Security Experts:

Silent Circle Kills Encrypted Email Service

Silent Circle, a startup providing private encrypted communications solutions, has shut down an encrypted email service that it offered as part of its secure communications offerings.

News of Silent Circle shuttering its email service comes shortly after Lavabit, another encrypted email service believed to have been used by Edward Snowden, shut down apparently as a result of pressure from US authorities. 

Silent Circle LogoSilentCircle was co-founded by former Navy SEAL sniper Mike Janke, and PGP creator Phil Zimmermann, and has created a platform for encrypted text, e-mail, mobile phone and video teleconferencing services through a secure, proprietary network and set of applications.

“Silent Circle has preemptively discontinued Silent Mail service to prevent spying,” the company said in a note posted to its website and blog.

US laws permit national security officials to make requests to technology and telecommunications companies that under law must be kept secret, putting these companies in a tough position in regards to transparency for customers. 

While Silent Circle has not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, the company wants to be proactive and decided that it was best to shut down Silent Mail.

“Email that uses standard Internet protocols cannot have the same security guarantees that real-time communications has,” the company explained. “There are far too many leaks of information and metadata intrinsically in the email protocols themselves. Email as we know it with SMTP, POP3, and IMAP cannot be secure.”

“We've been debating this for weeks, and had changes planned starting next Monday,” the note continued. “We'd considered phasing the service out, continuing service for existing customers, and a variety of other things up until today. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and with your safety we decided that in this case the worst decision is no decision.”

Other offerings from Silent Circle, including Silent Phone, Silent Text, and Silent Eyes, will continue to be offered, as they are end-to-end secure and Silent Circle does not have the encrypted data and does not collect metadata on user conversations.

"We apologize for any inconvenience, and hope you understand that if we dithered, it could be more inconvenient," the note concluded.

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For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the threat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences around the world.