Riseup and the recent email provider closures

From Riseup

We have received your emails asking a number of good questions in light of last week’s news about Lavabit and SilentCircle closing down (1). We would like to clearly state that Riseup has never given any user information to any third party. We have never permitted installation of any hardware or software monitoring on any system that we control.

We will do everything in our power to protect the data of social movements and activists, short of extended incarceration. We would rather pull the plug than submit to repressive surveillance by our government, or any government. We are doing everything we can, as quickly as possible, to forge forward with options that would prevent us from having to shut down, in case we are faced with making such a decision. In cooperation with other groups, we are hard at work to develop and deploy a radical new infrastructure that would allow us to provide email in a way that is a thousand times more secure and that would prevent us from having access to any user’s data. We have been working on this for over a year, but we have a lot more work to do before it is finalized.

Don’t panic. Here are some questions and answers.

Q: Is Riseup working with the NSA?

A: We would rather stop being Riseup before we did that. We are not working with any government agency. We have never simply handed over information when requested, and for years have had a no logging policy. We have fought and won every time anyone has tried to get us to give up information. We have never turned over any user data to any third party, fourth party, fifth party or any party.

Q: But your servers are located in the U.S., doesn’t that mean you have to install backdoors/monitoring/etc?

A: We have no control over our network providers, but we have physical control of our servers, they are not hosted “in the cloud.” This gives us much more physical assurance of the security of our machines. We would not consent to the installation of any external hardware or software on our network and would end the organization rather than install any. However, once our fiber connections leave our space, they could be monitored. This is not new, and has been our assumption from the beginning. When you send an email to someone with an email hosted elsewhere, we have no control over it once it leaves our servers. Also, the US still has better laws for internet providers than in many other countries, including many places in Europe, where there are data retention laws requiring providers to keep logs. The US has no such requirement and it has been our policy for years to not keep any logs.

Q: How is Riseup different than Lavabit and Silent Circle?

A: These were commercial services whose primary mission was to provide paid private email. Riseup is different in that we are a non-profit whose goal is to support activists and keep them safe. Those companies were for-profit businesses, Riseup is in it for social change!

Q: What if someone (like law enforcement) takes Riseup’s servers?

A: They have in the past! This usually happens when they want logs, we tell them that we don’t have any and then they come and take the machine because they don’t believe us and want to see for themselves. However, all of our servers use full disk encryption, which means they cannot see or do anything with the data on the disks without the keys. Nevertheless, we do not keep IP identifying logs, and store as little data as possible on our users. But this is not just Riseup’s responsibility, each user is responsible for limiting the amount of data that Riseup stores for them!

Q: How can I limit the amount of data that Riseup stores for me?

A: There are several ways

- Account info: When you applied for an account you provided a little information. After you are approved we don’t need this information anymore and you can clean it up. Login to user.riseup.net and review the information that you have provided there and consider what information you have given us that identifies you. For example, if Obama had a secret email address with Riseup and applied for the address using president@whitehouse.gov as his alternate email address, it would be a good idea for him to remove president@whitehouse.gov from his alternate email if he wanted to be able to engage in Constitutionally-protected, anonymous, speech.

- But please note: If you do remove your alternate email, and you later lose/forget your password, it will not be possible for us to reset your password. You will be permanently locked out of your account and will not be able to access your emails. You have been warned!

- Email: If you are not already, consider using an email client that lets you download email via the POP protocol and deletes it from the server. There is no getting around the mail arriving on Riseup’s server, but if you download it and it’s deleted from the server then Riseup doesn’t have it anymore. But note this does have a downside, using webmail or the IMAP protocol does allow you to check email from more than one computer. If you need that ability, one approach might be to move older email offline to a single computer and just check newer things from multiple locations.
Here are some directions for downloading your email: help.riseup.net/downloading-email

- Lists: one of the nice features of having a mailing list is having a message archive. But if the idea of someone you don’t want getting access to that archive scares you, then it might be better to do without an archive or periodically move the archive to a more secure location. But don’t forget that any subscriber to your list gets a copy of every message, so even if you have the archives removed, there is nothing that prevents subscribers from leaking those messages! More info at: help.riseup.net/en/archives#downloading-archives

- Ask yourself: where are the important emails, documents, and manifestos of your group stored? Do you have a good place for them for people to find when you are gone and people want to write the history about how you changed the world? If they are only stored in Riseup, that isn’t good. Download them and put them somewhere safer! We are birds, so we like eggs, but we don’t like people putting all their eggs in our basket.

