NSA-resistant email service Lavaboom goes BOOM! (we think)

Funding shortfall may have played a part

Internet email sign. Pic: @mattw1lson, Twitter

Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom has apparently gone titsup, according to several net sources.

Rumours that the German encrypted mail service was no more surfaced through an ex contractor Piotr on the blog of rival ProtonMail, before getting picked up and discussed on Reddit.

Attempts by El Reg to reach the firm by email received no response. We were however able to reach Felix Müller­-Irion, chief exec and founder, by phone.

During a subsequent text message conversation Müller­-Irion declined to comment when asked directly if the service was still running. He went on to state that two serious leads to potential VC investors "went cold" when rumours that Lavaboom had folded (or at least was in severe financial problems) surfaced.

Lavaboom launched as a beta last year, prior to kicking of a crowdfunding campaign back in May in order to "continue development and pay for increasing server costs".

This funding drive raked in $11,900, a long way short of $100,000 funding goal.

It's tempting to think that this severe funding shortfall proved fatal even though we can't (immediately, at least) exclude the possibility that other factors might have been in play.

Privacy activists expressed concerns on Monday after noticing Lavaboom's warrant canary was 16 days late getting an update.

There's no direct business relationship between Lavabit, the now-defunct encrypted email service used by Edward Snowden on occasion for less sensitive correspondence, and Lavaboom, which is something of a "tribute band".

The German outfit said its systems were put together by a "small group of ex-hackers and designers who’ve come together to fight dragnet surveillance", led by chief exec Felix Müller-Irion.

Lavaboom main design principles included end-to-end encryption, "zero-knowledge privacy" and ease of use. The firm boasted 30,000 users as of mid May.

The basic service was free but Lavaboom also offered additional Premium and Plus plans offering extra storage space, as previously reported.

Lavabit founder Ladar Levison pulled the plug on that service back in 2013 service rather than continuing after he was obliged to hand over Lavabit's SSL private key to the US government.

Levison only handed over the key after a long and spirited legal fight, conducted in court-enforced secrecy. ®


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