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Secure email is dead

Paul F Roberts | Sept. 3, 2013
Don't believe the hype (or Kim Dotcom). Secure email is dead - a victim of the surveillance state.

True, in the wake of Lavabit and SilentMail going dark, others have stepped forward. The inimitable Kim Dotcom declared his intention to step into the void with a new secure email service using his Mega platform. Another alternative, Mailpile quickly surpassed their $100,000 fundraising goal on the crowdsourcing web site Indiegogo. And its also true, so far, there's no evidence that the FBI or any other arm of the U.S. government tried to compel Lavabit or Silent Circle to break the law.

Still, Levison's decision and that of Silent Circle to obliterate their secure email services rather than take their chances with the U.S. government sends a powerful message. What is that message? Simply: times have changed. E-mail — wonderful as it is — can't and shouldn't be trusted, even if its encrypted six ways to Sunday and stored in a cloud-hosted server on the Island of Togo.  

Simply put: the days of secure e-mail are over. The medium is a marvel of the modern world and amazingly useful. It's just that its no longer appropriate for any communication you don't want read by a federal agent, intelligence officer or any of the myriad federal contractors (like Edward Snowden) working in their stead.

"This idea that you can put your servers or service on some remote island with a volcano, and you will be 'out of reach' of the world's governments —is ridiculous," said Janke of SilentCircle. "It has never worked. Ask Kim Dotcom or the swiss bank UBS. If you hold the data, they can get it."


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