Q: Will Riseup services last forever?

A: While we are committed to doing everything in our power to protect the data of social movements and activists, short of extended incarceration, we would rather pull the plug than submit to repressive surveillance by any government. We would be really sad to see Riseup go, but if we are forced to, we would rather it go away than to betray your trust and compromise the activist community. With this in mind, you should be sure you are prepared in case something does happen, such as downloading and archive your email on your own computer!

Q: What about child porn, drugs, corruption, etc. Would you fight law enforcement requests for users doing these things?

A: Those things violate Riseup’s Terms of Service and, unlike some more “American Libertarian” service providers, we do not exist to provide privacy for doing anything you want. We would close the accounts of people doing those things and the collective may even decide to cooperate with law enforcement rather than set all the servers on fire and destroy the organization, and your email.

(1) [en] The Guardian 08-09-13 “Lavabit privacy row: second email service closes ‘to prevent spying’” www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/aug/09/lavabit-email-edward-snowden-...



"the collective may even decide to cooperate with law enforcement rather than set all the servers on fire and destroy the organization, and your email."

Good to know. This is actually the most important point in the entire statement, which completely invalidates riseup being able to be trusted. First of all, ever heard of law enforcement lying? To any agents reading this, all you have to do is go down to riseup headquarters and say you're investigating child porn, and they'll hand the servers right over to you voluntarily!

Second of all, literally every public case involving google searches being turned over to the cops and other things that have made people suspicious of big baddies like Google involve really terrible crimes, most notably husbands killing their wives and getting caught making google searches like "how to dispose of a body" within a few days of their wives going missing. Now, privacy advocates, despite their lack of coherent politics, have taken the argument that Google is evil for cooperating with law enforcement over ANY case and that it's a slippery slope and it's only a matter of time before they cooperate against someone who's politics they don't like, etc. Furthermore, I imagine many would say that they would rather a few men get away with killing their wives than for everyone's privacy be at risk and might even add some stupid statement like "that's the price of living in a free society." Don't get me wrong, I'm against wife-murder just as much as the next person, but the fact is that if you're going to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement, you're going to do just that: refuse to cooperate with law enforcement. Google obviously doesn't give a shit about cooperating in general and certainly doesn't care about defending the privacy of a suspected murderer, however riseup should and so should any other secure e-mail or VPN provider. I want the FBI to be able to go to the door of the providers I use and say "We're investigating someone who very likely is a rapist of countless children, a murderer of countless sex workers, and specifically targets their child victims for heroin sales" and have the providers (in this case riseup) say "Get fucked. Come back with a warrant motherfucker, and when you do all our shit will be encrypted so you won't be able to read it and should there come a time when we have to go to jail to refuse giving up the keys, we'll do it!" This is unfortunately the opposite of what the end of this statement says and I don't think people should write it off. Saying that trafficking child porn is against your Terms of Service is one thing. So for example, if someone's riseup was posted all over a child porn site saying "E-mail me your pics!" then I don't think there's anything wrong with Riseup shutting down the account. They're providing it, of course, and they can shut down or suspend whatever account they like. You might disagree with their decision and hate them over it but regardless of the motivation, it isn't that surprising that they would choose to close certain account which usually happens if the account is being used for spam.

It is a very very different story for Riseup to say that they would consider cooperating with law enforcement depending on the crime being investigated. Firstly, some completely apolitical mainstream e-mail providers have the policy of saying "Come with a warrant and we'll give you whatever you want" which is actually a lot better than Riseup's policy apparently. Secondly, do I need to explain how bad the politics of this collective is if they're saying they'll consider working with law enforcement? Sorry, but despite your dismissal of similar services run by libertarians, they have much better privacy policies than you do. What the hell do I care about your feelings about certain crimes and your willingness to break over the mere mention of them? I come to riseup for one thing: the assurance of privacy for anarchist communication. That assurance is based on the idea that you will completely refuse any cooperation and fight like hell to protect my probably useless data. I may sound like a futile battle to many in the real world, but in the virtual world this is about as good as it gets. If you can't even provide that, what the fuck is the point? Those libertarians may be full of shit, but at least when it comes to dealing with the cops, it sound like they're less likely to shout "Oh dear, oh my!" when they try to make them feel guilty for who they're protecting.

