eon on Mon, 25 Jun 2001 21:24:11 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] FBI Subpoena Targets Name.Space "LokMail" Users

False Sense of Security:
Who's Watching the Watchman?

FBI Subpoenas Lok Technology
over Name.Space "LokMail" Users

New York, June 25, 2001

Privacy and security based technology is
only as good as those humans who you
trust to administer it. With a growing
number of web based encrypted email
services now available, individuals need
to be aware of who's behind the
so-called 'secure' or 'private' mail
services.  Users can easily be lulled
into a false sense of security by using
encrypted email, not knowing that their
traffic may be monitored by the FBI. 
Even if the contents of messages are
encrypted, the sender and recipient are
'in the clear' and recorded in the mail
server's transaction logs.  Email
surveillance is not necessarily about
the contents of the messages so much as
who sends email to whom, when, how
often, etc.  Encryption can not mask the
exchange of messages between parties,
only its contents.

Example of maillog transaction log showing 'traffic'
between "someone@somewhere.online" and "someone.else@anotherplace.online":

Jun 25 02:19:31 server sendmail[16910]: CAA16910:
from=<someone@somewhere.online>, size=265, class=0, pri=30265, nrcpts=1,
proto=ESMTP, relay=localhost []

Jun 25 02:19:31 server sendmail[16912]: CAA16910:
to=<someone.else@anotherplace.online>, ctladdr=<someone@somewhere.online>
(1001/1000), delay=00:00:00, xdelay=00:00:00, mailer=esmtp,
relay=mail.info.war. [], stat=Sent (CAA15362 Message accepted
for delivery


One such provider of an encrypted
webmail service is Name.Space, who
launched the "LokMail" brand of secure
webmail, along with its inventor, Simon
Lok, back in 1999, the first web mail
solution to use PGP (Pretty Good
Privacy) strong encryption.  To its
users, Name.Space has pledged a strict
privacy policy, that logs and data on
its servers are not disclosed, sold, or
otherwise made available to any third
parties, and that law enforcement must
use due process to gain access to data. 
Large corporations such as Disney have
come out publicly against Name.Space
because of its strict privacy policies.
Now, Name.Space is confronted with a
situation where it needs to take
measures to enforce that policy, which
may have been breached several weeks ago
by one of its contractors.

It has been learned that the FBI has
allegedly served a subpoena on
LokTechnology, (the owners of the
'lokmail.net' domain, and who provide
the "LokMail" technology to a server
owned by Name.Space), possibly to monitor
the mail traffic on the server.  The
problem is, Lok Technology does not own
the server or the users that are named
on the subpoena, Name.Space does.  Lok
Technology only controlls the domain
name 'lokmail.net', that presently
directs traffic to the server owned by

During the weekend of April 27, 2001
Simon Lok, author of the "LokMail"
encrypted web-based email software,
dialed in to the Name.Space internal
network in order to access the LokMail
server owned and operated by Name.Space.
 He then proceeded to compress selected
email traffic logs, and transfer them to
his computer at Columbia University. 
The transfer was discovered in progress
by Paul Garrin, when he noticed
extremely high bandwidth utilization on
the Name.Space network monitor.  At
first it looked like a 'flood', a
typical 'denial of service' attack. Paul
opened a control connection to the
LokMail server and displayed the active
processes, showing that user 'simon' was
logged in and an 'sftp' transfer was in
progress to an IP address located at
Columbia U. Upon closer examination it
was discovered that the file consisted
of mail traffic logs from the weekend of
April 20, 2001, the time of the FTAA
demonstrations in Quebec City, Canada.

"Strange, I thought" said Paul Garrin
when he wondered what the purpose was
for downloading such a huge amount of
data, which was incidentally clogging up
the T1 line and slowing down traffic to
other sites hosted on the network. 
Immediately it seemed that something was
wrong, especially since Simon was not
scheduled to do any maintenance or
emergency repairs to the server, and he
was not authorized to download
transaction logs that contain the
senders and recipients of the mail sent
to and from the server. "I took
immediate action to stop the transfer"
Garrin said, "and proceeded to terminate
Simon's login session and change the
password".  A short while later, as
server logs indicate, Simon made several
attempts to reconnect to the network but was
refused as the password had been changed
by Paul.

