Harvard and MIT gang up on NSA

After the US spooks effectively shut down Lavabit last year, a truly secure email system which is unhackable by the spooks has been a holy grail.

Now boffins from Harvard and MIT have created a new system called ProtonMail that they say will be more secure than Lavabit and will not be hackable by the NSA or other spy agencies.

The system is based around using special codes or keys, a system known as PGP, has been around for two decades. However “it was so complicated,” and did not gain widespread adoption.

Not only does this new email service offer end-to-end encryption but it’s also based in Switzerland, where it won’t have to comply with American courts’ demands to hand over user data.

Even if a Swiss court ordered data to be turned over, ProtonMail could only hand over piles of encrypted data because it does not have a key and never sees the password.

The service launched as a public beta last week after spending two weeks before as an invitation-only private beta. Anyone will be able to use ProtonMail to a limited extent for free, although the students say that “power users” will have to pay $5 a month to use the service.

Jason Stockman, a co-developer of ProtonMail said in a statement that ProtonMail aims to be as user-friendly as the major commercial services, but with extra security.

“As our users from China, Iran, Russia, and other countries around the world have shown us in the past months, ProtonMail is an important tool for freedom of speech and we are happy to finally be able to provide this to the whole world,” he wrote in the company blog.