I overall think riseup provides a good service which is why I think this criticism is very necessary and I'm very disappointed at this recent statement. I am, however, glad that they are developing a new system that will protect their users from themselves. I don't know if they'll ever finish this project but I certainly hope they do because I feel a little less safe today with these revelations and need protection from these riseup birds as well as from everyone else.

Don't be a hypocrite. If you want to say Google is evil for turning over search records to the cops but Riseup is okay being they would only do it for really bad crimes, then show me one instance of Google handing over search records of anyone suspected of a crime that anarchists would ever engage in. You might find that Google and Riseup aren't so different after all. It's really not so different from saying "I'm against prisons but.....we kind of need prisons for the rapists and wife-murderers, you know? So you can't be TOTALLY against prisons." Thanks, but no thanks.

Indeed... since the police never shows evidence or proofs for its allegations or suspictions before the court hearing happens, then they basically can make up whatever extreme crap they want in order to convince Riseup to hand them over infos.... or Riseup collective, at worst, can use this as pretext to freely hand over infos to the cops.

If the Riseup collective would rather destroy its servers rather than being forced to hand over infos to the police (inthe same logic as the Grand Jury resisters), only there we could say that they are 100% trustworthy people. If I'd be running secure servers, they'd have explosives planted right next to the hard drives!

Just an encrypted hard drive, and a windowless room boobytrapped to turn off the power if disturbed in any way. When they step on that pressure plate, the power is short-circuited on both sides of the battery backup power supply, the computer shuts off, the breakers trip with a snap, the room goes dark. Probably the room has to be "secureed" before the computer forensics team can even enter for fear of other traps. By the time they can get the side cover off, it's way to late to freeze the RAM with freon, reboot from a special disk, and extract the encryption key. Just be sure not to used any closed-source encryption product as those could contain keyloggers, weak key generation, or other back doors.

you said "I come to riseup for one thing: the assurance of privacy for anarchist communication. That assurance is based on the idea that you will completely refuse any cooperation and fight like hell to protect my probably useless data." it doesn't sound like them saying "we have no problem fucking over traffickers of child porn" in any way affects your stated reason for using riseup.

Take responsibility for your data. There are no quick fixes, you need to develop good habits. Why do you expect Riseup to go to jail to protect your encryption keys, why aren't you encrypting your data before you give it them?

some relevance


That's true. There's really no excuse for the lack of use of e-mail encryption by anarchists at this point. It's so very easy. Takes less than 30 minutes to completely set up and understand. Pretty fucking good for a technology that governments worldwide likely can't break, as long as you have a good long password.

OK if its so easy computer nerd, walk me through it, Im a moron on computers, (but a genius at whipping up homemade hamburgers)

instructions/links/resources would be awesome to share here. I don't know this stuff either and I understand that I need to...so help a kid out. If I have to ask, I know I'm not the only one out there who still needs this info.


OK i'll dump some stuff to get you started, if your struggling reach out to someone in IRL who cares about this stuff, they'll be really fucking pleased to help you. pay them back by passing on the knowledge!

Basic start for email would be

-install thunderbird email client (K9 on android)
-install enigmail plugin (APG on android)
-swap keys with your friends
-send vulgar messages to each other.

*before you send an email consider if its the type of thing you want to make a recording of your self saying*

Bonus section

-Consider installing a linux distro that will encrypt your home folder upon setup, LinuxMint is newb friendly.
-Download tor browser bundle and go look at some .onion sites.
-install keepassx and make some super strong passwords that you don't need to remember.
-Download truecrypt and make an encrypted usb stick.
-Install tails on a usb stick for stealthy computer fun times on the move.
-purchase something with bitcoin instead of via your bank account.



closing thoughts

theres alot of stuff to wade through, the cryptoparty handbook is the best place to start. its got step by step stuff with screen shots and what-not. I'd really recommend watching the opsec video posted above as it goes into detail as to how people where targeted by law enforcement and flags instances when poor judgement rather than technology was at fault. Decide for your self what level of privacy you need or desire depending on your personal situations. Feel free to share some burger recipes!

