this case.
The email was openly used for activism so the police was already investigating it, they only wanted to know the identity of the physical person behind it, and that’s what ProtonMail helped with, since the activist didn’t use anonymizers. The police didn’t need to decrypt the contents of the account or compromise its privacy (which is what using ProtonMail would have protected against), just its anonymity.
Tor Browser works decently for web browsing. It’s a trade off in convenience, but its anonymity is pretty strong. If you need even stronger security, you can go with Tails or Whonix.
You can create a ProtonMail account over Tor, bur you need to verify it with a phone number or a small payment that you again need to get anonymously. It’s a lot of effort, but it’s possible to operate a ProtonMail account anonymously. Whether you really need this is up to your threat model. Also in this case a simple VPN would have probably been enough.
Yes, Tor is another example of a “new layer” on internet routing (I2P functions the same, you can also use it to access the clearnet if you know an exit node). VPN would be fine if you could trust the provider, but imho that’s just shifting the trust to some other company, more of a patch rather than a proper solution to online anonymity.
I have looked a bit into it. In case anyone is curious, I believe that the authorities found the e-mail in question (email@example.com) here:
Fuck I pay for them!
As always, comments get piled on while nobody understands the real issue. I expect far better quality than Reddit here.
What do you mean by this?
Presumably for a lot of people that is going to be the main, perhaps only, question.
And that is the problem here. ProtonMail is not going to keep you safe. Gmail is not going to keep you safe. Who is going to keep you safe? Your OPSEC. You possessing the knowledge about how email works, and how privacy, security and anonymity work, and how you will control these elements. These are the things that should be debated, not X vs Y email brand.
Yes, but we need people like you to provide that content. In short, don’t expect other people to be that change; that change starts with you. Thanks for the resources and level-headed opinion. People in general who use any service provider for “privacy reasons” should only do so to keep the issuing company from scanning their messages and selling data about you. Email itself, regardless of how it’s set up, will fail you if you’re thinking it will keep you hidden.
My privacy community c/privatelife is in the sidebar of c/privacy ;)
Besides, I have provided massive amounts of content in the form of comments on Lemmy, on this year old account of mine. I am also on Reddit, where my r/privatelife exists.
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Ey, thanks for the comment. Really good one. Really useful resource
One shouldn’t expect otherwise. See also https://web.archive.org/web/20210719011623/https://privacy-watchdog.io/truth-about-protonmail/.
It is just propietary software in the server side and some parts of the client side.
It is also a company.
Just use something like Disroot.org
You can also use Briar.
Disroot.org is not an activist organization, they will do the same thing.
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Nextcloud is not a mail-server, don’t confuse it. Nextcloud has an Email app which can be connected to your account. They use LDAP for most services with few exceptions (f.e. Gitea).
If you have questions about the Email server and the webmail use you can ask them directly about it. The email stack I tell you that is one very known and is actively maintained.
The case with Rainloop is quite different because have been subject of controversy in the past regarding to its security, you can always ask about it.
About the security audit: most tasks at Disroot are SysAdmin/DevOps tasks can be checked in different repositories as they are deployed with different DevOps tools like Ansible ( https://git.disroot.org ). If there is something non-Standard/custom that should be audited (as this is the source of audits, not configurations that have been already audited commonly or are recommended already by security teams) you can always ask to the maintainers by email to support[AT]disroot[DOT]org. Sometimes they work close with maintainers of different software for bugfixes, etc (Nextcloud and different apps of it as example).
If you think there is something to be doubt, just start reporting to it to improve it instead of putting this as a supermarket of products which should be chosen exclusively and to which you cannot do anything. Protonmail is by source something that is not going to change in the same way that Disroot could by the base of it.
Disroot isn’t security oriented.
Also, if you need more information about Disroot:
I think there is a common misread here, I never said the issue could not happen, I mean that for helping or supporting this kind of company which runs services over propietary software during and without these issues, it is preferable to support Disroot on it.
Not centric on that part of the news but the simply fact that is just Protonmail.
this sucks, but I also can’t blame them too much
most people seem to have an unrealistic expectation for protonmail to function as an underground criminal organisation, providing email services to drug dealers, and wiping their asses with subpoenas, which runs contrary to their goal of providing user-friendly private email to as many people as possible, not only the ones that would go to extremes no matter what
The CEO of ProtonMail previously: https://threatpost.com/protonvpn-ceo-blasts-apple-myanmar/165022, and https://protonmail.com/blog/protesters-free-speech is pretty hypocritical now, but you can spot a pattern, that he only opposes the systems and governments the West opposes too. In that way, I consider him to be nothing more, than the willing tool of propaganda, for his own enrichement.
