What the ProtonMail Hacker Attacks Mean for the Email World

by Victor Green
3 mins read

The past several days have been a veritable nightmare for the Swiss encrypted email service provider, ProtonMail. Amidst a constant and unrelenting Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, this company has quickly been educated in one of the harshest lessons found in the digital world: Secure practices and systems aren’t just a good idea, they are vital to the success of an organization. To learn more about this attack, as well as what this event means for the rest of the email service provider and marketing industries, let’s spend a few minutes looking into the particulars of the Armada Collective’s assault on the digital infrastructure of ProtonMail.

Recapping the Events of the Attack

As Jess Nelson of Media Post’s Email Marketing Daily blog explains, ProtonMail’s virtual nightmare began on the morning of Nov. 3rd. As part of a complete DDoS attack, the hacker group Armada Collective brought the services offered by this Swiss email provider to a grinding halt via a continuous barrage of bandwidth-sapping traffic, ultimately bringing the servers of this organization offline for nearly 24 hours.Throughout the attack the leaders of this illicit group demanded a ransom of 15 bitcoins – an amount of the purely digital currency that translates to roughly $6,000 USD. Unfortunately, despite paying this ransom in full, the ProtonMail servers are still offline as the attacks against this organization continue on unabated. In total, Andy Yen – CEO and found of ProtonMail – reports that this attack has caused lasting damage to the organization’s ISP and datacenter, thereby negatively affecting hundreds of companies and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

The Latest in a Long Line of Attacks

Perhaps even more disconcerting than this attack on an email service provider is the realization that it is the latest in a long line of nefarious dealings by the Armada Collective and other hacker groups. In their look at this troubling series of events, the Swiss Government’s Computer Emergency Response Team explains that many high profile targets in Switzerland and abroad have faced the threat of blackmail and extortion from the less than savory portions of the digital world in recent months.

Exploring the Ramifications of This Event

As the largest such attack in Switzerland, this breaking story is turning plenty of heads in the email service provider and marketing worlds – and for good reason. With the demand for constant, safe, and secure access to email services and inbox communications with customers standing at an all-time high, the notion that a group of dissents or digital extortionists can bring such a vital function to its figurative knees is quite troubling.Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that Nelson of Media Post goes a step further by surmising that such long-term and sustained attacks could be the result of highly organized or even state backed groups – and not just isolated pockets of wrongdoers like the members of Armada Collective. In other words, this could be one of the first politically motivated attacks within the global email industry.

Protecting Your Brand and Its Ability to Operate in the Inbox

Naturally, as a brand that’s just trying to connect with customers in the inbox, all of the fear and upheaval caused by the attack on ProtonMail can make you start second-guessing whether or not investing in this channel is really worth the risk. While there’s no denying that an attack against your preferred service provider can be a nightmare scenario, the truth of the matter is that these events are still rare, despite the notoriety generated by more recent examples.Truly effective email marketing operations and professional email services offer up the potential to create a lasting – and lucrative – bond with your target audience, all while incorporating infrastructure and systems that are not only capable of withstanding these attacks, but also able to keep your vital consumer and organizational data safe and secure.As you start dipping your toes into the world of email-related services, don’t be afraid to ask questions about the security features and worst-case scenario “fail-safes” implemented by the service provider in question. Not only can this conversation help reaffirm your confidence in the stability of this system, it can also ensure that you have a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the technology that facilitates and supports your operations in the inbox.At the end of the day, there’s no way to completely eradicate the threat of digital attacks like the ones committed against ProtonMail. However, with this enhanced understanding of the nature of these events, as well as the ability to pick a service provider that can protect your brand, there’s no reason why you have to live in fear of unnecessary downtime and security breaches as you reach out to your target audience via the power of email marketing.

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