Posted by Kalyani M. on Oct 18, 2013
Lavabit, the secure email service provider, abruptly shut down its doors in August due to the Government’s request for data intrusion. Lavabit provided secured email service by encrypting the email messages and preventing anybody else from reading them, other than the sender and the receiver. The US government was after Lavabit to monitor the real time email usage of a single user. But when they found out that it is not possible to tap into the email of the user they were after, they asked Lavabit to hand over the SSL key, which would allow them to monitor every Lavabit user. The Lavabit email user the government wanted to monitor is believed to be Edward Snowden. “The government became embroiled with Lavabit in May, which is when Snowden disappeared from his job at Booz Allen Hamilton and the feds started looking for him”.
The District court for the eastern district of Virginia demanded Ladar Levison , the founder of Lavabit, to hand over the encryption keys. When he refused to comply with the court’s order, the court threatened him with a fine of $5000 per day. Ultimately Levison handed over the keys to the government but shuttered his 10-year old company to protect his customer’s information. He also filed an appeal against the court for forcing him to turn over the encryption keys. “The government would still be able to use Lavabit’s private keys to decrypt and access data that it had already intercepted (including customers’ usernames, passwords, and the contents of their emails),” the appeal details, “but Lavabit was forbidden from communicating this security breach to its customers or business partners.”
The government says it is entitled to get Lavabit’s private keys because of three reasons: Pen Resister Statute, Stored Communication Act and grand jury subpoena. Lavabit counteracts three of these arguments in its appeal.
Lavabit is opening up temporarily to give its users a chance to recover their data. The data recovery service is expected to begin from October 18. Before the data becomes publicly available users can reset their passwords by logging on to https://liberty.lavabit.com. This move has become possible after Levison obtained a new SSL key to authenticate its server and encrypt the data travelling to and from the site. Lavabit has published its SSL certificate fingerprint and serial number on the password change page. The users are encouraged to verify the new SSL certificate before using the site.
You can take the following steps to verify the SSL certificate fingerprint and serial number in Chrome:
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