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After Lavabit Shut-Down, Dotcom's Mega Promises Secure Mail

timothy posted about a year ago | from the why-can't-he-and-mcafee-have-a-reality-show? dept.

Communications 158

Lavabit may no longer be an option, but recent events have driven interest in email and other ways to communicate without exposing quite so much, quite so fast, to organizations like the NSA (and DEA, and other agencies). Kim Dotcom as usual enjoys filling the spotlight, when it comes to shuttling bits around in ways that don't please the U.S. government, and Dotcom's privacy-oriented Mega has disclosed plans to serve as an email provider with an emphasis on encryption. ZDNet features an interview with Mega's CEO Vikram Kumar about the complications of keeping email relatively secure; it's not so much the encryption itself, as keeping bits encrypted while still providing the kind of features that users have come to expect from modern webmail providers like Gmail: "'The biggest tech hurdle is providing email functionality that people expect, such as searching emails, that are trivial to provide if emails are stored in plain text (or available in plain text) on the server side,' 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.'"

cancel ×

158 comments

New Plan (-1, Troll)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about a year ago | (#44535243)

Send emails through USPS!

Using modern technology we can print an email, put it in an encapsulation method that's called an envelope, attach an easy to use header "stamp" protocol, and drop it off at any USPS "mailbox" upload hotspot.

The latency is really bad, but at least your information will be secure!

Re:New Plan (3, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44535249)

The latency is really bad, but at least your information will be secure!

Heh heh, secure. Heh.

Re:New Plan (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#44535369)

Actually, there's a product in there.

Envelopes for the paranoid. Made of extra-thick paper, with an aluminium foil lining. Each pack comes with very, very thin stickers bearing a pack-unique printing that can be placed over the seal, making it impossible to open the envelope without tearing.

Re:New Plan (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44535427)

Or you could go to DEFCON and learn how to remove tamper seals without leaving traces. :)

I DO suspect there's a product in there, but it's a lot more complex than that

Re:New Plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535461)

Or you could go to DEFCON and learn how to remove tamper seals without leaving traces. :)

I DO suspect there's a product in there, but it's a lot more complex than that

Use the old method of a wax seal. 100% tamper proof.

Re:New Plan (3, Informative)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#44535547)

Not at all.

1. Press soft clay up to the seal to get an impression..
2. Open envelope, read, close.
3. Fire clay. Smooth it down a little carefully.
4. Melt wax, apply clay stamp.

Re:New Plan (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#44535551)

Oh, it doesn't have to actually work. So long as the suckers believe it will work, and will fork over money for it. Because really, the government isn't going to care what the typical conspiracy-theorist paranoid is writing to his friends about.

Re:New Plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535755)

Oh, it doesn't have to actually work. So long as the suckers believe it will work, and will fork over money for it. Because really, the government isn't going to care what the typical conspiracy-theorist paranoid is writing to his friends about.

Which is amusing, because this is what the government believes too.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, as you know we are reading everything everywhere ever, so we have absolute proof this person is guilty but we can't show you the proof because national security

Re:New Plan (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about a year ago | (#44535439)

This only works if the recipient knows you are sending it in your special high security envelop. If not dear old Uncle Sam can open the letter read it, and put it back in a regular secure envelope to send on to the recipient.

Re:New Plan (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535493)

No, it works. Uncle Sam can't read it. You just print your document, then scan it on a Xerox printer/scanner like the Workcenter 7335. http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/08/confused-photocopiers-randomly-rewriting-scanned-documents/ [arstechnica.com] . If your document is carefully crafted, your message will be obfuscated by the scanner. Print and send that. The receiving party must then send it through another Xerox to get your actual message back.

Re:New Plan (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535519)

Because only you and the recipient have Xerox machines.

Re:New Plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535403)

You know you can send ciphertext in well you know, paper text format? ;) If you are going the physical route with encryption, one time pads become increasingly more appealing and if done correctly(no pad reuse etc) is truly secure.

Re:New Plan (1)

kwark (512736) | about a year ago | (#44535255)

How does searching work for this kind of tranport/storage?

Re: New Plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535857)

I would assume the decryption would be performed on login. The data would likely be stored locally in a format like JSON and you would use js to apply your searching algorithm. The locally stored files (temp) would have to be removed at the end of the login session.