He’s a business man trying to run a business, while also following the law. The line will always be drawn at keeping the business going.
from their comment on reddit, it seems there wasn’t much they could do
what did you expect them to do?
Clearly state the difference between ProtonMail and ProtonVPN differences in the kinds of data that are being collected. The issue is not compliance, the issue is that they’d provide enough data for it to be useful, defeating the purpose of their privacy marketing.
Try a little harder at least. Just the surrounding publicity even for a lost court-case would have been a net benefit.
Their explanation sound like “we couldn’t do anything against this legal over-reach because the entity that did the legal over-reach said that it was all legal and fine”, which when you think about it longer than 3 seconds is true for each and every case where the authorities request something. An internal “review” by a biased party involved in one side is not the same as a real test in court.
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No they didn’t actually, they turned over the SSL keys in a printed document which would give them access to all users’ data, but the FBI complained that they would have to input it all by hand which could lead to errors and re trials so they forced him to provide with a digital copy, after which he got fined and then decided to close the service.
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Did you ever attempt to host an email server for activists?
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from my understanding it’s a legally binding order that they legally literally can’t appeal
Yes that is what they claim, but in most jurisdictions there is no such thing as an unappealable order (only after it has been already once dismissed in court can the judge rule-out further appeals) and there usually is some official legal recourse despite what the authorities like to claim in their own self-interest.
If there was a similar precedence case, which would have made chances in court extremely low, then they could have said so. But they basically admit by omission that they didn’t even try.
it’s not helpful to compare to the way this works in the rest of the world, because it doesn’t determine what’s exactly true in this case; I’m not an expert on swiss law by any means (lol), but I suspect that protonmail does have a lawyer proficient in swiss law, probably more than one, and i really doubt that what they tell is a lie
if we are operating off of the assumption that they are bad guys only interested in money (which i personally don’t think is the case), they would very much care about pr, and to not fight the case and then lie about it is pretty much the worst pr they think of
and if even if they did this foolish move, wouldn’t there be at least a few people who understand swiss law who would point out that this is a lie?
I didn’t say it is blatant lie, but probably one by omission. There probably really isn’t a strait-forward way to appeal it (legal authorities like to do that in cases they know they would get a lot of appeals otherwise), but what do you think would have happened if they had not complied? Usually that then forces a court case, during which they can lay out their reasons why they think this was legal over-reach on the side of the Swiss authorities and a judge would be forced to make a ruling on that.
ProtonMail answer: https://www.reddit.com/r/ProtonMail/comments/pil6xi/climate_activist_arrested_after_protonmail/hbqha63/
I wish they would go into more detail why this specific case could not be legally challenged. Their response sounds good otherwise (especially also that they recommend Tor for such cases), but this deliberate omission makes me think that the case was maybe not so clear cut after all.
That is a big Oof. But yeah, PM is far from being perfect. I use it bc:
But one thing, how secure will be to selfhost your own eMail? If I selfhost one, which will be the most secure & private teaks that I can apply?
I personally use migadu. Don’t know about how private it is but I is cheap and allows for loads of addresses and domains.
I red that reverse DNS is needed to not be considered as spammer, but my internet provider does not allow it yet. So in the meantime, I use Protonmail because of the first point you stated.
Have you considered disroot mail? It’s what I use and it’s awesome
If you selfhost the email on your own hardware, then the IP will be apparent to anyone. If you selfhost it on somebody else’s hardware, they can be legally compelled to log your IP as happened here with proton. But if you aren’t committing any crimes, selfhosting either way is probably more private than proton, since you are more confident in what software is running, while with proton you have to trust that the frontend being served is actually the e2e encrypted one
I am assuming they were not using proton VPN?
Even if their were, proton company would have been legally required to trace their connection through proton VPN. Using tor would have been the better move.
EDIT: apparently swiss laws exempt VPNs from these sorts of legal issues.
Would they? According to their recent blogpost about the controversy:
…just pasting their claims. If this is true, using a Swiss based, no-logging VPN would be enough to avoid your IP being revealed
That’s very interesting. I’ve updated my coment.
Not a huge surprise, but the apparent total lack of legal resistance by ProtonMail to what looks like legal over-reach by the French & Swiss authorities is going to be a PR disaster for them, and rightly so.
“Over-reach” in what way?
I did not look very deeply into that, but from what I read it was the French authorities that utilized anti-terror laws against some climate protesters that were squatting buildings in Paris, and because “terrorism” is a crime in Switzerland too the Swiss authorities just complied with the French request without questioning if the application of such laws was appropriate in relation to the “crime” committed.
IANAL, but if ProtonMail had legally challenged this there would have been at least a chance that a judge would have ruled in favor of ProtonMail because of this unjustified use of anti-terror legislation.
