ProtonMail, the encrypted email service created in 2013 by a group of engineers who met at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), said Thursday it has launched a Tor hidden service to combat censorship and surveillance of ProtonMail users.
The encrypted email service has grown astronomically from its humble beginnings, and is currently the world’s largest encrypted email service, serving more than 2 million users.
According to ProtonMail, this recent step is necessary due to the increasing restriction of civil liberties across the globe. The company said Western democracies such as the US are a part of this trend, and it has come to the point where it is “simply not possible to run a privacy focused service in the US or in the UK.”
ProtonMail takes its role as a tool for freedom of speech seriously, especially with the surge in demand for the service. The company created a new onion site to enable users access the Tor network, and users have to first set up Tor on their computer before they can use the site.
Routing your traffic to ProtonMail through the Tor network makes it difficult for an adversary wiretapping your internet connection to know that you are using ProtonMail, the company said.
Tor applies extra encryption layers on top of your connection, making it more difficult for an advanced attacker to perform a man-in-the-middle attack on your connection to ProtonMail. Tor also makes your connections to ProtonMail anonymous as the company will not be able to see the true IP address of your connection to ProtonMail.
Using Tor does come with some downsides however. Tor connections typically are much slower than a standard internet connection, so performance will suffer as a result.