back to article Encrypted email sign-ups instantly double in wake of Trump victory

"ProtonMail follows the Swiss policy of neutrality. We do not take any position for or against Trump," the Swiss company's CEO stated on Monday, before revealing that new user sign-ups immediately doubled following Trump's election victory. ProtonMail has published figures showing that as soon as the election results rolled in …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who was signing up?

      It might just be Hillary and co. Probably not many more than that. There is no scale on the vertical axis of that chart, which is a dead giveaway that we are not talking about big numbers. It's hard to tell but looking at the quantisation (hmmm .... time on my hands today) it looks like a jump from 20 to 52. Of course this might just be a "publishing" artefact and the numbers are all several times more, however as it comes from a firm singing the praises of its own product I don't feel inclined to give them the benefit of doubt. Perhaps the title of the article should be: "Encrypted email sign-ups instantly go up by 32 in wake of Trump victory"

    2. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Who was signing up?

      "I guess that was Hillary and her friends migrating email providers"

      Or Donald's new team preparing for power....

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FUD

    Kind of ironic, fud great for business...

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: FUD

      Really? An authoritarian such as Trump inheriting the NSA doesn't give you pause for thought?

      That often quoted future government that we don't know we can trust might just be around the corner.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        @Dan 55 -- Re: FUD

        Actually, just having NSA running amok should give one pause for thought. The change in the

        Administration shouldn't as under Obama, it was conservatives and the right wing signing up. Now the liberals/left wing are signing up. I'm thinking that they felt like Obama wouldn't spy on them. Ha!!!! NSA tags everyone.

        I think that "future government" is a myth. The reality is it's here and been here for awhile.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: FUD

        "An authoritarian such as Trump"

        'authoritarian'? REALLY? talk about mis-charactarization.

        OBAKA is an 'authoritarian' - hence all of those 'executive orders'.

        An 'authoritarian', with respect to management style, is the type of manager who MUST be "in charge", and has a propensity towards micromanagement and anal retentiveness. They will typically have an "I love 'me' wall" with trophies and accomplishments plastered all over it. Their motivation is usually POWER, in order to DIRECTLY CONTROL EVERYTHING.

        Now, let's look at how Trump manages things: Trump hires qualified people that he can trust, and he tends to give them a LOT of leeway. THOSE people do all of the dirty work, and Trump oversees them, but doesn't MICRO-MANAGE. This type of management style, which is _THE_ most SUCCESSFUL way of managing, is referred to as "Delegation". It's what Ronald Reagan did, too.

        Two UNsuccessful presidents, Carter and Obaka, are _BOTH_ 'Authoritarians'. Carter was lampooned on Saturday Night Live as being a know-it-all micromanager. Obaka SHOULD have been.

        I wonder if mis-perceptions like *THIS* are behind the rapid increase in secure mail accounts... because a Trump presidency is MOST likely to be like the REAGAN presidency. ["they" said similar things about Reagan back in the 80's, too, and none of it was true, and he had Bush Sr. as his VP, who was FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE CIA].

        1. phuzz Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: FUD

          "They will typically have an "I love 'me' wall" with trophies and accomplishments plastered all over it."

          Like this wall in Trumps office with pictures of him on magazine covers?

        2. druck

          Re: FUD

          @bombastic bob: Whatever the merit your views may have is completely destroyed by using silly names, it makes you look like an idiot.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: FUD

            it makes you look like an idiot.

            Just check a few of his previous comments at random, then revisit your statement regarding his looking like an idiot.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: FUD

          > OBAKA is an 'authoritarian' - hence all of those 'executive orders'.

          Click on the "Total Orders" column to sort, realize that you're regurgitating easily debunked hypocritical talking points, then ask yourself what else the echo chambers you're getting news from might be lying about. Both sides suck. Don't be a tool.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_federal_executive_orders#Consolidated_list_by_President

        4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: FUD

          "OBAKA "

          Who? WTF is that supposed to mean? Is it one of those childish things something like Micro$haft? Or is it Chewbaccas grandad on the Irish side of the family?

          BTW, your capslock key seems to be randomly sticking. Have you asked El Reg for a new keyboard? Or are you really actually SHOUTING as you type?

