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Internet Comes Through For Developer Of Key Email Encryption Tool

from the reasons-we-love-the-internet dept

Yesterday, we reposted Julia Angwin's article from ProPublica about how the guy behind GPG, a key tool for email encryption, Werner Koch, was basically broke, and that attempts to crowdfund money to keep going hadn't been all that successful. The story seemed to resonate with lots of people, and the donations started flowing. After getting a grand total of just about €34,000 in 2014, he's already well over €100,000 this year, with most of that coming yesterday after Angwin's story went up. On top of that, Stripe and Facebook each agreed to fund him to the tune of $50,000 per year (from each of them, so $100k total), and the Linux Foundation had agreed to give him $60k (though, Koch admits that the deal there was actually signed last week).

Either way, this is great to see, though it's unfortunate that it had to wait until an article detailing his plight came out. We've seen this sort of thing a few times now, such as when the Heartbleed bug made everyone realize that OpenSSL was basically supported by volunteers with almost no budget at all. Thankfully, the attention there got the project necessary funds to continue to keep us safe.

It really is quite incredible when you realize how much of the internet that you rely on is built by people out of a true labor of love. Often, people have no idea that there even is an opportunity to support those projects, and it's great that Angwin was able to highlight this one and get it the necessary funding to keep moving forward.

Filed Under: crowdfunding, encryption, gpg, privacy, security, support, werner kock


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 6 Feb 2015 @ 6:04am

    It is sad when you want to donate but you simply don't have the money. I followed the page and it spiked heavily with donations. I'm glad it happened. He's been added to my donation pool when I have the spare money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2015 @ 6:37am

    I think he has a common hacker problem, not very good at self promotion, and other promoting him solved the problem, at least temporarily.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 6 Feb 2015 @ 8:10am

      Re:

      Yes, this. Engineers tend not to be great at the public-facing aspects of running a business. This is why, in my businesses, I have always partnered up with someone who is good at that stuff.

      This is, in my opinion, the core of what is needed to be a successful entrepreneur: have a solid understanding of what you suck at, and partner with others who can cover your weaknesses.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    the threat to peace is the USA, 6 Feb 2015 @ 6:45am

    encryption yet allowed to copy your mail

    so you encrypt the email....the mail sits on a server , it gets kept by your local govts....when that encryption is broken they read everything....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 6 Feb 2015 @ 7:17am

      Re: encryption yet allowed to copy your mail

      It may take several years for it to be broken. I don't think they'll be able to store for that long or even be interested in such old data. Of course I'm assuming there's no totalitarian need to destroy somebody using their past there...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2015 @ 7:24am

        Re: Re: encryption yet allowed to copy your mail

        The totalitarians will not need to decrypt things, they will use the fact that it was encrypted as damming evidence.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Adam Shaver (profile), 7 Feb 2015 @ 12:15pm

        Re: Re: encryption yet allowed to copy your mail

        I've been using PGP in various forms for the better part of two decades, fondly remembering buying it on a 5 1/4" floppy back when the software was export controlled. I definitely gave him a donation, because I think programmers need to be paid.
        That being said, I think the idea of PGP in email is hopeless, because it requires both sides to download the software, share keys (even on a server). For email encryption/protection, instead I rely on https://burner.link/ That sucker only requires me to follow the API. The other side gets a dumb link, such that the attachment isn't sent unencrypted from email server to server. A couple of years back, I asked my tax prep people if they had pgp, so I could email them my documents--and their eyes glazed over. This year, they get a email with a link to the file download.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2015 @ 12:45pm

          Re: Re: Re: encryption yet allowed to copy your mail

          That being said, I think the idea of PGP in email is hopeless, because it requires both sides to download the software, share keys

          to borrow from a related saying, you can have privacy, or you can have convenience. If one end demands convenience, then privacy is compromised.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2015 @ 7:36am

      Re: encryption yet allowed to copy your mail

      Are you suggesting that because encryption might possibly be broken its useless to use?

