VPN provider CryptoSeal nixes consumer service over legal worries

CryptoSeal said it fears the government may ask for its SSL keys if it can't comply with a pen register order

A San Francisco-based security company will no longer sell a consumer virtual private network (VPN) service, citing an uncertain legal environment that could threaten its users' privacy.

CryptoSeal is the latest company to voluntarily shut down its service after the U.S. government's legal action against Lavabit, an email service used by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

In a notice on its website, CryptoSeal wrote that it fears the government could force it to turn over its cryptographic keys if it cannot comply with a pen register order, which asks for certain information on users' communications.

Most email services use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption between servers and users. Obtaining the private SSL keys from a service provider would give law enforcement access to all users' communications rather than just one person.

When he shut down Lavabit, founder Ladar Levison said he could no longer guarantee that users' data was protected. Court documents showed Levison was forced to turn over Lavabit's private SSL keys. He's appealing the order in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

CryptoSeal said its system does not record the common information requested through a pen register order.

"The consequence, being forced to turn over cryptographic keys to our entire system on the strength of a pen register order, is unreasonable in our opinion, and likely unconstitutional, but until this matter is settled, we are unable to proceed with our service," the company wrote.

The cryptographic keys used for its consumer service, called CryptoSeal Privacy, have been "zerofilled," it said. Although it did not retain logs for the service's users, "all records created incidental to the operation of the service have been deleted to the best of our ability."

It was unclear why CryptoSeal's VPN product for businesses, called Connect, was not mentioned in the announcement. The company could not be immediately reached for comment.

Shortly after Levison shut down Lavabit, Silent Circle canceled its encrypted email service, saying it had not received court orders but "it is always better to be safe than sorry."

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Silent CirclesecurityCryptoSealLavabit

More about NSA

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Jeremy Kirk

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place