        5. David Glasgow

          Re: FUD

          Using caps on El Reg has an effect contrary to the effect you desire.

        6. Chris 3

          Re: FUD

          What is it about Trump fans their love of capital letters?

        7. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: FUD

          @bombastic bob: so in other words, the 3-letter agencies are all dancing with glee at the prospect of being able to do whatever the hell they like, under a president with a hands-off management style and no experience of Washington bureaucracy.

      3. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: FUD

        It's the idea that another authoritarian named Hillary Clinton DIDN'T prompt such things. This rise of the NSA to domestic-spying tyrant happened on Obama's watch, an administration of which she was a part/ She's a lot more frightening than he is to people who have been paying attention.

        1. Elsmarc
          FAIL

          Re: FUD

          "This rise of the NSA to domestic-spying tyrant happened on Obama's watch"

          Try "The start of and rise of the NSA to domestic-spying tyrant happened on Bush Jr's watch and continued under his successor Obama", but nice try at disinformation

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FUD

        > An authoritarian such as Trump inheriting the NSA doesn't give you pause for thought?

        Did initially, but the earnest (apolitical) comments from Whitehouse juniors the other day - not widely reported in the light of the hyperbole - were warming. Paraphrasing, but the sheer scale of activities which can't be delegated - signing, meeting, attending - which the President has to undertake as Head of State are unlikely to be within his capability, let alone getting to the detail and legalities of policy creation/reform. If he's ever worked that hard, it's not in the last 40 or 50 years.

        ...though I suppose it leaves the awkward problem of who actually will be running and creating policy for the NSA

      5. William 3 Bronze badge

        Re: FUD

        Well I didn't see your precious Obama do anything about the NSA for the 8 years he was in charge.

        If anything, didn't it get worse under his tenure.

        But hey, I forget that Liberals can do no wrong.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: FUD

          > But hey, I forget that Liberals can do no wrong.

          Can we just clarify please, liberals have never been in power in the US. Obama was probably the closest as he wanted to provide health care for the poor. His party is right wing, and the other lot are very right wing.

          America freed itself from the shackles of the British establishment, and replaced it with something remarkably similar. That's one of the reasons people voted Trump and has gone to prove that *any* billionaire can be president.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: FUD

            >Can we just clarify please, liberals have never been in power in the US

            Ask an American to define the word 'Liberal' and you'll be surprised by the answer. Ask them to define Neo-Liberal and you'll be terrified.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FUD

        Don't be a fuckwit, ALL governments are a threat and Obama's record on this is far worse than you probably know. Remember when his administration collected all the eMails from a reporter and charged him with security violations ? Because he was after something not security threatening but embarrassing to the Democrats ?

        Trump is probably far LESS likely to abuse such mechanisms if purely for the reason that far more people will be on the look out for such and won't be willing to overlook transgressions for partisan political reasons as they have with Obama.

        As for " future government that we don't know we can trust" being just around the corner, it's been in power for the last eight years, even if you're too ideologically blind to notice.

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: FUD

          As for " future government that we don't know we can trust" being just around the corner, it's been in power for the last eight years, even if you're too ideologically blind to notice.

          It's been in power for at least the last 16 years. Remember who it was that created the "Department of Homeland Security" (or "KGB", as the Russians would call it).

          Arguably it's been in power for 160 years and we've never experienced anything else.

          But really this isn't about "trusting" anyone, this is about being scared shitless of one specific person. Trump has already managed to break American democracy (remember, the primary purpose of democracy is to convince the losers to accept the result, and that's not looking too good right now). And because he clearly doesn't have the faintest idea that there even is such a thing as "truth", nobody has much idea what he's likely to do next.

        2. TeeCee Gold badge
          Alert

          Re: FUD

          ...Don't be a fuckwit, ALL governments are a threat.....

          Never mind the tinfoil hat, someone's wearing a tea cosy.

      7. PNGuinn
        Trollface

        Re: FUD

        Or perhaps its the NSA getting brown trousers and getting itself ....

  3. Gray
    Holmes

    Privacy

    Proton Mail ... for precisely the same reason we demand glue on our envelope flaps!

