IT'S BEEN a mystery akin to the plot of The Prisoner. Who was it that the feds were after when they served Lavabit with notice that it wanted access to its servers? Information. We want information.
We know that whoever it was, Lavabit decided it would sooner fall on its own sword than give up the encryption key, very similarly to Apple's stance on the matter, and folded.
We all knew it was Edward Snowden. It was fairly obviously Edward Snowden, and now, tickle our snickers, it turns out it was Edward Snowden.
Even though a gagging order has prevented Ladar Levison who owned Lavabit, or any of his team from spilling, it now appears that the Feds have done it themselves.
Some recently released federal papers which had been redacted showed that the marker pen had failed to redact a single email address.
And so now we know for sure. Since Lavabit folded, Levison has been fighting to get transparency over why he had to close, using funds raised by advocacy groups and wellwishers.
His stance cost him dearly, with by his own estimates 410,000 registered users with many paying for encrypted storage, and denying him his main source of income. Levison wanted to be able to explain what happened.
He told the Guardian, "The federal agents then claimed that their court order required me to surrender my company's private encryption keys, and I balked. What they said they needed were customer passwords - which were sent securely - so that they could access the plain-text versions of messages from customers using my company's encrypted storage feature."
Now a screw up from the government appears to have answered the question once and for all.
Ironically, Levison remains bound by the gagging order but it doesn't count when the government releases the information, whether it's by accident or not.
Levison's lawyer told Wired magazine, "due to the letter and spirit of the court’s January 7, 2016 order, Lavabit has no further comment on the unredacted email address." µ
THE INQUIRER'S sister site Computing is running a web seminar next Tuesday, 22nd March at 3pm entitled "Anti-virus software has had its day - how can you protect against advanced threats?" Register now to reserve your place.
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