Lavabit founder launches Kickstarter for encrypted email

The founder of secure email service Lavabit has launched a Kickstarter to clean up and release the source code for Lavabit with support for Dark Mail.

The founder of secure email service Lavabit has launched a Kickstarter to clean up and release the source code for Lavabit with support for Dark Mail.

(Credit: Ladar Levison)

Lavabit , the encrypted email service believed to have been used by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, was closed by its owner Ladar Levison earlier this year when the US government pressured Levison to turn over the service's encryption keys. Rather than compromise his users' data, Levison shut Lavabit down.

Now, Levison has turned to Kickstarter as a means of trying to provide encrypted email once again. With a goal of US$196,608, he hopes to clean up and release the source code for Lavabit as a free and open-source software (FOSS) project.

"No one can guarantee that a third party is or is not eavesdropping on a series of communications," Levison wrote, "but Dark Mail can guarantee that when a third party does gain access, or demands access, the privacy users rightfully deserve is maintained without fail."

The current source code supports email access via SMTP, POP3, IMAP4 and HTTP, and — if the Kickstarter is successful — the team hopes to build in support for what it is calling "Dark Mail": end-to-end encryption of the message and the email itself. This will be designed to be invisible to the user, so anyone will be able to use it.

From there, the team will build FOSS Dark Mail clients for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android.

The Kickstarter campaign itself is a bit of a rush job, so details are thin on the ground, and we suspect that the average email user will have little use for the rewards — that is, the source code — but this seems to be a rare project that is based in ideology rather than tangible goods.

If the development of encrypted email is something you want to get behind, head over to the Lavabit's Dark Mail Initiative project page to pledge your support.

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