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    New Swiss surveillance law

    It changed about a month and a half ago so email privacy in Switzerland is all rather academic anyway.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it...

    Even possible to completely encrypt email?

    At some point an SMTP handshake has to occur those are largely plain text or at best trivially encrypted.

    The only way to encrypt to a reasonable level would be to use PGP or GNUPG and getting the masses to use that seems like an exercise in ice skating uphill.

    To be honest I wish the world would ditch email. Its an increasingly archaic system in my opinion.

    Instant messaging with E2E seems like a more practical solution.

    A properly encrypted IRC-esque solution would be nice as well.

    1. Sir Alien

      Re: Is it...

      Or send a completely plain text email with no content other than a completely encrypted attachment. Either way the payload is unreadable whether the payload is in the email body or on an attachment.

      1. PNGuinn
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Is it...

        As I see it, the main problem with email (apart from spam luvverly spam) is not whether you can encrypt it (easy if a plain text message or attachment is properly encoded (eg one time pad) but that it's easily traceable and archivable, together with sender and receiver info.

        When the authorities get a copy of the email (easy) it's game over. You're marked - hand over the codes or you're guilty.

        1. rh587

          Re: Is it...

          As I see it, the main problem with email (apart from spam luvverly spam) is not whether you can encrypt it (easy if a plain text message or attachment is properly encoded (eg one time pad) but that it's easily traceable and archivable, together with sender and receiver info.

          When the authorities get a copy of the email (easy) it's game over. You're marked - hand over the codes or you're guilty.

          The thing is, that in some circumstances this is desirable.

          For instance, Germany has taken strides to allow digital document/e-mail signing so that such documents can have the legal power of a signed document, so one can digitally sign a contract instead of having to FedEx boxes of dead tree around the place. DeMail offered message integrity, but not confidentiality

          In such cases, traceability and accountability is a necessary attribute. Balancing that paper-trail against the ability to encrypt/protect both the content of such data and the associated meta-data is quite a difficult thing to do. But there are plenty of business use-cases where a Signal-like IM service simply does not replace e-mail.

      2. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: Is it...

        > Either way the payload is unreadable whether the payload is in the email body or on an attachment.

        I disagree. I guess it depends though if you recognise that metadata is in and of itself also data. And that social graphs can be drawn from those headers. And that goes to the heart of freedom of association. We don't use email for its security capabilities. We use it because of inertia and because distributed key sharing without a trusted intermediary is a dam hard problem to solve.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Is it...

          "We use it because of inertia and because distributed key sharing without a trusted intermediary is a dam hard problem to solve."

          More like intractable. I can see the thought process in my head, but I can't yet construct an ironclad reductio ad absurdum that proves the First Contract Problem unsolvable if Alice and Bob have absolutely nothing in common. But basically, you can think of it like relativity: how can Alice know Bob is really Bob and vice versa without something in common between them (in other words, a common frame of reference)?

    2. Sleep deprived
      Holmes

      Re: Instant messaging with E2E seems like a more practical solution.

      IM is fine as long as your correspondent is on a compatible time zone and available...

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Instant messaging with E2E seems like a more practical solution.

        ... and on the same IM network.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Is it...

      "I wish the world would ditch email"

      I just wish they'd ditch HTML IN E-MAIL. Just sayin'...

      1. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: Is it...

        Yes! It never should have been there in the first place. I've loathed this ever since it came around.

        Even worse is when they send a multipart email that's supposed to contain a plain-text version and a HTML version, and the plain-text version is empty. To those of us who actually have the email diaplay option set to plain-text, it shows as a blank email! Leave the plain-text section out and let my client reduce the HTML to plain-text, if you must, but don't tell me this is the plain-text version and then leave it blank!

        Then there's the plain-text version that says something like, "Your email client doesn't support HTML. Please upgrade it." Yeah, sure, I'm going to upgrade to another email client because you said so, because I want to get HTML emails from you, right? (Yeah, it DOES support them, BTW, but I have it turned off. Hint hint.)

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Is it...

          > > | > : >> > Reply to post: Re: Is it...

