Recent days have not been good to your private data. Scandals follow data breaches, which are followed by yet additional scandals, as the big tech companies continue to worm their way even deeper into our lives. It has become increasingly clear that almost every action you take — be it online or off — is collected, categorized, and sold by entities that never had your best interests at heart.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Or, at least not to that same troubling degree. Services like Tor, Signal, and ProtonMail offer real alternatives to the data collection that has become the norm. And, now, we can add one more offering to the mix. Say hello the the Helm personal email server.
$299, with an annual $99 subscription fee (first year’s fee is waived)
Super simple setup • Sleek design • You own your own data • Easy to expand storage capacity • Encrypted backups
Smartphone required for setup
The Bottom Line
This is a great product that’s intuitive to use, and puts you in control of your own data.
Bang for the Buck5.0
The device, a sleek looking triangle that could be confused for a modern-art inspired paper weight, is a personal email server for your home. Once properly set up, it allows the user to send and receive email as they might normally — from their smartphone or computer — with an important bonus: the data is stored in your home or office (there is an encrypted offsite backup for those worried about losing all their email in a house fire). That’s right, with Helm you both own and control your emails.
« [Everything] we do is designed to know as little about you as possible. »
Importantly, Helm doesn’t scan the content of your emails for advertising purposes. According to the company, the entire device and service is designed with privacy in mind.
« From state-of-the-art encryption to secure checkout processes, everything we do is designed to know as little about you as possible, » explains Helm.
The Helm ships with 128GB of storage — significantly more than a free Gmail account offers — and gives you the option to add an additional 5TB of storage at a later date via a slide-in tray. If you want to go really bonkers, you can even stack entire « expansion units » for additional storage and performance.
In other words, this thing is designed to last.
The Set Up
Getting your Helm up and running is straightforward — well, as straightforward as setting up an email server could ever possibly be.
The first step is to take the thing out of the box and plug it into a power outlet (my review unit looks quite nice on a shelf next to my records). You can either plug the Helm directly into your router with the included ethernet cable — which Helm recommends — or later use your wireless network to get things up and running. I went with the direct plugin, but knowing that if I wanted to I could set it up at a physical distance from my router was a comfort.
Next, download the Helm app (available on both the App Store and Google Play) on your smartphone and make sure your phone’s Bluetooth is turned on. As soon as the Helm’s power button starts blinking, which it should do shortly after you plug it in, you’re ready to launch the app.
Working your way through the setup app is quick, and with the activation code that comes with your purchase you can send and receiving emails shortly after unboxing. You’ll want to take a moment to « warm-up your email, » however, to ensure that the Gmail and Outlook filters of the world don’t mistake your digital missives for spam.
The Helm’s plug-and-play simplicity means that even a less-than-tech-literature individual can get things up and running in no time. Which is great. Privacy shouldn’t be limited to those with specialized technical capabilities.
You would be forgiven for pointing out the obvious fact that storing all your emails in a physical device on your desk could, well, backfire. What if, heaven forbid, your house burned down or was burglarized?
Thankfully, Helm has your data covered. The $99 annual subscription fee (at the time of this writing, the first year is offered free of charge) doesn’t just ensure your emails are sent and a domain registration. It also protects your data with an offsite encrypted backup.
« Encryption keys are created on each Helm Personal Server and are only accessible to you, » explains the company. « Keys for encrypting backups are stored on an included USB drive and your phone. »
As long as you have the encryption key, you can restore your data to a new Helm in case of a device-destroying mishap.
Helm says it takes the security of your email seriously. After all, what’s the point of having a private email server if any hacker who feels like it can take a peek at your data?
« Your device includes full-disk encryption, secure boot, and encrypted backups, » explains the company. « Each Helm uses certificates from the Let’s Encrypt Project to secure connections to and from your custom domain. »
The company promises it will also push all the necessary security updates to your device. And, as an extra bonus, Helm is asking for help from the larger infosec community.
« We hire hackers to try to break into our product and will soon announce a bug bounty—a cash reward—to anybody who’s able to detect vulnerabilities in the device, » notes Helm.
Sure, nothing online is unhackable, and if you are really concerned about being specifically targeted by cybercriminals than something like Google Advanced Protection Program might be for you. However, if you’re just an average Joe attempting to slow the constant erosion of your privacy then the Helm is worth a look.
The Helm does many things right, both philosophically and technically. The practically plug-and-play email server makes it not only possible, but relatively easy, to take back control of your email — and, by extension, your digital life — in a real way. The $299 cost and annual subscription fee, while nothing to sneeze at, comes across as reasonable when you look at everything that comes with it.
With large data breaches becoming a more common part of everyday life, and trust in major tech companies like Facebook declining, Helm could not have chosen a better time to release an easy-to-use private email server. If you’re ever find yourself thinking that it’s past time you take back control of your data, Helm might just be the right place to start.
via Mashable http://bit.ly/2GeRt6L
January 23, 2019 at 08:35PM