Re:New Plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44536079)

I'll tell you how I plan to solve it with my solution: fumail.me
I will use a local dictionary to match subjects/nouns in the email, hash it using md5, then when a user goes to search, hash the same words they type in again and compare against the database of hashes.

Re: New Plan (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535261)

I think you need a new new plan

http://news.yahoo.com/ap-interview-usps-takes-photos-mail-072949079.html

Re: New Plan (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | about a year ago | (#44535355)

I think you need a new new plan

http://news.yahoo.com/ap-interview-usps-takes-photos-mail-072949079.html

(selectively) Quoting the article:

...the photos of the exterior of mail pieces are used primarily for the sorting process..

See, that's just _metadata_. No worries.

Re:New Plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535267)

Mail sorting equipment will take photographs of every letter that is passed through there system.

Re:New Plan (3, Interesting)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44536017)

Only the outside of the envelope. They can't see contents unless they open the envelope, which requires a warrant. They can't retroactively open your letter once it has been delivered. If you want to encrypt the contents, you can do that too, but you can't encrypt the routing information.

With encrypted email, the header is unencrypted because it's needed for routing, so the government can record every entire message that passes through a cooperating server. With encrypted email, you could copy every message that passes through a server and decide later which ones you want to try and decrypt.

If you want to add real anonymity, you can use anonymous email accounts. But that's thin security. A government really interested in who's getting and sending anonymous emails can figure it out by tracing packet routing.

For harder-to-crack anonymity, you can upload encrypted files anonymously to a server and download all the messages periodically. Whichever ones you can decrypt with your keys are addressed to you. It's very inefficient, but there's no way to figure out who got your messages without either seizing your computer or hacking it. They can still identify who sent it and what set or receivers might have gotten it by tracing packets.

Re:New Plan (1)

modecx (130548) | about a year ago | (#44536165)

Thing is, they aren't too interested in the contents of the envelope at all, at least until you're a person of interest. What they really want is use all that juicy metadata (outside of the envelope, i.e. headers) to establish ties between everyone.

Re:New Plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535335)

We already know they are storing all senders and receivers for traffic analysis there too.

The best thing to do is replace email with posting encrypted messages on Usenet.

Re:New Plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535471)

Just don't put the correct returtn address on the envelope!

I forsee a large rise in the use of M Mouse, Disneyworld, Florida as the return address.

Of course, the truly devious would make the return address the message itself.
A code that is in plain sight and virtually unbreakable.

Re:New Plan (0)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#44535559)

Uhhh...dude? yeah kinda hate to be the bearer of bad news and all but they don't even have to do the old "steam the letter open" trick anymore, not with envelopes being so...well paper thin now and with multispectral scanners being so good.

So unless you are hand delivering the email i really don't think your way is gonna be any kind of improvement, hell if USPS wanted they could go "Whoops, don't know where that went" as after all it wouldn't be the first time it was lost in transmission.

Re:New Plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535589)

Your uncle sam scans both sides of the envelope capturing the metadata!

Old Plan (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about a year ago | (#44535707)

By court order your mail can be opened and read. It can also be read after opening when you get hit with a search warrant.

Email is (mostly) dead... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535879)

There is indeed something to consider here, a secure email service is (mostly) stupid: The casual conversation with your friends has moved to social networking or other chat clients, (almost) no one uses email for that kind of communication today. At companies you could not use the Mega email for obvious reasons. There you would use GPG/PGP here when it makes sense and host on your companies servers. If you take part in discussions on mailing lists encryption is unnecessary too. The few occasions where you still need email today isn't that special that you would move it to Kim Dotcom.

Email is great for business, but then it is handled by your company. Apart from that, email usage continues to drop as it is replaced by other services. Of course this isn't true for everyone, but it is true for anyone who doesn't care about secure email. Everyone who really cares would not use 'just another service provider'.

Kumar? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535259)

Kumar? Are him and Harold gonna get baked and go to White Castle?

Re:Kumar? (1)

jonwil (467024) | about a year ago | (#44535569)

No but I bet the US feds would love to see all those involved with mega sent to Guantanamo Bay :)

Re:Kumar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535585)

As would I. Kim Lardass being gangbanged in prison would be funny as shit.

Re:Kumar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44536113)

Not as funny as the same happening to you, you smug ass sad sack.

Links? (4, Informative)

chill (34294) | about a year ago | (#44535263)

Are those actual links, or just the <a> tags?