10/10 sweetie, some very helpful data for an ol school sassy gal like me! And here is a delicious burger recipe all my boys relish before bedtime!

2lb ground prime beef mince
1 onion
mixed herbs, preferably parsley freshly picked and finely cut, a pinch of oregano and rosemary.
1 teaspoon on MSG (monosodium glutamate). Why my burgers are SOOO addictive.
1 teaspoon of diced garlic
Half a lettuce
2 large tomatoes
Pickled cucumber
Ketchup or chilli sauce
Cheese and egg are an option for those with chronic cardiac problems.
Buns or slices of bread.

Mix mince, herbs, diced onion, garlic and MSG and form patties and fry on any hot smooth metal surface, the bonnet of a car in Arizona midday summer takes 30min each side.
Add to bread and top with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, cucumber(and egg and cheese for those about to leave us shortly) Bon Appertite!

Sorry, but he is right ! -> There come the police and say 'hi birds, we are after a bad guy who likes children and hates mr. president, we have to find him b4
he does rape a kid, here are some pictures he looked at. ...- Oh, that's O.K. - here is the data and his contact list. Do you need anything else ?.

Or how will they check if the (any) evidence is true ?

Remember how the cops pull over black people all the time and plant drugs on them as a pretext to arresting them. Now imagine every http get as an example of that. Suppose I have a website, any old website, and I am going to keep this rudimentary so this example wouldn't apply to me, although it is the concept of visible data versus invisible data that is important. Suppose Tom connects to my website and on the site I have a photo, some child porn maybe, but I've wrapped div tags around it and set the visibility option to none. The person would unknowingly download the image and it would remain in their browser cache. The police can and probably do use this any time they feel like it. Computer software runs at various levels, each level having greater control to the one above it. Even if I know html programming and checked the source code for the incriminating div tag, the markup can be manipulated directly from the dom. The dom can further be manipulated from the graphics rendering engine and so on until you are directly interfacing with hardware functions involving electron charges. This is not the feds or the police acting. This is strictly those processes defining so called bourgeois democracy, a proverbial gun to your head at all times. They will burn, with or without me, because death is better than them.

That way, nobody can get into your browser cache after the fact unless you use a weak passphrase like a word from the dictionary. OK, a trap website pushes hidden kiddie porn to your browser cache. You "delete" it with the rest of the cache, cops figure get a warrant, steal your computer, run data recovery and show the images they pushed to you to an unknowing jury. Just one problem, they can't read ANYTHING except your boot partition unless you used commercial, closed-source encryption with a backdoor, or that weak passphrase.

This now works like the cops planting drugs in someone's toilet, which then gets "flushed" the first time power to the computer is turned off and the RAM contents go blank.

The RAM contents can be accessed relatively easy for a certain amount of time after shutdown, especially in cold temperature. The cops can also keep you in jail until you provide the pass phrase. It's happened before. Your browser cache can be accessed as easily as it can be filled. The cache problem can be resolved by deleting the cache after every use. If a website develops a security breach method that can access and write cache content (through action script for example), it would only be for that one session. At the end of the chain it comes down to the passphrase of the information stored on your computer, if it is encrypted. Suppose you have forgotten the passphrase, and this genuinely forgot, you could be in jail, hypothetically, for life.

"We will do everything in our power to protect the data of social movements and activists, short of extended incarceration.:"

this is the part that bummed me out. we expect grand jury resisters to be willing to serve incarceration for the sake of not being a snitch. i expect as much from my email server.

To be fair, they said that in that situation they would pull the plug rather than go to prison. Not that they'd hand over the information rather than go to prison.

hmmm, hard to tell from the wording whether you're right or not.

Nope, it's really clear. They'll either accept short prison sentences or the necessity of pulling the plug - turning over information was never treated as an option in the above article.