Yeah, but this helps exposing that you can’t trust nobody.
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The exact same IP logging could have happened with Signal under US law (Tor would have probably helped though).
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Same as what ProtonMail claims. Here they were specifically ordered to start logging IP for an specific account and I am 100% sure the same could happen with Signal (and probably already did, but under US law Signal isn’t even allowed to talk about it).
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Not signal. Its not open sourced and the new crypto shit is very bad. Use Matrix or Tox.
Matrix is a metadata centralization network, I mean although it is decentralized, the level of metadata that is shared between servers is not good. Also checkout Matrix? No, thanks.
Better use good old XMPP there are many public servers. Realistically though, any server host would probably do exactly what Protonmail did here. This organization’s XMPP service seems like a good option though.
Do you know if 5july.net offers a .onion address for use use with Tor?
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I don’t think so, but XMPP servers in general don’t block tor exit nodes. There are some XMPP servers that have .onion addresses, checkout this list for example, I would recommend to always enable OMEMO end to end encryption and delete your account once you are done with it, you can always create a new account.
If you have trouble using some XMPP client you should join their XMPP chat group and ask for assistance.
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OMEMO used in XMPP is the same encryption protocol as used in Signal and OLM used in Matrix is derived from Signal’s. So from that perspective at least that isn’t an advantage of Signal.
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What part of Signal is not open source? Both the signal clients and server-side code is licensed under GPL and AGPL respectively.
They hadn’t published the server-side code (which we can’t verify they’re running on their AWS/Azure servers anyway) for a long period of time, however, it’s now being released to the public again.
The problem with Signal is that you have to trust them instead of choosing a host that you trust or hosting a server yourself.
I agree. But it’s worse than what you’ve said here; Signal is only accessible on Android/iOS and not on the Pinephone and its myriad OSes, for example. People have to develop their own clients for Signal, but Signal has said that they will deny these clients access to the server. But there’s no way they’re going to develop Signal for these obscure platforms.
Now, whether they’d actually do that is another thing altogether, but they’ve said they would, and they’ve done it before.
As I mentioned before, Signal’s servers are hosted on AWS and Azure, which, even if that doesn’t concern you from a personal privacy perspective, Signal is funding these anti-privacy actors, and continued use of Signal increases its popularity, which increases the number of servers it needs to support users, which increases the amount of money it has to pay to these companies. So, by using Signal, you are indirectly financially supporting Amazon.
That makes me a little uncomfortable.
While you could make the argument that Signal’s servers can’t access your message content because it’s E2EE, metadata is still accessible, and probably accessible to Amazon and Azure, as they host the servers.
And Signal is also making weird moves lately with MobileCoin, which seems directly related to withholding their server source code for over a year.
Worst of all, you need a phone number to get Signal working. You could use a landline, or a free phone number, or a VOIP number, but you still need to do this to use Signal. Thankfully, it’s not limited to mobile numbers, because SIM cards are tied to your identity in some countries, but you need a phone number. This barrier to entry exists for no good reason. It exists for a reason (Signal was meant to replace SMS), but it’s not a good reason. Being given the option to link Signal to your phone is a good idea. Being forced to link Signal to a phone is dumb and annoying.
Signal might be open source, but they’re doing everything they can to close it off, which really annoys me.
But Signal isn’t proprietary, like @SudoDnfDashY suggested.
Good comment exposing all. I agree with you, what signal has been doing sucks. But I heard somewhere that there was a signal based app that was a bit better (not requiring phone number etc) I will research a bit about it.
That would be Session, the Australian Signal fork that uses a Tor-based network to route traffic and requires no information to setup. You don’t have to give any of your personal information to anyone you want to communicate with; you give them a randomised hash, which represents your address instead of a phone number. It’s even easier to setup than Signal because you don’t really have to do anything after you download it. I like it as a simple method to send encrypted messages between computers, because I don’t have to register a phone number every time I want another account. There’s no arbitrary 5 linked devices limit like Signal. Works on Windows/macOS/Linux.
I can’t imagine getting any of the people I know to use it, though.
The app is incredibly buggy and takes a long time to send and receive messages because of the onionized network. Also, it’s in Australia, a country that’s openly against end-to-end encryption and has been passing (and is still trying to pass) laws that mandate backdoors in encryption protocols. You can read about that here, under “Does the Australian government’s anti-encryption stance pose a risk to Session?”: https://getsession.org/faq
Session is developed by a non-profit foundation like Signal, and they also have their own cryptocurrency token, OXEN.
I think it’s definitely interesting, but there are probably too many annoyances for the people I know to use it on a daily basis.
Can you give the name of the app?