Re:Links? (2)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44535287)

Just empty anchors.

Re:Links? (5, Funny)

zm (257549) | about a year ago | (#44535329)

Just empty anchors.

The links in the story have been secured for your protection.

Re:Links? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44536101)

I use Fakeblock.

Re:Links? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44535535)

Drop them on the NSA's cables, and voila!

Just advertisment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535811)

This is just advertisement. Since the product isn't finished yet there is nothing to back this information, it seems necessary to keep them in the spotlight of weekly news even if it means creating a story without a story.

Article (4, Informative)

chill (34294) | about a year ago | (#44535273)

Re:Article (2)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about a year ago | (#44535697)

If you go to https://silentcircle.com/ [silentcircle.com] they shut it down "preemptively".

Yesterday, another secure email provider, Lavabit, shut down their system less they "be complicit in crimes against the American people." We see the writing on the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.

Why oh why? Are there no hosters outside the US?

Also, if they (e.g. Lavabit) give up, why don't they publish their hosting source code on e.g. github? Then others (Pirate Bay, Mega) can start from there, and set up servers in Iceland, Skandinavia, Hong Kong, ....

Re:Article (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about a year ago | (#44535761)

Having a service hosted in one country but with admins from another seems like the worst of both worlds since either the government of the country the admins reside in or the government of the country the servers reside in could attack things.

Re:Article (1)

vlueboy (1799360) | about a year ago | (#44536173)

Well in all the controversy and even our learning in the Trust No One mentality, we are looking four someone to trust.
That tells you something about humanity. And the fact that encryption its not just a game means we must trust someone our our work from scratch will be cracked by the experts we were up against. I for one believe some source would be good but four all we know NSA could honeypot anything as fair game, and post backdoored code on the domains we currently still trust, especially Silent Circle ( after NSL does force their hand)

Then the alternative is silly: pgp your own email, never use windows to avoid nsa backdoors that will compromise your priv key, expect to teach each contact how to use it.
Even without back doors the problem is network effect. If you cannot convince someone to do something dead easy like joining $BETTER_UNDERDOG_SOCIAL_NETWORK where there is no technical training for key gen process, then good luck with even the geek friends following you into trusted encryption land

As a cloud product manager... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535295)

I am thinking it is time to start a restaurant, ditch my smartphone and internet connection and crawl into a hole until 2+2=5.

Thanks for destroying the internet you neo-con proto-facists.

Meet the new boss, pawn of the same old bosses...

Re:As a cloud product manager... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535297)

Can I face fuck you and call you Sally?

Re:As a cloud product manager... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535605)

You can call me anything you like, as long as you don't call me late for dinner.

Re:As a cloud product manager... (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535561)

Going Galt then are we?

I symphathize and have thought much the same myself.

But I recommend you think first before adding one unwise decision on top of another.

A restaurant is one of the most common business to fail, and that's in a good economy. It's hard work to boot.

Plus now you have to deal with increasing taxes, Obamacare and on top of that you get to be on the top of the list of IRS targets.

http://rt.com/usa/irs-taxes-small-business-898/

Good luck. Maybe they'll let us bunk together at the re-education camps.

Re:As a cloud product manager... (1, Flamebait)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44536131)

A restaurant is one of the most common business to fail, and that's in a good economy. It's hard work to boot.

Plus now you have to deal with increasing taxes, Obamacare and on top of that you get to be on the top of the list of IRS targets.

http://rt.com/usa/irs-taxes-small-business-898/

>

Yeah, an industry-wide pattern of underreporting wages and tips will do that to you.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (4, Insightful)

Max_W (812974) | about a year ago | (#44535305)

The should be developed an international mechanism of verifications of the Article #12 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many countries have signed it. The should be international inspections of data centers, telephone companies, etc.

http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a12 [un.org]

Article 12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Re:The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1)

JanneM (7445) | about a year ago | (#44535385)

"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference "

Nothing arbitrary about the mass surveilance. It's all quite deliberate and systematic. Your rights are well protected.

The US ignores other countries' laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535397)

Oh, the rights exist already, it's just that the US and other nations are infringing on the rights of citizens of other countries. What does it matter if my country actually has these laws, when the US "invades" our local systems?

Re:The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year ago | (#44535409)

So what makes this declaration "Universal ?
Doesit apply on other planets or even all parts of this one?

