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Monday, July 22, 2024

How to Use Proton Sentinel to Keep Your Accounts Safe

There's a constant battle going on between software developers trying to keep their apps and platforms secure, and hackers and malware writers eager to break through those digital defenses. In its quest to offer a more secure and private suite of web apps, security-focused service provider Proton is rolling out a new feature called Proton Sentinel.

If you're new to Proton, the Switzerland-based company offers email, VPN, cloud storage, and various other digital services, with a clear emphasis on security and privacy. It's a bit like Google without the tracking or the ads, and the newly unveiled Proton Sentinel is a “high-security program” for keeping users and their data safe.

It's worth emphasizing that Proton accounts already come with a bunch of security features and protections to keep out bad actors. There's end-to-end, zero-access encryption for user data, there's two-factor authentication to help you prove you are who you say you are when you log in, there's a custom-built spam filtering system, there are real-time notifications of logins, and more.

However, Sentinel goes further. Proton describes the additional feature as offering more protection than most people will need, aimed at “users who need the most security”: Journalists, government officials, religious leaders, and leaders of international peace organizations are mentioned as some of those who are particularly at risk from hacking attempts.

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"Accounts such as these have a high risk of being attacked by criminals or state-backed hackers," writes Proton's Dingchao Lu. “We are now ready to provide the same level of advanced protection and support that we reserved for these VIPs to any Proton user that wants it through the Proton Sentinel program.”

You don't have to fall into one of those categories to use Proton Sentinel, but you do have to be a paying Proton user: a Visionary, Lifetime, Family, Unlimited, or Business plan is required, and you can see details of all the plans here.

A lot of the work that Proton Sentinel does goes on behind the scenes, and you'll find that Proton itself doesn't go into too much detail about how it functions—which is sensible if you want to minimize the chances of someone else getting around it.

The advanced security protection it offers includes strict challenges for “suspicious” login attempts, typically those from devices that you don't normally use and parts of the world that you're not normally in. You might find yourself asked to confirm more of your logins to Proton services with Sentinel enabled, but it's worth it for the extra peace of mind.

Proton says that suspicious logins are flagged by automated systems and then escalated to human security analysts, around the clock. Any support requests you file related to account security will also get escalated to trained security specialists, meaning that if there is a security problem, it's going to be dealt with more quickly.

Related to this stricter policy on logins, Proton Sentinel also gives you access to detailed security logs inside your account, listing attempts to log in using your credentials, as well as other key actions you need to be aware of (such as password changes.)

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If you're on board with Proton Sentinel and everything that it offers, log into your Proton account on the web. Click the settings cogwheel, then Go to settings, and then Security and privacy: At the top of the screen there should be an Enable Proton Sentinel toggle switch that you can turn on. That's all there is to it: You're now protected.

Farther down the same screen is the security logs panel: Turn on both Enable authentication logs and Enable advanced logs to get all of the information possible about when and where your account is being used. All successful and unsuccessful login attempts are listed here, since the very first day you opened your Proton account—and if security actions were taken on a login attempt, this will be recorded next to it.

If you see something you don't recognize, you can click the Revoke button next to an existing session: The device in question will be remotely logged out, and a fresh sign-in will be required to use Proton's apps on that device. It's better to err on the side of caution here, and log out from any sessions that you don't immediately recognize. If you do notice anything suspicious, you should contact Proton Support too.

Proton Sentinel is simple to set up, takes very little effort to maintain, and keeps your Proton account as well protected as possible—so it makes a lot of sense to enable the feature. Like the Enhanced Safety Mode that Google offers as part of Chrome's feature set, Sentinel goes above and beyond the norms to make sure that there's no unauthorized access to your account.

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