"I expected that if what Simon was doing
was important, he would have contacted
me about regaining access to the server,
but since he never said a word, although
as the logs show, he made several
attempts to re-establish his connection,
I thought it was even more strange"
Garrin said.  Apparently Simon gave up,
accepting only a portion of the download
that may have made it to his computer, and
walked away quietly, never mentioning
anything about his access being

"I was surprised since Simon and I
seemingly had mutually strong
convictions toward protecting the users'
privacy, a passion we shared that led us
both to collaborate on building a system
that we could trust and that users could
trust, the project that became known as
'LokMail'.  It baffled me to think or
even to imagine that Simon would be
capable of violating that trust that we
worked so hard to build and to extend to
users by offering strong encryption over
the web, for free".  It especially hit
hard because Name.Space, and Lok
Technology, a recently funded venture
co-founded by Lok and Garrin, were in
the process of negotiations for
upgrading the users on the Name.Space
owned and operated LokMail v1 server, to
the new system, owned by Lok Technology.
 One of the key concerns for Garrin was
that the users be notified of the change
in policy that would come along with
retaining the "@lokmail.net" address,
since the "lokmail.net" would transition
to the new server owned by Lok
Technology, likely under a different
privacy policy. The incident with the
maillogs from the weekend of April 20
cast a spectre over the deal because it
was clear that whatever policy Lok
Technology would publish may be dubious
at best, especially if Simon had
downloaded the mail logs with the intent
of ascertaining the traffic on the
lokmail server from the April 20th
weekend, possibly to hand over to the

On Wednesday, June 22 Jostein Algroy,
Name.Space COO presented Lok Technology
with Name.Space's business proposal,
which contained an outline for the
transition of the domain 'lokmail.net'
back to Lok Technology, so they could
direct the traffic to their new server,
once the Name.Space users had been
notified of the changes in service and
policies that accompanied keeping their
"@lokmail.net" email address.  It asked
that Lok Technology supply a copy of
their privacy policy for review by the
Name.Space users so they could decide
whether to sign on with Lok Technology
and keep their "@lokmail.net" addresses,
or to stay on the Name.Space operated
server under a different domain, with the same
strict privacy policy Name.Space offers,
under which users originally signed up.

The response from Lok Technology's John
Miller was: "Lok Technology has no
interest in pursuing a business
relationship with Name.Space". 
Following that was a message stating
that the DNS mapping for 'lokmail.net'
will be re-directed to the new Lok
Technology server in a few days, totally
cutting off service to the Name.Space
owned server that has responded to the
"lokmail.net" domain since 1999.   Simon
Lok then chimed in with an email touting
the solution as "just send me the list
of usernames on the machine and we'll
forward them back to the v1.server". 
Garrin responded that Simon's solution
was unacceptable-- and for good reason:
by channeling the v1 usernames through
the new servers owned by Lok Technology,
the traffic logs are written on the Lok
Technology owned servers, giving them
ongoing surveillance capabilities on the
v1	server's users without having to
get them from Name.Space!  That's the
same type of info that was contained in
the mail server logs that Simon
attempted to download in April, except
in this case he wouldn't NEED the access
to the Name.Space owned server because
the logs would naturally end up on HIS
system if he fowarded the mail for the
users on the v1 system.  In addition,
the full list of usernames would no
longer be confidential should they be
handed over to Lok.

"When I found out that the FBI had
served Lok Technology a subpoena, it all
began to make sense to me", Garrin said,
drawing a parallel to the Seattle Indy
Media Center's encounter with the FBI
regarding alleged posting of information
stolen from a Canadian Police car during
the FTAA protests in Quebec City.  "The
only problem in this case is, they
served it to the wrong people, since
Name.Space owns the server and the users
accounts on it, Not Lok Technology."

The Seattle IMC is currently fighting a
court order that asks it to turn over
server logs for a period during the FTAA
protests, the weekend of April 20, 2001.
The court order was prompted by the following
two posts:

Two people were arrested in Quebec
charged with mischief and theft, Martin
D'anjou and Patrick Blanger, who are
set to go to trial in September.

It's not known whether or not the
subpoena issued to Lok Technology is
related to the arrests in Quebec, or
if it is meant to find out about any
anti-globalization activists who may
have accounts on the LokMail server.

Paul said that he doesn't blame Simon
if he got scared and acted irrationally
when the FBI reached out to him,
especially because Simon's PhD scholarship
depends on the security clearance he
holds, with his research work sponsored
by the US Navy.  Loss of his clearance
could mean the end to his PhD, something
that Simon is unlikely to risk should
that be the case if he didn't help the
FBI with what they want. "I really hope
for his sake that he didn't do anything
improper or illegal", Paul said.  When
confronted with his attempted download of
the mail logs, Simon denied that he was
taking the data to hand it to the FBI,
and instead claimed that he wanted
to analyze it to see how much bandwidth
was being consumed by the mail traffic
on the server, an explaination that
Garrin met with skepticism.

Garrin states that Name.Space will
comply if served with a subpoena,
provided that proper due process is
followed, and cause is shown. "What I
won't do", Garrin said, "is allow our
users to believe that their traffic data
is safe when indeed it's in fact being
recorded beyond our network and our
control, which would be the case if Lok
Technology forwards the mail through
their system".  There's no telling who
will get access to our users' email
transaction data, or whether Lok
Technology will protect that data to the
degree that Name.Space does, to the
fullest extent of the law.  "Recent
events call this into question and I'm
not prepared to leave anything to chance
at this moment" Garrin concluded, "and I
will err on the side of caution, until
all the facts are in".


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