Re:The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1)

Max_W (812974) | about a year ago | (#44535505)

Exactly. It means that it applies to all humans in the universe. Even if a human is in space, on an orbit, or at, say, a moon.

When I hear as the president says that the US citizens are not being snooped upon, I always think: "And what about us, who did not happen to be US citizens." Are we a too easy target?

We are also protected by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The USA has signed it by the way, the same as China, Russia, and many other countries.

Re:The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1)

Arker (91948) | about a year ago | (#44535587)

You are also "protected" by the US Constitution to the same degree. The Constitution talks about the rights of people, not of citizens. Unfortunately both documents are simply being treated as toilet paper by the people entrusted with their enforcement.

Re:The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#44535501)

Yeah, except none of those are followed by the majority of the countries that signed it.

Articles 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29 certainly do not apply to the USA.

Re: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535645)

All those numbers! You must be sending a coded message.

Re:The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44536149)

Snooping is not interference. You still get your messages. It's just that the government knows what you're doing. The US 4th Amendment is stronger, but it's ignored.

No worky (2)

SpaceMonkies (2868125) | about a year ago | (#44535321)

Ok I actually tried to read the article and those links don't work. A low day for Slashdot editors.

Check out the new Slashdot iPad app [apple.com]

Re:No worky (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535667)

Is that an official app? It's pretty crashy and junky.

Go Kim! You Magnificent Slimy Bastard... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535337)

I find this farcical, so the NSA is going to start playing whack-a-mole with a what will be in the near future, a plethora of alternative secure email providers. Ask the RIAA how well that works out.
AC.. because I can.

Will need better security than current (5, Informative)

Ricardo (43461) | about a year ago | (#44535361)

According to Security Now/Steve Gibson, the encryption/security on the MEGA file site is not very sound

https://www.grc.com/sn/sn-390.htm [grc.com] (search for "Java Crypto" to get about 3/4 way through the show) or listen to the podcast..

MEGA is well intentioned Im sure, but the Javascript code in MEGA does not cut it for serious security, and they need to dp waaay better for an email service.
Remember that ALL THE DATA is being retained now, so one crack in the system and there is a way in.

Air tight security is do-able, but needs to be serious - I wish Mega lots of luck.

Re:Will need better security than current (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535475)

dp = double penetration

Sounds about right, Kim Dotcom or the NSA. I trust them about the same.

Re:Will need better security than current (1)

Teckla (630646) | about a year ago | (#44535965)

search for "Java Crypto" to get about 3/4 way through the show

It's hard to tell if he's talking about Java or JavaScript -- he bounces between the two as if they're interchangeable, when they're not.

Re:Will need better security than current (1)

fnj (64210) | about a year ago | (#44536139)

Does that tell you anything about him?

We require a new encryption scheme (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535379)

The problem is that private key, in server solution, are available on the server. Even in Mega, the private key is located server side and the password/passphrase is supplied by the end user over SSL. So, the weakpoints are SSL and the domestic machine, as well as an intercept placed on a server at Mega.

What we require is a private key that a person hold, on a smartcard type arrangement. From this we derive a personal certificate authority and a public key. We issue certificates through our personal CA for particular roles and upload them to our provider. This then acts as our transport encryption, digital signatures, email encryption and so forth. The private key never enters the network and everyone has a unique encrypted layer, rather than a common SSL certificate.

Decryption is performed by streaming the contents through the smartcard. We can add additional factors to this authentication such as biometrics, pin, etc. In fact, the user should be able to determine the amount of factors, their order, etc. The decrypted output can either be sent back into the machine (if you feel it is secure), or forwarded to a secure offline machine.

We only need to make sure that this forwarding eliminates the possibility of an exploit and that means a limited stack that only provides certain features. Such as text and/or video.

There is no reason that a standard mobile phone could not have two physical portions, one connected to the web and another for secure comms.

Re:We require a new encryption scheme (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535435)

You seem to use a lot of big words you don't really seem to understand. You are just the type of person who is dangerous when they think they can design cryptosystems, but in reality cannot. The scary part is people fall for snake oil salesmen all the time.

Re:We require a new encryption scheme (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535521)

Seems to understand it perfectly.

Re:We require a new encryption scheme (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44535499)

..so we don't actually need a new encryption scheme, just a system to make using what exists feasible in normal communications.

