Proton Mail just rolled out its Key Transparency feature on Thursday, and the company’s CEO reminds everyone that it uses blockchain and not crypto.
What is Proton Mail’s New Key Transparency Feature?
Proton Mail has end-to-end encryption, making sure that only the intended recipients can view the contents of the email. It uses the receivers’ public keys stored on the blockchain to encrypt messages.
Like the concept of crypto wallets, public keys are composed of a series of letters and numbers, which are decrypted with the recipient’s private keys. Proton CEO Andy Yen told Fortune that the key issue is ensuring that the public key belongs to the true recipient; hence, necessitating the private keys.
“Maybe it’s the NSA that has created a fake public key linked to you, and I’m somehow tricked into encrypting data with that public key,” said Yen. He likened the scheme to “man-in-the-middle attack” (MITM) where a postal worker peeks into the senders’ bank statement to obtain their social security numbers before resealing the envelope.
In cryptography, MITM is when eavesdroppers get between the users and the application. The process can compromise the communication or theft of data, and it can be employed to con the parties by manipulating the info exchange.
Proton Mail’s Key Transparency provides a safeguard against MITM attacks by leveraging blockchain’s digital ledger technology (DLT). Yen explained that by embedding their users’ public keys in the DLT, the private keys are authenticated and permanently recorded on the blockchain. These will then be cross-referenced whenever users send emails, and lets off a warning to the sender if a discrepancy is detected.
Status of Proton Email’s Key Transparency Service
The Key Transparency feature is still in beta version and operated within the Proton Mail private blockchain. Yen stated they are looking to shift to a public blockchain after the completion of the proof of concept.
Proton clears out that the feature offers a niche use case tailored for people requiring high security in their emails such as heads of organizations or states as well as activitists. Key Transparency may not be designed for everyone, but Proton’s service is apparently gaining a lot of traction in the market, and it already boasts 100 million accounts.
“It’s really a way to opt out of the mass surveillance that today is the prevalent model on the Internet,” Yen highlighted. “That’s why the average user should decide to switch.”
Nope, It’s Not Crypto
Yen has placed emphasis on Proton Mail’s utilization of “blockchain in a very pure form” and distances it with “some sketchy cryptocurrency” linked to an “exit scam.” The comment is obviously a subtle dig at the controversies rocking the cryptospace while giving a form of assurance to users.