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Privacy Communications Encryption

Silent Circle, Lavabit Unite For 'Dark Mail' Encrypted Email Project 195

angry tapir writes "Two privacy-focused email providers have launched the Dark Mail Alliance, a project to engineer an email system with robust defenses against spying. Silent Circle and Lavabit abruptly halted their encrypted email services in August, saying they could no longer guarantee email would remain private after court actions against Lavabit, reportedly an email provider for NSA leaker Edward Snowden."
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Silent Circle, Lavabit Unite For 'Dark Mail' Encrypted Email Project

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  • by Defenestrar ( 1773808 ) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @09:06AM (#45289651)
    It's been around for what, 40 years? Working, (relatively) anonymous, and totally insecure mail transfer with tons of inertia. Never thought I'd see the day where there might be a small sliver of opportunity for another protocol to actually happen. Ars has a nice article [] about it too.
    • Thanks Snowden (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jakosa ( 667951 ) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @09:31AM (#45289805)
      When I first saw the Snowden-film from Hong Kong I thought: "damn! he has forfeited his life and nobody will care. And now this! Not only has he shaken the political world-society, he has also aroused the tech-world and made it possible to make some major changes. Hope I will be running this new protocol by next year and be able to send super-secret Christmas-cards to the select few who is also using it!
    • by wmac1 ( 2478314 )

      I wish they would also do something fundamental about spam problem. But that would possibly means unique id for senders which would ruin anonymity.

    • by mlts ( 1038732 ) *

      What I fear is that we trade in a protocol at sort of works for one that is patent encumbered or has some unknown issues in it.

    • by Gerzel ( 240421 )

      And it won't go anywhere at least as they are selling it now. Darkmail? Protect against the NSA? To get widespread adoption you have to sell this as security and as an upgrade not as armor or defense. You have to make Grandma an Grandpa want to have it to help stop what to there minds are hackers and spammers.

  • Called it (Score:2, Informative)

    I believe it was 2 days ago that I mentioned Lavabit would start a new project with self-signed or otherwise decentralized peer to peer encrypted e-mail with their newfound publicity. Tada, here it is.
  • by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @09:12AM (#45289701) Homepage Journal
    This one with security/encryption built in from the ground up this time. Would be more interesting that instead of the comments of Microsoft (with deep [] ties [] with the NSA), yahoo and google (both may not be very happy with the NSA, but still must give them their users accounts info by law) the article focused on comments from people from i.e. the IETF for implementing it as an standard in a more worldwide (even personal) way.
    • It will have to be easy to use by anyone or else it will be just a case of "geek speeking only unto geek" and be no better than geek to geek via PGP over Gmail as things stand toay.
      • by gmuslera ( 3436 )
        If is standard and interception proof will be the required "mail" protocol in a lot of governments, organizations and companies. If the first implementation is not easy enough to use it will be shortly improved.
    • Would be more interesting that instead of the comments of Microsoft (with deep ties with the NSA), yahoo and google (both may not be very happy with the NSA, but still must give them their users accounts info by law) the article focused on comments from people from i.e. the IETF for implementing it as an standard in a more worldwide (even personal) way.

      Congrats: your sentence is thoroughly encrypted!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 31, 2013 @09:17AM (#45289727)

    The whole paradigm of certificate trust, and the fact that you just have to trust Root CAs, is a farcical model of security.

    We should all be aware by now that the Root CAs we all know and trust are compromised by NSA and that they can MITM any SSL connection they want at any time.

    Until we can move beyond this whole third party certificate trust issue, there will never, EVER be truly secure email.

    • by DrXym ( 126579 )
      It's too bad http doesn't dump CAs as well, or rather the rigid model that is adopted now. It's basically a tax on security and clearly many sites choose to have no encryption at all rather than pay this tax. So any site should be able to present an unsigned key to a browser and and instantly benefit from encryption. The browser shouldn't object to this either (unless the site used to present a signed cert) since it is still better than plain text even if it permits man in the middle attacks.

      And if a site

      • by heypete ( 60671 ) <> on Thursday October 31, 2013 @10:31AM (#45290303) Homepage

        StartSSL [] offers free-of-charge domain-validated certificates that are widely trusted. Other CAs like GoDaddy and Comodo offer (often through resellers) domain-validated certs that cost less than $20/year. Thawte DV certs from resellers cost about $30/year. The cost (or lack thereof) for such certs is probably the least important reason why people aren't using HTTPS more.

        EV certs are well within the budget for even small businesses, and usually cost around $150/year. Again, hardly unreasonable.

        It'd be nice to see more hosting companies implement Server Name Indication (SNI) so that clients can implement SSL/TLS without needing to waste a dedicated IP address. This really should be the default.

        • by DrXym ( 126579 )
          I don't give a damn that you someone jump through hoops to get a cert for free or even a fee. Why the fuck should I have to ask somebody else for a cert at all?

          It's a tax on security. I should be able to roll my own cert and at least benefit from crypto. If the nature of my business demands I sign the key I should be able to decide if I want to pay a notary / CA for a signature, or just get all my business contacts to sign it for me.