Re:We require a new encryption scheme (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535583)

Hi AC. No reason except the phone is not controlled by you / is actively reporting on you / is remotely activated.
And the service providers and hardware vendors can be gotten at.
Maybe checksummed vm and trusted hardware with trusted binaries compiled by people you trust.
The point is being really secure means becoming a threat in the minds of some.

We have a major problem that any interesting communications terminal tends to be thick stack / consumer oriented / many ways they can be subverted. A highly trusted thinner stack, perhaps built of binaries from people you trust, might deliver some security.

But if you are willing to rethink the way we communicate and secure things, there are probably lots of other solutions.

For example here is one off the top of my head. It would be something (a device, or an autonomous agent you run somewhere) that can grab encrypted packets out of a torrent-like ongoing swarm from any IP endpoint, over any number of encrypted channels, and opt for asynchronous or seconds/minutes delay to reconstruct a stream. Email would become packets with a hashtag indicating recipient, perhaps with a TTL of a week, and you would require these ongoing streams to be replicated broadly like net news, perhaps as a terabyte archive replayed periodically. A big company or many zombies or proactive users would have to provide bandwidth and storage for a really secure system. Perhaps some serious money would need to go into providing enough bandwidth.. it would have to be a darknet funded by large organizations.
All this is not likely unless laws are made to enable and require it, like no taxes on resources used for secure communications because communications privacy is a required service for humanity or necessary to the economy. Current legal/political system would have problems with that in the U.S. although it might fly in Norway, Germany and it seems New Zealand...

There also might be possibilities in developing a completely flat system that depends on p2p (pc to pc) with no servers involved at all. However for anything of significant bandwith or latency requirements you will end up needing supernodes and these or any other node can be compromised.

While you're at it, a way to monitor whether you camera/mic are activated on any computer/phone/game machine you have is another thing you might consider.

Hope this aids your thinking.

Of course another possibility is not to use email. The head of lavabit think so.
Probably there are other things you could do, like https chat on the server of your recipient's machine, or do business in person.

Myself I just do everything in the open and stay away from things that might attract interest, since while I am not doing anything wrong it also nauseates me to think everything I do is being tracked and cross-indexed forever. We always knew we were being tracked, but now common citizens are in the middle of an all-out cyberwar where every country is trying to subvert everyone else's infrastructure. Even computer viruses are no longer from script kiddies they are built by national military. Trying to build secure communications over the public infrastructure is very hard and it sounds like a difficult proposition. The only hope I could see would be for open discussion and absolute transparency.

Re:We require a new encryption scheme (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | about a year ago | (#44535897)

For webmail, what would be wrong with: encrypt/decrypt via client side javascript, private key is stored in html5 storage thing, and is encrypted via user's password. The server never sees the user's private key, nor their password (authentication with server can happen via public/private keys (e.g. have the client digitally sign username/request, server can verify the signature, no need for passwords on the server).

Humor (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about a year ago | (#44535395)

Jabba Dotcom protecting us from the empire? Sign me up!

Searching on the client is hard? (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#44535445)

Don't all email clients do this?
Are those people so infatuated with web applications that they don't realize true applications do everything on the client?

Re:Searching on the client is hard? (1)

Entropius (188861) | about a year ago | (#44535495)

It seems so. I've talked to people that are shocked when I can get my email without internet access (alt-f2, "thunderbird")

Re:Searching on the client is hard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535571)

On the other hand, if you were obsessed with server-side search, is it really so impossible?

http://it.slashdot.org/story/13/05/02/175249/ibm-researchers-open-source-homomorphic-crypto-library

Anyway, I would not trust Mega with even my happy birthday messages. I don't think they can promise much of anything... they seem to be more interested in making martyrs of themselves. It's the 21st century way of sticking it to the man.

Re:Searching on the client is hard? (1)

munch117 (214551) | about a year ago | (#44535597)

Oh yes, they are completely infatuated with web apps.

The problem is, if you want to read mail on more than one platform - phone, tablet and PC - you need one or more of them to use a remote message store. Otherwise you can't see and search the mails received on one platform when you're on the other. Unless you sync all mails between devices, which is going to cost you in battery lifetime and possibly in mobile data bills.

Also, you don't really want to search email on a phone: That would be slow and run down your battery. It's more convenient to do on the server, using the phone as a thin client, but then the server needs access to the cleartext data.