          > > | > : >> > Encrypted email sign-ups instantly double in wake of Trump victory

          > > | > : >> > 9 hrs Updraft102

          > > | > : >> > Bronze badge

          > > | > : >> > Reply Icon

          > > | > : >> > Re: Is it...

          > > | > : >> >

          > > | > : >> > Yes! It never should have been there in the first

          > > | > : >> > place. I've loathed this ever since it came around.

          > > | > : >> > Even worse is when they send a multipart email

          > > | > : >> > that's supposed to contain a plain-text version

          > > | > : >> > and a HTML version, and the plain-text version is

          > > | > : >> > empty. To those of us who actually have the email

          > > | > : >> > diaplay option set to plain-text, it shows as a

          > > | > : >> > blank email! Leave the plain-text section out and

          > > | > : >> > let my client reduce the HTML to plain-text, if

          > > | > : >> > you must, but don't tell me this is the plain-text

          > > | > : >> > version and then leave it blank!

          > > | > : >> >

          > > | > : >> > Then there's the plain-text version that says

          > > | > : >> > something like, "Your email client doesn't support

          > > | > : >> > HTML. Please upgrade it." Yeah, sure, I'm going to

          > > | > : >> > upgrade to another email client because you said so,

          > > | > : >> > because I want to get HTML emails from you, right?

          > > | > : >> > (Yeah, it DOES support them, BTW, but I have it

          > > | > : >> > turned off. Hint hint.)

          > > | > : >> >

          me too

    4. Montreal Sean

      Re: Is it...

      Ditch email for IM?

      Sounds great! I vote for Facebook messenger, it's super secure!

      Yoiks.

    5. rh587

      Re: Is it...

      Even possible to completely encrypt email?

      At some point an SMTP handshake has to occur those are largely plain text or at best trivially encrypted

      This is true. ProtonMail seem to be advocating that Proton-to-Proton mail remains on their servers, so neither the content or handshake ever leaves their iron, and then of course it's all encrypted at rest.

      E-mail from an end-point outside the ProtonMail ecosystem can be encrypted using PGP - ProtonMail use PGP as the basis of their content-encryption, so you can download/publish your Public Key and people can encrypt mail to you which ProtonMail will then unlock. For instance, you can upload your public key to facebook's PGP e-mail service and all FB notifications can be encrypted (which seems silly but for those that use it, facebook notifications can contain significant personal information and of course using "Signup/Login with Facebook" and OAuth-type services means your facebook account can be as valuable from a cross-service perspective as your e-mail account).

      As far as I can tell though they do not allow outbound PGP encryption, which would be the next key step in the service maturing - allowing you to encrypt and sign outbound messages to non-Proton users.

      As you say, a system like Signal with Peer-2-Peer encryption and no central content servers is ultimately superior.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is it...

      "At some point an SMTP handshake has to occur those are largely plain text or at best trivially encrypted."

      Correctly implemented TLS / SSL is generally considered reasonably secure. Well at least if you don't use the Open SSL libraries anyway...

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Is it...

        But at some point, the Internet MUST know where to send the message, much like the Post needs two addresses: where it's going and where it came from (in case something goes wrong). The law can learn a lot JUST from that necessarily-open information.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What *is* it with email ?

    Irrespective of encryption or not, it's a point-to-point protocol, which is immediately apparent to anyone who is watching *either* of the parties involved.

    There was a reason why spies of old used the personal columns of newspapers.

    The modern equivalent is to post on a forum somewhere (USENET ideally). Easily done from any number of disposable accounts. OK, the intended recipient would need to know where to watch, and when (which could be detailed in the previous communication), and it's not as convenient as point and send email, but as many wise people have observed, you trade security for convenience.

    I guess the ultimate mashup of old and new would be to have a webcam trained on a newsagents shop window where the local ads are. Certainly in London you'd need to be able to understand at least 10 different languages ......

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: What *is* it with email ?

      I'm always surprised that nobody's ever used Second Life (is it still going?). Easy enough to arrange a meeting, could even use semaphore to communicate.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: What *is* it with email ?

        I'm always surprised that nobody's ever used Second Life

        How do you know they haven't? Where's my tinfoil hat?

