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Sentinel is a brilliant Proton Pass security feature I hope I never have to think about again

Published Dec 4th, 2023 2:27PM EST
Proton Family Plan offers access to five end-to-end encrypted apps: Mail, Calendar, Drive, VPN, and Pass.
Image: Proton

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Privacy and security are the features that matter the most to me, whether we’re talking hardware or software. I want devices and services that can protect my data, especially sensitive information like usernames and passwords. That’s why end-to-end encrypted devices like the iPhone and the Mac, and end-to-end encrypted software like iMessage, WhatsApp, 1Password, and Proton Pass appeal to me. Each one guards various aspects of my digital life, with the last two options being the password managers I’ve been using for the better part of the past year.

Proton Pass is the latest addition to Proton’s growing suite of end-to-end encrypted products. The Swiss software company started with Proton Mail and now offers Calendar, VPN, Drive, and Pass.

This brings me to Proton Sentinel, a brand-new security feature from the company that I hope I’ll never have to use. That’s because I hope hackers won’t try to breach my Proton accounts, which could expose my passwords. Sentinel will hopefully help block such access through a combination of AI and human monitoring of account activity.

Who is Proton Pass for?

Like most internet users, I have hundreds of accounts for online services and apps. I use password managers like 1Password and Proton Pass because I have unique passwords for each of those logins. They’re long passwords I don’t remember because I never try. It’s the password manager apps that do that for me. And they log me in every time I need it with a single click.

The problem here is obvious. If anybody gets access to the passwords that protect the password managers, the only passwords I have to remember, I’m in trouble.

That’s where Proton Sentinel comes in. Announced a few months ago, the security program runs in the background, unbeknown to users. With the help of AI, teams of Proton employees around the world will help block access to account takeover that can happen once someone gets access to your Proton password. That can happen through a phishing campaign. Or if you recycle passwords.

Proton acknowledges that the program might not be for everyone, as Sentinel had a different scope originally. It was designed to protect users most at risk of being targets of cyberattacks. Think politicians, journalists, activists, and other similar targets. But Sentinel is now available to anyone seeking extra protection.

Proton Sentinel's security dashboard will show all account access.
Proton Sentinel’s security dashboard will show all account access. Image source: Proton

How to enable Proton Sentinel

Proton said in a blog post that the Sentinel system can block an attacker from accessing your data even if they steal your Proton Account username and password. Put differently, the attacker won’t get access to your passwords in Proton Pass, your email, or Proton Drive content if Proton Sentinel works.

The company says it blocked over 3,000 account takeover attacks since August when Sentinel came online.

The service is available to the premium versions of the Proton Account and Proton Pass Plus. Therefore, you’d have to be a paid subscriber to Proton Pass Plus to activate Sentinel. That’s also an important detail: Sentinel isn’t active by default in your account. You’ll want to head to your account, check the Security and Privacy section, and toggle on the Enable Proton Sentinel option.

What happens once you activate the advanced security feature

Here’s what happens once you activate Sentinel on your Proton account:

  • Our automated systems perform continuous monitoring, increasing the likelihood of detecting suspicious login attempts.
  • Sentinel immediately escalates any suspicious events to our team of security analysts, who evaluate the assessments generated by our automated systems.
  • Sentinel automatically blocks suspicious login attempts or issue challenges, even if the attacker has somehow managed to obtain the correct credentials.
  • Proton Sentinel provides an advanced dashboard where you can see all security events on your account and the actions it has taken.
  • If you activate Proton Sentinel, your support requests concerning account security are also automatically escalated to our specialized security professionals.

Once you have Proton Sentinel active, you should be prepared to be challenged during logins. You’ll also want to have two-factor authentication before you turn on Sentinel.

Those challenges will hopefully be the only sign that Sentinel is working for you. Well, that and the dashboard that will provide additional information about your account access.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.