That's all the answers I have. I can't tell you why people want to read email on phones, it seems crazy to stress yourself like that when you don't really have to, but apparently they do.

Re:Searching on the client is hard? (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#44535765)

The problem is, if you want to read mail on more than one platform - phone, tablet and PC - you need one or more of them to use a remote message store.

Both POP3 and IMAP are protocols to access a remote message store.
IMAP has more advanced features, like keeping track of what has been read and what hasn't.

which is going to cost you in battery lifetime and possibly in mobile data bills.

This is nothing compared to the average consumption of a smartphone like what the Facebook application requires.

Also, you don't really want to search email on a phone: That would be slow and run down your battery.

Yet all email clients on Android do this.

can't tell you why people want to read email on phones, it seems crazy to stress yourself like that when you don't really have to, but apparently they do.

Because emails contain important information, and you want to have it as early as possible even when you're on the move.

Warning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535479)

Re:Warning (3, Interesting)

iluvcapra (782887) | about a year ago | (#44535601)

Step 1: Kim Dotcom starts Mega Crypto, which is promptly adopted by the world's political dissidents and leakers.

Step 2: All pending government litigation against Mega suspiciously disappears and his assets are unfrozen.

The guy's accustomed to his ill-gotten gains -- even setting aside the rampant piracy of Megaupload, he's a convicted fraudster and embezzler, and has bribed public officials for protection before.

I suspect that if offered the choice between losing his $20 million house, his 12 cars, his yacht, and becoming a partner of the US government, it wouldn't take him much to crack.

Sounds good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535491)

I've been wanting to get away from GMail for a long time, and my hotmail expired itself long ago and since started asking for a phone number.

This sounds good. Sad that 'pirates' are more trustworthy than law enforcement but I guess it's because they have their own morals instead of ones that are payed for.

Eliminate mail servers (3, Interesting)

DeathGrippe (2906227) | about a year ago | (#44535553)

The problem is that email is managed from a central location.

If email clients opereated as fully encrypted standalone, "peer to peer" entities, the central mail server would be eliminated, and snoops would only be able to grab the encrypted content, and perhaps the locations of sender and receiver.

Chasing the wrong target. (4, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#44535557)

I've said it before and I'll say it again, this concentration on encryption is fiddling while the house burns. Encryption is sexy, and easy, and kewl, and l33t... but it won't protect against the real threat - traffic analysis.

Re:Chasing the wrong target. (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#44535653)

Why is traffic analysis more of a threat than the ability for the government to read the contents of your emails?

Re:Chasing the wrong target. (1)

memnock (466995) | about a year ago | (#44535767)

Sometimes it's more important who you know and not what you know.

Re:Chasing the wrong target. (1)

Voyager529 (1363959) | about a year ago | (#44536031)

Sometimes it's more important who you know and not what you know.

Not only this, but there's also, in theory, a greater threat between the combination of the two. Suppose I have three friends, Alice, Bob, and Carol. I send cleartext e-mails to Alice and Bob, but Carol gets encrypted messages, then those who are sniffing the traffic can discern the following information:

1.) I know Alice, Bob, and Carol.
2.) Since Alice and Bob get standard e-mails, I'm selectively encrypting my messages.
3.) I'm selectively encrypting messages to Carol, and Carol is selectively encrypting messages to me.
4.) Both Carol and I have the tools, understanding, and sense of requirement to encrypt what we are sending.

Even if I'm sending Alice and Bob different Amazon links on pressure cookers and Carol is getting e-mails containing images of adorable kittens and sending photos of Victoria's Secret models, there's going to be more suspicion placed upon my communications with Carol.

Ultimately, what I would really like to see is something like Retroshare replace e-mail...

Re:Chasing the wrong target. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44536167)

Because if they can't directly read your e-mails, traffic analysis will be used to determine who you're talking to, what you're using to talk to them with, any number of bits of information that could identify one party or the other in a secure conversation. Once they have their hands on someone who holds a key, all they need to do is employ some "enhanced interrogation techniques" freshly passed as totally-not-torture by Bush and Obama.

Traffic analysis isn't just a fall-back plan, it's just as powerful a weapon as the ability to read the e-mails directly. I'm not an expert on cryptography but I would think that if you're having trouble breaking a code, the next best option is to break the people who wrote the code. That's what traffic analysis is for.