      The govt might keep the encrypted data, but only attempt cracking data they really need access to because the resources to crack all of it is too great.

      This is much more private than the current situation of send everything in plain text.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      leehb9 (profile), 6 Feb 2015 @ 7:48am

      Re: encryption yet allowed to copy your mail

      My understanding of PGP encryption is that every piece of email is encrypted differently for each receiver, using that receiver's own key...so 'hopefully' that puts a different view of being able to decrypt all of it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2015 @ 9:05am

      Re: encryption yet allowed to copy your mail

      and one day they'll be able to read your thoughts.

      uh oh, better go kill yourself now.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2015 @ 9:20am

      Re: encryption yet allowed to copy your mail

      It's important to remember that governments are not the only bad actors. Encryption may or may not stop someone with a lot of resources, like a major government, but it will Joe ScriptKiddy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 6 Feb 2015 @ 6:56am

    People of New York, too...

    Another example of this sort of "crowd-funding" in a humanitarian vein:

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/can-done-everywhere-principal-inspired-1-1-million-fundrais er/

    A random boy on the streets of New York was asked "who has influence you the most?" His answer led to further posts then $1M-plus of donations to the school, the principal appears on Ellen DeGeneres Show, a visit to the White House... all from a simple blog post.

    It's the classic "if everyone gave me a dollar" scenario, spread across a world of 7 billion people. I'm glad to see Mr. Koch finally reaping the rewards of his dedication too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 4:05pm

      Re: People of New York, too...

      "It's the classic "if everyone gave me a dollar" scenario, spread across a world of 7 billion people."

      The contrapositive to that is if a rich person gave everyone needing money a dollar he would be in debt.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 6 Feb 2015 @ 7:45am

    "...it's unfortunate that it had to wait until an article detailing his plight came out."

    Personally, I had never heard of him or knew anything about the situation. The article is what tipped me off. We need more articles like this...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ahow628 (profile), 6 Feb 2015 @ 9:32am

      Re:

      I'm confused about the use of the term "unfortunate" in the sentence. It's unfortunate that people don't implicitly know about a problem that they don't explicitly know about? Well duh.

      Maybe a better way to put it would have been, "Unfortunately people didn't know about the problem, but fortunately they do now because some cared enough to write an article about it."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2015 @ 11:04am

        Re: Re:

        wtf?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          tqk (profile), 6 Feb 2015 @ 1:24pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          wtf?

          Back at ya! WTF does your four chars add to the discussion?!? WTF are you complaining about exactly?!? I agree with him (ahow628). There are so many unsung heroes in FLOSS diligently banging their heads on problems that interest them yet not bothering to toot their horns, it's impossible to know which ones have fallen into funding cracks. How are we supposed to keep up with them all if they can't/won't market themselves?

          Next time, please don't waste our time!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, 6 Feb 2015 @ 7:59am

    It's always been this way

    "It really is quite incredible when you realize how much of the internet that you rely on is built by people out of a true labor of love."

    Nearly everything of value on the Internet was built exactly that way. While a few fortunate people have been funded here and there, the majority of formats, standards, protocols and software packages have been put together by people who simply wanted to create something useful and to contribute to the ecosystem. They didn't do it to get rich, or famous, or popular, or anything other than because they perceived a need and tried to satisfy it.

    The people who should be funding this work -- to the tune of billions, not thousands -- are those who have enjoyed incredible financial success as a result of the foundation laid years or decades ago by others. $50K is nice, but it's not even chump change compared to their quarterly profits -- and when assessed in view of the fact that they would not exist as companies were it not for the work of thousands who came before them -- some of whom are still contributing today.

    What this story (and the story of OpenSSL) highlight, is that those laboring in obscurity on critical pieces of Internet infrastructure have had to get by with scraps from the table, while those who've built empires on their work dine magnificently -- and then pretend to be surprised that others are nearly starving. That's wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 6 Feb 2015 @ 8:21am

      Re: It's always been this way

      "Nearly everything of value on the Internet was built exactly that way."

