Who wants strangers reading their emails? No-one. Who's going to use encrypted emails to stop that happening? Well, not many of us. Why? Well, the complexity makes 'can't be arsed' the default option.
Unlike regular sievemail, if you send an encrypted email from one provider's system to another there's a good chance the recipient won't be able to read it. That's because different providers use different encryption protocols, or perhaps they use the same protocol but in different ways. Another part of the problem is the fiddly nature of importing encryption keys.
The Holy Grail is for encrypted email providers to be intercompatible. Well we're not there yet, but we're perhaps a small step closer. One of the best known encrypted email providers, ProtonMail, has introduced full support for PGP.
ProtonMail's cryptography is already based on PGP but it was not previously compatible with other firms that use the same protocol - such as Startmail - meaning that ProtonMail and Startmail users couldn't communicate in private using PGP. Now it is, although users will still need to import public keys of their recipients.
"First, any ProtonMail user can now send PGP encrypted emails to non-ProtonMail users by importing the PGP public keys of those contacts. Second, it is also possible to receive PGP email at your ProtonMail account from any other PGP user in the world. You can now export your public key and share it with them," the company says in a blog post.
Another development is address verification with trusted keys, which the firm says increases the security of communications between two ProtonMail users by making trust in ProtonMail's key servers less vital.
If ProtonMail's servers are compromised, man-in-the-middle attacks, where an attacker uses a fake public and private keys to read private emails, become a possibility. Address verification enables an additional layer of protection by allowing users to trust certain keys. This feature is aimed at activists, journalists anod others who require the utmost confidence that their communications are secure, the firm says.
There is also a new public key server hkps://api.protonmail.ch which should make finding public keys easier for PGP users.
"Unlike other encrypted communications systems, such as Signal or Telegram, PGP doesn't belong to anybody, there is no single central server, and you aren't forced to use one service over another," said ProtonMail CEO Andy Yen.
"We believe encrypted communications should be open and not a walled garden. ProtonMail is now interoperable with practically any other past, present, or future email system that supports the OpenPGP standard, and our implementation of this standard is also itself open source."
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