Agencies becoming monsters (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535563)

The amazing thing to me is that using any of these encrypted mail services will automatically flag you as a suspect for the NSA. Just like when detect patterns used by Tor and store all of the traffic in a special place.

How long until the FBI and NSA keep files on everyone that they can identify using these services? Like a new era of McCarthyism but instead of a public trial you have a secret trial where the government has all of the cards. This is essentially what the guy Aaron Swartz and the Lavabit guy ran into right? At some point if you run afoul of these "public" agencies you are taken out of circulation.

This reminds me of the movie "Firefox" in the 80s directed by Clint Eastwood. There was a scene where some english chap was telling Clint Eastwood's character about the KGB, he was comparing it to a monster. He was saying that your only real hope for safety was to sneak carefully by it and not awaken it. That is what I am thinking the "security" services of this country (and many other western countries) is becoming on an unprecedented scale. With more people in prison than ever and people (ohh sorry "terrorists") in jails all over the world without due process (or any judicial representation for that matter) how is this any different?

these services need a poison pill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535573)

Of course, a technical solution is best, but, (and IANAL), but these companies should plan ahead for an NSA gag-order, and have a public policy on how they will shut down if their arm gets twisted too hard, or in a way they did not expect, by anyone. If possible, it should be part of a binding EULA, one that places them in a such a position that they cannot legally conspire with wiretappers.

Great Idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535671)

I can used it to email my heroin dealer that just got busted. He's got a great deal for me on kilos.

Archive.org (1)

Selur (2745445) | about a year ago | (#44535705)

May be all the worlds email traffic should go through (and stay at) archive.org this way one would at least know where ones emails end up,...

We have secure mail now (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about a year ago | (#44535723)

Just use mail on FreeNet,

Sure, FreeNet, which would be the more secure option we have currently, doesn't have any outside gateways, but if you are concerned about security, you don't want one anyway.

Re:We have secure mail now (1)

Clsid (564627) | about a year ago | (#44536025)

Your solution is definitely the most sound technique of everything I have read so far on how to deal with this issue. So I guess you can establish a Darknet with your friends and family and some sort of encrypted e-mail using regular Thunderbird, and keep plain text e-mail for initial contact only. For business mail this would be tough though, and I guess you can set up a ticket support system to get in touch with your customers instead, but as dealing with providers and such, plain text e-mail will have to do.

You can use Gmail + Penango! (3, Informative)

m.pala (19682) | about a year ago | (#44535743)

The matter of protecting your e-mail is a simple one - there are standards (S/MIME). What you need to look in a provider is:
(1) They SHOULD NEVER have copies of your private keys
(2) They should follow published standards
(3) Allow S/MIME e-mails
For example, if you want to use your Gmail account with military-grade security that neither NSA can read, just install Penango in your browser and send messages encrypted - this solution is also used by US military and corporations. Penango does not hold any of your private information and/or your keys - so they can not be forced by anybody to give out your secret.. simply because they do not have it!!!! For more info, go to http://www.penango.com/

It's a plot (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#44535747)

Look at it this way: everyone's all "we gotta have email encryption" and we've completely lost interest in "OMG 99% of all email is spam and we can't get rid of it." It's the NSA's way of encouraging Internet Businesses.
(please please PLEASE don't make me bring out the whoosh or sarcasm tags m'kay?)

Privacy in 2 years (5, Insightful)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#44535781)

This whole thing about privacy will be a non-issue in about 2 years.

There's currently a mass-exodus away from US-based cloud services, and (within the US) away from all cloud services.

Cloud services will have to provide privacy or go out of business. The only way to ensure privacy is client-based encryption keys and open-source software. Since it's impossible to control the distribution of open-source software, the client-side package will end up being free.

This is a good thing, IMHO. Cloud services will focus on the actual service, they won't be able to rummage around in our lives (both corporate and personal), they won't be able to "monetize" their customers as products to advertisers, and the NSA will be shut out of much illegal snooping.

People are already thinking about how to encrypt existing web-based mail services, and I'm even hearing rumors about replacing SMTP altogether with a more secure protocol.

Expect a lot of wailing and gnashing-of-teeth from the government, proposals to make this or that protocol "illegal" or to require government backdoor access, but in the end it will come down to simple economics.

There is an enormous market-driven push towards more privacy. Edward Snowden has had a measurable effect on the world, and probably deserves the Nobel peace prize he was nominated for.

