ProtonMail: A better, secure, mail service?

A friend recently recommended I look into the ProtonMail Secure Email Service as an alternative to Gmail, Hotmail, or one of the other free email services.   So I decided to give it a try and requested an invite through their website.

While no networked computer or communications system can be completely secure this one seems to have the right mix of security + usability.  They have an interesting list of security features and are upfront about their services threat model.

This article from ExtremeTech is too early for ProtonMail but contains interesting information on secure email in general as well as some other services.

The main problem I’ve found with encryption is not that it is difficult for a techie or determined person to use.   It is that it is difficult for people in general to use, thus preventing it from becoming ubiquitous.

From ProtonMail’s website it seems that they have been to strike a balance between usability and security.   I have to wait a few days before my account is setup but I’m hoping they are right!

There is also an excellent paper writing by Daniel J. Solove on Misunderstandings of Privacy and their implications.   And I feel that while most people don’t have something to hide they also don’t necessarily want people to know their medical history or conditions, certain private family matters, and confidential business matters.  I strongly agree with Daniel that the discussion should not be about “having anything to hide,” and more of “why do you need to know?”

Once I’m able to get an account on Protonmail will post a follow up on ease of use and setup.

One last note on email security and computer security in general, any system is only as  secure as it’s weakest link.


Commercial Drone/UAV services and ADS-B

Ok what does ADS-B have to do with UAV’s and Drones?  And why is Google looking at this technology?  I’ll get back to Google in a moment but first what is ADS-B and what does it do?

The acronym doesn’t really do it justice but here goes:   ADS-B stands for Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast.

Perhaps a simple explanation is that it allows your aircraft (or drone) to see other aircraft and also allows it to be seen by other aircraft.   This can be useful for situational awareness and Collision Avoidance (CA) amongst other things.

Wikipedia also has an entry that provides additional information.

So why are Google and other drone companies looking into this technology?   As commercial drones become more prevalent there is a very real and emerging need to ensure that unmanned aircraft and manned aircraft don’t cross paths at the wrong time and place.  With this technology, a drone could always or almost always take an avoidance action to avoid such a conflict.

The main problem with installing ADS-B in smaller aircraft, such as a drone, is that the payload is limited and somewhat costly.   Current systems for civil aviation can cost over US $1,500 making it a somewhat expensive technology to incorporate into many hobbyist and commercial drones.

However unmanned aircraft market will certainly need this or a similar technology in the future and I’m hopeful that Google and other engineering companies/individuals can help improve the technology to drive the cost down.

In the U.S. the  FAA has already issued some proposed rules and has a basic guide to safety, licensing and/or certification requirements posted on their website.

As I read through the FAA website, I noticed that it is already required for hobbyist aircraft to not interfere with and must give way to any manned aircraft.  This is as it should be, but what if the drone is flying a pre-programed route?  Or in a “follow-me” mode?

Hopefully manned aircraft won’t be flying that low, but if there is a cost-effective way to incorporate ADS-B then I believe it is possible to make this avoidance automatic.

Happy and safe flying!