      This can't be overstated, and is why I get a bit flustered when the big internet ad agencies keep saying things like "without advertising, the internet couldn't run". The internet as a profit center is a recent phenomenon, and one that is very much a mixed bag. Almost all of the things that make the internet useful and wonderful (excluding the physical infrastructure) have been produced without an expectation of profit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2015 @ 8:33am

        Re: Re: It's always been this way

        +1

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Rich Kulawiec, 6 Feb 2015 @ 9:09am

        Re: Re: It's always been this way

        Internet advertisers are filthy parasites: they add zero value and instead "contribute" mass surveillance, malware distribution networks, privacy-destroying tracking, and spam. It's not an exaggeration to say that much of what's wrong with the contemporary Internet can be laid at their feet.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 6 Feb 2015 @ 9:26am

          Re: Re: Re: It's always been this way

          No argument there.

          The extra sad thing about it is that it doesn't have to be that way. It is completely possible to do internet advertising in a way that isn't so abusive. Techdirt regularly demonstrates a couple of those ways, even.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Rich Kulawiec, 6 Feb 2015 @ 9:33am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's always been this way

            You're absolutely right. There are many ways to achieve much the same goals without any of these problems. I still wouldn't be thrilled about advertising, but at least then I could grudgingly tolerate it. And you're also right that some of those ways have been discussed here -- and elsewhere. There's no shortage of good ideas in this space; there's a severe shortage of advertisers paying attention to them.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              John Fenderson (profile), 6 Feb 2015 @ 9:58am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's always been this way

              "I still wouldn't be thrilled about advertising, but at least then I could grudgingly tolerate it."

              This is pretty much my stance, too. In a sense, it would make internet advertising little different than most other forms of advertising: annoying, but tolerable -- but that would be an improvement over what it is right now.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2015 @ 10:44am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's always been this way

              ...a severe shortage of advertisers paying attention...


              Not just advertisers but web admins and designers as well.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2015 @ 8:08am

    I like stories with happy endings. Hopefully GPG will be around for years to come. It's tried and true, NSA resistant technology.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2015 @ 8:13am

    Im relieved to hear this

    Internet 1 Stalkers 0

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    beltorak (profile), 6 Feb 2015 @ 10:00am

    This is really good to hear.

    I've come to the conclusion after heartbleed (and this confirms it) that companies that choose a FLOSS project instead of a costly proprietary one should take some of the money that would have gone to licensing and donate it to the FLOSS project.

    OpenSSL is a particular sore spot for me as I know that a lot of companies devoted huge amounts of developer resources to their own proprietary fork, and spent another ton of money to get their own fork FIPS certified so they could use it in their products. Over and over and over again these companies redo the same damn work (as a group and individually when they went through the same process for a newer version of OpenSSL) and very little of it (if any) made it back to the project or developers in terms of code or money.

    This seems to stem from a the entitlement culture - the grand daddy of the permission culture - that tries to claim "ownership" of every scrap of "intellectual property".

    I am glad this has a happy continuation, but I can't help but wonder what are we overlooking? What other FLOSS projects out there are critical to the internet ecosystem, and what are their needs?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 6 Feb 2015 @ 1:57pm

      Re:

      What other FLOSS projects out there are critical to the internet ecosystem, and what are their needs?

      OpenBSD is perennially short on funds. Many of their developers are poor and from third world nations and the project needs money to get them to hackathons, which it would be impossible for themselves to fund.

      At the least, buy a dvd or T-shirt if that's all you can do. The same is true of many distros and projects. Which ones do you rely on? Research!

      I'd also like to buy a TD T-shirt when I have the money to spare, just to thank Mike for all his work and for letting me say this. :-)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2015 @ 4:41pm

    100% awesome. People do the right thing if someone raises awareness.. busy lives and all that... great coverage on your part...ht..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2015 @ 1:01pm

    Problem is that they want to ban encryption because terrorism, children and piracy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    andrew sonti, 3 May 2015 @ 1:11am

    a good webmail

    Try this encrypted webmailhttps://digitalenvelopes.email

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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