Re:Privacy in 2 years (2)

gclef (96311) | about a year ago | (#44535927)

I'm even hearing rumors about replacing SMTP altogether with a more secure protocol.

There have been "rumors" and "proposals" to replace SMTP for almost a decade. It'll never happen. SMTP will die slowly, the same way NNTP is slowly dying. And that will only happen when there's a way to communicate that surpasses it. Web discussion boards basically killed NNTP. I don't think there's anything out there yet to kill SMTP.

Also, encrypting your mail misses the point. Groups like the NSA can still do traffic analysis on the SMTP envelope to know who you're talking with even without reading the contents of the email. The fact that you're in regular communication with a "target" is enough to make you interesting. If the "target" is subject to an full-on investigation (not the browsing that they appear to be doing), then being in regular contact with that target, would be sufficient grounds to apply for (and probably get) a court order to put a keylogger put on your machine.

Expect a lot of wailing and gnashing-of-teeth from the government, proposals to make this or that protocol "illegal" or to require government backdoor access, but in the end it will come down to simple economics.

There won't be much public wailing...they've got the laws they need. Just like what happened with Lavabit, they don't need to ban anything anymore, they'll just show up at any provider & say "give us all of the data you have on person . If you don't have any, start collecting it. Now."

Also, moving data out of the US (to Germany, for example), just means that the NSA has to ask the local spy agency (like the BND in germany) for the information. The Western governmental spy agencies seem to have no problem providing it. In fact, the NSA spying on data overseas would be *less* unconstitutional than what they're doing now....they'd love that.

Face it, the only way forward is something like freenet. The problem is, freenet withered on the vine.

Re:Privacy in 2 years (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#44535997)

There have been "rumors" and "proposals" to replace SMTP for almost a decade. It'll never happen...

Um... there is now an enormous economic incentive to do this.

Are you saying that the current situation is exactly like it was in the last decade?

Re:Privacy in 2 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44536013)

If you use "drop boxes" or other methods to obfuscate metadata and traffic analysis, then encryption can still be useful. Face it, getting linked to suspect X is bad. But getting linked to contents Y is worse.

As always, it's a matter of trust (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about a year ago | (#44535853)

When you rely on a third party for security, you are placing an enormous amount of trust in them. You're trusting that they have not installed backdoors, that they do not copy your encryption keys and that they really are doing all the things they say they are. There are also external factors that may be beyond their control, like government demands, as we saw with Lavabit.

Now, if Mega is going to do something like build plugins, extensions or local proxies for popular web and local mail clients that makes end-to-end encryption easy and commonplace -- and will release all the relevant source code -- then we'll talk.

searching emails (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44535859)

The whole concept of searching emails client side could be solved by having a searchable key=value store locally pointing to message id's, so when the user searches for something, the search is conducted locally and only returns pointers to actual messageid's, which themselves are encrypted (either on server or locally). So the search never happens remotely, it happens locally. This does give up a bit of privacy, but only locally. The keys themsevles could be md5 hashes of the true search keywords to make it even more difficult to deduce local words pointing to messageids.

Re:searching emails (1)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about a year ago | (#44535947)

I like this..
Obviously use something better then md5, and salt it with something generated from the private key and create a b-tree with message ids. This could likely be stored and searched server side with very little risk.
Otherwise actually have a clear text b-tree in client memory, update it locally, and send it encrypted to the server. Might take more bandwidth but it would just be an index.

Goddammit, why can't people learn? (2, Informative)

Hizonner (38491) | about a year ago | (#44535983)

If you want secure email, don't put it in the cloud. People who try to set up new cloud services to get attacked aren't helping, and can't deliver on what they want to make people believe they can.

  1. Webmail can never be secure even if the decryption is done in the browser, because the decrypting JavaScript comes from the provider, who can change it at any time.
  2. If your email comes to your cloud provider in the clear, it doesn't matter if they then encrypt it, because they can be forced to start keeping the plaintext.
  3. Even if the crypto works, if everybody uses the same few providers, it's easier to do traffic analysis. Which was already uncomfortably easy. "Metadata", anyone?
  4. If your cloud provider is honest and doesn't want to get subverted, they may have to shut down at any instant, leaving you unable to communicate. As we've seen twice just this freaking week.

It's not hard to set up a mail server. It's not hard to use PGP. Be at least a little harder target.

Just say no to the goddamn cloud, already.

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