Science & Tech
Dotcom's Mega plans 'cutting edge' encrypted email after Lavabit shutdown
Kim Dotcom's Mega.co.nz has announced that it is working to develop a highly-secure email service that will run on non-US-based server networks. The announcement comes soon after new evidence from the recent shutdown of Lavabit and Silent Circle that the US government is putting pressure on secure service providers.
Last week, Lavabit, known to provide NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden [Unlink] email service, closed. Ladar Levison, owner of Lavabit, said the company was shutting down because it did not want to be "complicit in crimes against the American people."
Silent Circle's Jon Callas also posted a blog, after the Lavabit shutdown, announcing shutdown of its Silent Mail service.
Mega is 'making true crypto work for the masses'
Mega's CEO, Vikram Kumar, told ZDNet that following the closure of secure email service providers such as Lavabit and Silent Circle, the company was responding to requests from its customers to provide secure email and voice services.
He said the company has already started work to design an end-to-end encryption service.
Kumar said, "... If all the server can see is encrypted text, as is the case with true end-to-end encryption, then all the functionality has to be built client side. [That's] not quite impossible, but very, very hard. That's why even Silent Circle didn't go there."
According to Kumar, the challenge for end-to-end encryption is managing emails to and from non-encrypted sources. He boasted that "There is probably no one in the world who takes the Mega approach of making true crypto work for the masses, our core proposition."
Speaking about the ongoing project to provide new "cutting edge" end-to-end encryption service for users, he promised, "Mega will never launch anything that undermines its end-to-end encryption core security proposition..."
ZDNet reports Kim Dotcom said that as part of efforts to guarantee user privacy, he may have to relocate his company's network out of New Zealand if the authorities in the country pass new stifling surveillance legislation.
He told TorrentFreak that the US government and its "Five Eyes partners," the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, are considering new legislation that will grant their intelligence services greater spying powers.
He assured users that Mega has never had access to the decryption keys of their customer's accounts and has no plans to do so.
Meanwhile, Lavabit's owner, Ladar Levison, commented on his experience, saying: "[It has] taught me one very important lesson: Without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would — strongly — recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States."
In a blog post, Mega's CEO, Vikram Kumar, in charge of the company's project to develop an end-to-end encryption technology, described Lavabit’s shutdown as an "act of privacy seppuku."
The term "seppuku" refers to Japanese samurai ritual suicide done to preserve a warrior's honor.
Kumar wrote: "These are acts of 'privacy seppuku' — honorably and publicly shutting down ('suicide') rather than being forced to comply with laws and courts intent on violating people's privacy."
The concept of "corporate seppuku," the "suicide" act of a company under pressure to compromise its ethical standards, originated with secure service providers such as Cryptocloud, who pledged commitment to resist government electronic surveillance and protect user’s data by choosing "corporate suicide" rather than be forced to comply with laws which violate user's privacy.
In a post to its message board, Cryptocloud defined “corporate seppuku,” with reference to privacy issues, as "shutting down a company rather than agreeing to become an extension of the massive, ever-expanding, secretive global surveillance network."
Privacy seppuku: Edward Snowden challenges 'Internet giants'
Edward Snowden has weighed in on the recent developments in an email to The Guardian, in which he challenged the "Internet giants" such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook, to join in the "seppuku" action to challenge the US government and NSA's widening electronic surveillance.
He wrote: "... our Internet titans must ask themselves why they aren't fighting for our interests the same way small businesses are. The defense they have offered to this point is that they were compelled by laws they do not agree with, but one day of downtime for the coalition of their services could achieve what a hundred Lavabits could not."