How Hushmail Can Protect You

Hushmail can protect you against a variety of security hazards

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Hushmail can protect you against eavesdropping, government surveillance, unauthorized content analysis, identity theft and email forgery. But using Hushmail does not put you above the law. After reading the information below, please take the time to read our policy on illegal activity.

Eavesdropping on your Internet connection

When you are using Hushmail, the connection between your computer and the Hushmail server is protected by encryption. That means that if someone is eavesdropping on your Internet connection, they will not be able to read the traffic that you send to the Hushmail website. This is especially important if you are using your computer on a public or office network, or if you are using a wireless connection that is not encrypted.

Government surveillance programs

In some countries, government sponsored projects have been set up to collect massive amounts of data from the Internet, including emails, and store them away for future analysis. This data collection is done without any search warrant, court order, or subpoena. Hushmail uses HTTPS to help protect your email from that kind of broad government surveillance.

Unauthorized content analysis

When a Hushmail user sends email to another Hushmail user, the body and attachments of the email remain encrypted when they are stored on the hard drives of the Hushmail servers. That means that Hushmail won’t scan your email to collect information for advertising or other purposes.

Data theft

Hushmail can help protect your sensitive data from hackers and identity thieves who try to break into servers and steal large amounts of user data that they can mine for useful information. No system in the world is 100% “unhackable” and anyone who tells you otherwise is being disingenuous. However, some systems are harder to hack than others. In most email systems, once a hacker gains access to the server upon which your email is stored, the email can quickly be copied off the server and read. Hushmail encrypted emails are not so easy to capture, because your passphrase is needed for decryption. The hacker would have to gain control over the software of our system, alter it, and remain undetected until the next time you come back, in hopes of stealing your passphrase the next time that you enter it. That would be a much more difficult task than simply getting in, copying data, and leaving.

Email forgery

Spammers often send emails that look like they come from someone else. If you get an email that looks like it comes from an address of someone you know, there is no guarantee that it actually does. When you send email using Hushmail, you can “digitally sign” the email. That digital signature proves that the email actually came from the true owner of the email account.

The Limitations of Hushmail

Hushmail has built-in security features, but it is not a 100% solution for everyone’s security needs. There are some things that Hushmail cannot do.

Hushmail does not put you above the law

We are committed to the privacy of our users, and will absolutely not release user data without an order that is legally enforceable under the laws of British Columbia, Canada, which is the jurisdiction where our servers are located. However, if we do receive such an order, we are required to do everything in our power to comply with the law. Hushmail will not accept an order from any authority or investigative agency that is not enforceable under the laws of British Columbia, Canada. Please read our Privacy Policy for more information.

But I thought the data was always encrypted

When one Hushmail user sends an email to another Hushmail user, the body and attachments of that email are kept on our server in encrypted form, and under normal circumstances, we would have no access to that data. We can’t just pick an arbitrary encrypted email message off the server and read it. An encrypted email message cannot be decrypted without the passphrase, and in the normal course of operations, we do not store passphrases. However, we may be required to store a passphrase for an account identified in an order enforceable in British Columbia, Canada.

So I should not use Hushmail for illegal activity?

If you expect to engage in activity that might result in there being an order that is enforceable under the laws of British Columbia for us to produce information in respect of your account, Hushmail is not the right choice for you. In accepting our Terms of Service, Hushmail users agree not to use Hushmail for illegal purposes.

What about other encryption solutions like PGP Desktop and GnuPG?

PGP Desktop and GnuPG are not web-based services. They install as software on your computer. Installed software is different from a web-based service in that you don’t rely on the owner of the website to run the software correctly. You take on that responsibility yourself. If used correctly, both PGP Desktop and GnuPG can provide an extremely high level of security. When choosing your security solution, carefully weigh the convenience and ease-of-use of Hushmail against the inherent limitations of a web-based service.

What if my computer has a virus?

If your own computer is not secure, then Hushmail will not be secure. Although all emails sent through Hushmail are virus scanned, Hushmail cannot prevent you from getting a virus from some other source, and once that virus has infected your computer, it could result in your Hushmail account being compromised as well. When using Hushmail, be sure to also use a virus scanner, and keep your virus definitions up to date. Also, don’t access Hushmail on a computer that you do not trust.

Threat Matrix

The following table gives some analysis as to what sort of threat Hushmail can protect you from. The “attacker” could be anyone who is trying to gain access to your email. If an order enforceable under the laws of British Columbia has been issued compelling us to reveal the content of your encrypted email, the “attacker” could be Hush Communications, the actual service provider.

The following examples apply to the bodies and attachments of emails sent using public key encryption:

Threat Protected?
Attacker is listening to your Internet connection
Attacker gets access to email stored on the server
Attacker obtains data from the server’s databases
Attacker compromises webserver after you have accessed your email *
Attacker controls webserver while you are accessing your email
Attacker has access to your computer after you have accessed your email
Attacker has access to your computer before you access your email (and can install programs such as key loggers)

* there is a chance some sensitive data could remain in memory on the server

Read more about how security is impacted while using different Hushmail configurations.