from the post-facto dept
By now the details of the shutdown of secure email provider Lavabit are fairly well known. Seeking to spy on Ed Snowden’s communications, the feds demanded Lavabit give them access to Snowden’s account. After some back and forth, they further demanded the site’s private SSL keys. Lavabit’s Ladar Levison first provided it to them printed out in illegible 4 point type, and when the court found that unacceptable, he shut down the entire service while simultaneously handing over the key. Here’s an interesting side note to all of that, dug up by Kashmir Hill over at Forbes: After the details of what happened were unsealed by the court a week ago, GoDaddy revoked the security certificate it had provided for Lavabit, saying that there’s now proof Levison provided them to a third party, violating the policy on a secure cert:
“[W]e’re compelled by industry policies to revoke certs when we become aware that the private key has been communicated to a 3rd-party and thus could be used by that party to intercept and decrypt communications,” says GoDaddy spokesperson Elizabeth L. Driscoll, in response to an inquiry about Lavabit’s keys being revoked.
Of course, since the service is already shut down, this move has no direct impact on anything, but makes a fairly strong symbolic statement. Many have been wondering, if the feds are ordering Lavabit to hand over its SSL keys, it’s quite likely the same demand has been made of many other companies as well, most of which likely complied. So, this raises the question of whether or not certificate authorities are going to start looking for the possibility of other compromised certs and revoking them….
Separately, as Hill notes, this could also aid Levison in his legal case, as he can now legitimately argue another way in which being forced to turn over the keys could create an unreasonable burden on his business by having the keys revoked.