          What I shouldn't have to do is what the current model requires. It's on

    • by Bob9113 ( 14996 )

      We should all be aware by now that the Root CAs we all know and trust are compromised by NSA and that they can MITM any SSL connection they want at any time.

      Bear in mind that the CAs do not have copies of the private keys. When you have a CA sign your cert, you do not send them the private key that you generate. So the CAs cannot give your private key to the NSA to facilitate an MITM attack.

      It is possible for them to generate a phoney cert to which they do have the private key, and they could give that priv

      • I like the concepts used by LastPass and SpiderOak (assuming they're not lying their asses off...) for cloud storage. You choose your password. It gets hashed once, and that hash becomes your encryption key for AES or Triple-DES or some other symmetric encryption of your data. The encrypted data is uploaded to their servers, but never the encryption key. That encryption key gets concatenated with your password again, and hashed again, and that second hash becomes your authentication token for their res
  • Looks SCIMP does not prevent an attacker from seeing when, to/from whom, and how much is beeing sent. I2P-Bote seems a lot better.
  • by imatter ( 2749965 ) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @09:45AM (#45289885)

    SCIMP provides strong encryption, perfect forward secrecy and message authentication.Further, we have incorporated many NIST-approved methods and protocols into its design including:

    • Elliptic Curve Diffie–Hellman (ECDH), NIST 800-56A
    • Counter with CBC-MAC (CCM), NIST 800-38C
    • Key Derivation, NIST 800-108
    • Secure Hash Standard, FIPS 180-4
    • Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), FIPS 197

    Does anyone else see a problem with with the wording "NIST-approved methods and protocols?" NIST/NSA []

    • I do. 99% of all people have a seriously misguided concept of trust. Companies and citizens alike cannot maintain an allegiance to any person because they must bend to the will of law enforcement (notice I did not say 'law') and judicial commands (yes, it actually says "commands" in a subpoena).

      If law enforcement officers successfully beg a judge, they can order any person or company to do anything they want (like spying on you, becoming an agent of the state). It's as simple as that. Do -not- trust

    • Remember that NIST standards and protocols are typically the same one the US requires for it's own use. What your proposing is either that the US would use known bad protocols for it's own use or would be making an epic scale security through obscurity blunder. You can't have a back door that only works for you, if it's in there any given foreign agency could discover it and use it. That simply doesn't pass the sniff test or Occam's razor.

      What does concern me with the proposed standard is that they want to

  • Why call it Dark-Mail? Grandma should be able to use... Dark Mail? Like she was a Sith-lord. What about PBP Pretty Better Privacy?
  • by eer ( 526805 ) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @09:59AM (#45290013)

    In other news, open source community takes another swing at Privacy Enhanced Mail, but this time with no trust anchor ...

    I'm still not convinced that anonymity and accountability can coexist. At the very least, they need their servers to be accountable for the anonymity assurances given to their users.

  • Why DarkMail? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jotaeleemeese ( 303437 ) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @10:31AM (#45290295) Homepage Journal

    Many outlets in the right wing media will have a field day with the name alone.

    If one is going to try to occupy the moral high ground the choice of language really matters: you are framing the debate by how you word every single relevant item related to a given project, and which item will have greater visibility than the very name of your project?

    By using such a name they are serving in a silver plate the opportunity to malicious, uninformed and naive commentators to badmouth whatever they come up with and that before having put forward a single detailed sentence about the proposal.

    DarkMail may sound cool, but from the start is eliciting all the wrong kind of associations, I am sure many parties in the field could be interested to join such an effort, but the DarkMail name alone may put some people off.

    The name really should be changed, these battles are difficult as it is, people shouldn't make it unnecessarily harder than it is going to be.

    Let me put an example, lets compare these 2 headlines:

    "Terrorists confess to using DarkMail"
    "Terrorists confess to using PrivateMail"

    Look, at the end I know it is the same thing, but while a headline would push many to say "yeah, tell me something new" the other may elicit comments of the kind of "What? That is what I use to email my bank"

    I really think that name ought to go.

    • by Teckla ( 630646 )
      Maybe the DarkMail folks will create some cool icons, mascots, advertisements, etc. and label them all "Made in the GIMP."
    • by Monoman ( 8745 )

      You are spot on. However, are we really surprised that folks who previously used names like Lavabit & SilentCircle understand marketing?

    • by G00F ( 241765 )

      I agree, darkmail makes it sound bad at the start.

      But I would go a step further, call it SMTPv2 (if changes to SMTP) or Mail 2.0, or webmail 2.0. A name that has no scariness in it. (other than playing off of web 2.0 crap) It will just sound like the logical next step and doesn't imply anything that the media can take as bad.

  • by shellster_dude ( 1261444 ) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @12:03PM (#45291195)
    Bitmessage: P2P, encrypted, anonymous. The project is pretty new, but other than a couple scalability issues, I think this project has major potential. []
  • It's a good concept, but it is based in the US, which means that a) it'll run into the same issues again and b) nobody outside and few inside the US will trust it.

    What they need are partners in other jurisdictions. At least one in Europe and one in Asia. A carefully designed corporate structure can delay any legal attacks for long enough for at least one of the nodes to inform its users and shift them towards a node not under attack.

    Why do we geeks always think the solution must be technical? Social and leg

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor