Earlier this month,…
Earlier this month, Lavabit and Silent Circle—two privacy-minded email providers—decided to shut up shop rather than give the U.S. government the chance to access to their customer data. Shortly thereafter, Lavabit owner Ladar Levison told Forbes, “If you knew what I knew about email, you might not use it.”
This weekend, Silent Circle’s Louis Kowolowski dropped the cryptic comments and explained a major, inherent vulnerability with email: metadata.
While encryption technologies like PGP and SMIME can be used to obscure the actual contents of a message, assuming you use a desktop program that supports encryption software, current email protocols don’t allow you to secure the “header” metadata details that are used to shuffle email from point to point. The sender, recipient, subject, date and time, and even server path information is all sent along in clear text.
That’s enough to be a liability to people who truly need privacy, according to Kowolowski.