Lavabit is back. On Inauguration Day, Lavabit relaunched their service.
On January 20th, Lavabit announced on their website, this day was a symbolic day for the company. Since January 20th was a symbolic day for Lavabit, Ladar Levision, the company’s owner and operator, decided to relaunch the company.
“In August 2013, I was forced to make a difficult decision: violate the rights of the American people and my global customers or shut down,” Levison said. “I chose Freedom. Much has changed since my decision, but unfortunately much has not in our post-Snowden world. Email continues to be the heart of our cyber-identities, but as evidenced by recent jaw-dropping headlines it remains insecure, unreliable, and easily readable by an attacker.”
“Today, we start a new freedom journey and inaugurate the next-generation of email privacy and security,” Levison added.
Lavabit plans to release DIME, also known as Dark Internet Mail Environment. DIME is a new type of encrypted email service. In addition to launching an encrypted email service, Lavabit will release Magma, an open source and free mail server. Together, Lavabit hopes to provide several layers of e-mail security. In addition, Levison calls the new product “radically different from any other encrypted platform, solving security problems others neglect.” The company also asserts that the new email encryption service is secure on both ends providing users a way to send encrypted emails.
At the moment, Lavabit is pre-registering new users and the products and services are 50% off. The standard package has 5 GB and costs $15 per year. The Premier package is 20 GB and costs $30 per year.
How does DIME work?
The company explains that DIME is a secure communications platform that uses PGP based encryption. “By encrypting all facets of an email transmission (body, metadata and transport layer), DIME guarantees the security of users and the least amount of information leakage possible.” In addition, there are several types of encrypted email service including Trustful, Cautious and Paranoid mode.
What is Lavabit?
Lavabit first launched in 2004. However, nine years later on August 8, 2013 the U.S. government ordered the company to turn over their private SSL keys in order to obtain Edward Snowden’s email account information.
The company first launched after the company’s owner reported privacy issues with Gmail, Google’s popular email service. At the time, Google was able to scan the content of a gmail user’s email in order to present targeted advertising. In order to increase privacy protection Lavabit offered encryption services. The company specifically used asymmetric encryption. A type of encryption that requires two different keys. One key encrypts a message and another key has the ability to decrypt the message. By August 2013, the company had over 400,000 users.
Lavabit’s association with Edward Snowden
By July 2013 Lavabit was in the middle of a media circus. It was revealed that Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked confidential information to the public before escaping to Russia used Lavabit’s email service.
Edward Snowden made international headlines after leaking information revealing several surveillance programs that showed cooperation between telecommunication companies, European governments and the NSA.
The federal government would later charge Edward Snowden with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 along with theft of government property. Two days later, Snowden traveled to Moscow, Russia. Since then, Edward Snowden has lived in an undisclosed location in Russia after obtaining asylum.
However, it was after using the email address email@example.com Snowden was able to hold a press conference at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, Russia. That is when Lavabit and the company’s owner Ladar Levison’s problems started.
Lavabit (temporary) Shutdown
In July 2013 the federal government obtained a search warrant demanding that Lavabit reveal the SSL keys used to encrypt the email service. By August 2013, Lavabit shut down their operations. Levison later explained he was under a gag order. In turn, he was unable to explain why the service had ended. According to an NBC news report, Levison explained that it was a “difficult decision” to shut down Lavabit. Levison argued that he did not want “to become complicit in crimes against the American people.”
Following the Edward Snowden controversy another email encryption company shut down. Silent Circle announced that they would also shut down after the company reported being able to “see the writing on the wall”.
In 2017, Lavabit explains that they suspended their service to protect their customers. Levison argued their decision to suspend their service came after the federal government ordered them to release their private keys. “We said NO to protect your digital privacy and freedom. We have and always will protect you.”