Helm Wants You to Control Your Own Data Again

A new start-up company wants you to host your own (encrypted) email messages, pictures, videos, and more where everything is under your control, not something provided by a privacy-stealing corporation.

Do you use the Gmail or Yahoo or Hotmail email services? If so, a large corporation can access your private messages for any reason at all. Or for no reason at all. The same is true for your photos, videos, contacts list, and calendar.

Your most critical data (like emails, search history, passwords, photos, and videos) is stored on massive corporate servers outside your home. Increasingly, this leaves you vulnerable to hacks, companies profiting from your data and online behavior, and mass government surveillance.

Having this information available online is a great convenience. You just sign up for an account, and instantly access your data from anywhere on any device without having to know how the internet works, much less how to configure a server. In many cases, the services offer free accounts. However, you pay a very high price for these services in loss of privacy, if not in money.

“If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

Companies hold your data on their servers, which means it could get used in ways you don’t realize. If a company gets hacked, your data could be stolen regardless of what precautions you personally took. Helm wants to change all that.

Helm has announced a product that probably won’t be shipping for a while. In short, the product is a small server that installs in your home. It will include a mail server for all your email messages as well as file storage space for your documents, pictures, videos, contacts list, calendar, and anything else you wish to store and keep private. The device reportedly will include easy-to-use softare that will make using the Helm server as easy as using Gmail.

The Helm server is compatible with any email client that works with IMAP mail, including Apple Mail, Microsoft Outlook, and whole bunch of others. It will walk you through migrating your email from a cloud service like Gmail. You can also add family members with their own email addresses.

Once installed, the server and its contents will be accessible to you from anywhere in the world as long as you have an Internet connection. You can use a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone to access anything and everything on your personal server at home. Best of all, everything on the server is encrypted by using an encryption key that you create. Nobody else can access your information without your permission, not credit card thieves, not advertising companies, not Cambridge Analytica, and not government agents.

Unlike Hillary’s email server, you control everything in your server. You obtain the convenience of having everything available to you online all the time without giving the keys to your data to a faceless corporation. Hackers will be unable to access anything on your server.

“This is the first time that people will have an alternative to the existing way they live their lives online,” says Giri Sreenivas, co-founder and CEO of Helm, who previously worked on mobile security at companies like T-Mobile and the corporate security company Rapid7. “Our goal is to know as little about our customers as possible. When you profit off of people’s data and behaviors there are unintended consequences that are starting to come out more and more as a concern. So that’s not Helm’s business model. We don’t have access to your data.”

The Helm server costs a one-time fee of $499 US. After the first year of ownership, Helm owners pay a $99 annual subscription to maintain the service that covers software updates and bug fixes. The servers come with 128 gigabytes of onboard storage and will be expandable up to 5 terabytes which will be more than enough space to satisfy the needs of 99% of the private individuals who are the intended audience of this server.

The software in the server takes care of the IP address, configuring reverse DNS, configuring NAT translation, and all other things required of running a mail and web server.

The encryption key to the server is an actual hardware key that’s included in the box. It connects to the USB-C port that’s beneath a small removable cover on the top.The server automatically encrypts your email so even if someone gets physical access, they can’t access to your server without the key. The server will also create a backup key that you can keep on your phone. What if you lose your key and your phone? Helm will offer the ability to create multiple keys, on other devices.

Helm has begun accepting orders at https://thehelm.com.

For more information about the Helm in-home server, go to the same address: https://thehelm.com.

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