        1. PNGuinn
          Go

          Re: What *is* it with email ? @ Mark 85

          So THATS what all those waving penises were about! Semaphore!

          Who'da thunk it?

          High level international diplomacy between world leaders conducted on Second Life.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: What *is* it with email ?

        "Second Life (is it still going?)."

        Good question! That's first I've heard of it in a long, long time.

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: which is immediately apparent to anyone who is watching *either* of the parties involved.

      Unless of course you are using the NHS email system.

    3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: What *is* it with email ? / mashup

      Stand in front of public webcam at a prearranged time and wave the flags or hold up signs... Or just walk past them and the signal is the colour of your hat or jacket...

      I actually did something like that some time ago when webcams at public places started to pop up but mobile internet (+ roaming charges) were prohibitively expensive. Instead of writing postcards I'd stand in view of a webcam and wave, folks at home knew when to watch which webcam.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: What *is* it with email ? / mashup

        But you have to arrange the signals beforehand which means you have to meet, putting you right back at the First Contact Problem: how can Alice and Bob prove their identities to each other if they've never met before and they have no one in common they can trust?

    4. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: What *is* it with email ?

      "The modern equivalent is to post on a forum somewhere (USENET ideally). Easily done from any number of disposable accounts. OK, the intended recipient would need to know where to watch, and when (which could be detailed in the previous communication), and it's not as convenient as point and send email, but as many wise people have observed, you trade security for convenience."

      But that STILL means you need to establish some sort of contact in order to establish the protocol. And that runs you up into the First Contact Problem, which last I checked is intractable.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "campaign rhetoric against journalists, political enemies, immigrants, and Muslims, "

    Aren't they all the same thing in his mind?

  8. Slx

    People still use email?

    1. Updraft102 Silver badge

      Just the smart ones!

  9. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Windows

    "seeing an influx of liberal users"

    That must the american "liberals". Don't give a rat's arse about jackbooted entry as long as the "democrat" is in da house. But once the wind changes, hysterical tweeting ensues from undisclosed Starbucks locations (seriously, liberal tweets and printed commentary these day is best enjoyed with a liberal dose of Yakety Sax).

    To cite John Derbyshire who cites someone from The Imperial Capital:

    There are few in my zip code with whom I could share the joy of this moment. I can report that the apparatchiks are all walking around dazed and despondent, like Japanese schoolkids who have just heard the emperor announce the capitulation on the radio.

    1. William 3 Bronze badge

      Liberals can do now wrong.

      They're the ones with the pitchforks demanding people live up to a standard they themselves utterly fail at.

  10. John Savard Silver badge

    What Might the NSA be Watching Now?

    I'd suspect they're watching Russia to find any evidence that Trump, who received a lot of investment money from Russians after his last bankruptcy, is an FSB asset.

    So the NSA cuts both ways...

  11. Big_Boomer

    Liberal

    Liberal - "willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one's own; open to new ideas." Also a word hijacked by the USA to mean Socialist or Communist or anything other than right-wing Capitalist/Conservative/Fascist.

    As for the email discussion, the government is welcome to read my emails. All my real communication goes via quantum encrypted farts, which they can sniff all they want. Mmmmmm, Peperami and Brussels Sprouts for lunch!

  12. SeymourHolz

    _

    MOAR SALT

    kek kek kek

  13. Velv Silver badge

    Godwin's Law

    Good to see it still holds true...

  14. Chez

    Over the past week, the left in America has come out in favor of gun ownership, tax evasion, strong digital privacy, and even secessionism. It's beautiful to watch.

    t. libertarian

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re:First Contact Problem

    don't try and extrapolate technical problems into general ones.

    The FCP is a problem, yes. But if - and ONLY if - the two actors are under surveillance at that point.

    Think about sleeper cells - the IRA were masters.

    If 2 actors established contact when there was ONLY USENET, then the 5-eyes have a problem. No amount of snooping and invading privacy will pick them up.

    And if all the 5-eyes are doing is monitoring comms traffic, dead letter drops are going unwatched.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: re:First Contact Problem

      "The FCP is a problem, yes. But if - and ONLY if - the two actors are under surveillance at that point."

      You forget Mallory. How will they know they didn't run into a mole?

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