VPN service CryptoSeal followed Lavabit in pulling the plug, fearing running afoul of US authorities. Ryan Lackey, co-founder of the computer firm, told RT about the current climate where people can be put behind bars just for running their businesses.
In August, the highly-encrypted email service Lavabit reportedly used by NSA leaker Edward Snowden went offline after it was ordered by a court to turn over its Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) private key – a cryptographic protocol designed to facilitate communication security over the internet – to the FBI.
The company objected, saying the key would grant the government access to communications by all 400,000 of its customers. Lavabit offered instead to add code to his servers which would provide the FBI the necessary information only for the target of the order. According to unsealed documents from the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, released earlier this month, the court rejected the offer, demanding that Lavabit hand over the SSL key or face a $5,000-per-day fine.
Fearing the legal precedent set by the Lavabit case, CryptoSeal followed suit earlier this week, saying it would be impossible to comply with a government order without turning over the crypto keys to its entire system.
RT: Tell us how your relationship with the National Security Agency unfolded?
Ryan Lackey: Well, we don’t really have a relationship with them. We just monitor the news and ran a service under what we believed was the law, where they would require a search warrant to extract [cryptographic] keys. It turns out that under the Lavabit case, they can use a pen register order or a D order, which is a much lower standard, to compel a provider to turn over keys. We can’t really operate in that environment, so we pre-emptively shut the service down; it was too risky to operate.