Y’all are seriously complaining about a free service to the community? Not to mention that email isn’t a secure medium anyway. Use encryption people. Thank you Riseup for your email accounts and listserve hosting.

I knew this guy that used super ultra-encryption. This encryption was so airtight, it would take 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years to crack with the entire computing power in existence today. He went to the coffee shop and some asshole behind him watched as he typed his passcode in. what. a. loser.

The moral of the story:
Security is as much a social question as it is a technical one.

more like, don't lose sight of the big picture

The first commenter is absolutely right in this case. Really Riseup.net, drugs and "corruption" (whatever the fuck that means) are bad now? I knew I would never use their service when I looked at the signup requirements and saw their bullshit restrictions for what constitutes "legitimate activism" (in their eyes). They are not anarchists it's clear.

Because they refuse to enable capitalist activity or child porn? Oh... give me a break! Perhaps YOU are the one who's falsely anarchist. There are secure mail hosts on Tor for the nasty stuff... why would Riseup allow criminal authoritarian crap among their services?

Has anyone ever noticed how Riseup tends to throttles people's bandwidth, like people they're politically aligned against or other some seedy shit. If you're on the vpn it sometimes goes slow and sometimes fast and this is intentional. Because they CAN see the IP origin although cannot see the actual transmission because each packet is encrypted with a timestamp hash or some shit. Point being, they can and do throttle you if they don't like you and they don't need to eavesdrop to do this or know anything about your communication. Simply allocate less bandwidth to ip xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx regardless of what it's connecting to or how. The reality is that it's probably easy to get the timestamp hash or whatever although that's secret secret and technically complicated enough to prove it can be done let alone they're doing it!

That was the advantage of tor. The only thing each hop knew was the previous source, it could not without cracking encryption know the origin or end point. VPN encrypt traffic but the vpn server can see the origin and has to know the endpoint to know where to send it to.

Also, not having internet at home, I frequent local businesses with wifi, some of which I know the owners and am on good terms with and that don't appreciate the added attention from laws that traffic to this site brings. So a reliable vpn that doesn't slow down is crucial for my personal, political and professional development. Then again, such throttling could occur at any router between either my connection and the vpn or the vpn and the site I want to connect to, so I'm not really upset because I don't know who's doing it or what I can do about it.

If you connect to Riseup (or anyone else) by Tor, the far end server STILL can't see you, even if cops are running one of the attacks below that work by going around Tor between known or compromised machines. Nobody could throttle or censor you by IP address unless they provided both the online service and the network connection.

The recent "CIPAV" attack on Freedom Hosting compromised a server in the usual fashion, then download malicious software to Windows computers. That software ignored Tor, just made the target computer send info directly to the FBI on a non-Tor connection. Nothing more than an ordinary hacked website that attacks Windows, except for a
payload of software that reprogrammed the computer to send its information to the FBI on a non-Tor connection.

They can also monitor two points (your home connection and this site, for instance) and count/timestamp packets, but that only proves communication they already thought went from one to the other-the "confirmation attack. Both these attacks treat Tor as a black box: You can't see either end from the other, nor anything inside the box. If you can see both ends from above, however, you no longer need to see inside the box but can compare inputs and outputs instead. This is acutally quite common in some kinds of science/engineering situations.

Therefore, to use Tor to protect yourself from an "above" opponent, you must use a randomly picked wifi hotspot so they don't know where at least one end of the black box is located and cannot watch both connection. You also need to use a non-corporate OS, a Linux distro or especially Tails (a read-only live disk into which nothing new can be installed) so they can't just send snitchware over the Tor connection after hacking the server you are talking to,

Tor also works damned well to bypass filters and censorship, and to blind Google to your search history as long as you never use the new Google high-speed ISP that is coming out in some places. Use a network provided by Google, expect confirmation attacks against Torified searches. Never use any online service or any computer/smartphone provided by your ISP! Also remember to layer your defenses as computer security of any type is always an arms race. A Riseup email from an account accessed only over Tor from a variety of wifi hotspots would be so hard to trace they would throw in the towel and go trolling for human snitches instead.

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