Lavabit Founder Developing New Email Encryption Tool to Keep Government Out
After shutting down their email services amid concerns about government surveillance, two companies are partnering up to launch a secure-messaging tool, one that will stop prying eyes from viewing private information.
Ladar Levison, the founder of Lavabit, the email provider Edward Snowden used, is teaming up with encrypted-communication firm Silent Circle to launch Dark Mail, an alliance focused on providing open-sourced peer-to-peer email with end-to-end encryption.
The major difference between Dark Mail's approach and that of traditional email services is who holds these encrypted, or SSL, keys. Typically, the responsibility has always been on the email provider but Dark Mail wants to change that. Instead, the alliance is hoping to develop email add-ons where users, not providers, will be assigned private encryption keys that will be on put on personal computers or mobile devices.
This shift will allow for email-service providers to be protected from government agencies, because if they ask for records or data, the company will have no usable data to handover.
Besides providing a secure-communication tool for Dark Mail users, the founders plan on allowing for the service to be used in conjunction with other email providers, like Gmail. The company envisions utilizing a stoplight interface to determine if the email is being sent over unencrypted or encrypted channels. So if a message goes between two Dark Mail users, a green light will appear. But if the message is between a Dark Mail user and a Gmail user, a red light will appear.
While many people will be cheering for more privacy, in order for the technology behind Dark Mail Alliance to scale, it needs to get other service providers on board and integrate the technology. But providers may be hesitant to join, as they not only may anger government officials but also provide an ultra-secure setting for criminals to communicate.
The service will officially launch in 2014 and Dark Mail Alliance hopes at least 20 providers will have joined the group by then, according to tech-blog site The Verge. The organization does plan on charging for the email service but the actual code will be free for businesses to use.
Related: Another Site Shuts Down on Government Surveillance Fears
This new endeavor comes after Levison shut down Lavabit after receiving a search warrant from the federal government this past summer to hand over the encryption keys so the agency could gain access to all web traffic, including Snowden's activities.
Even though the government wasn't pursuing Silent Circle, the company followed suit and shut down its secure-email platform Silent Mail.
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