Recently we have conducted a short interview with one of the growing darknet email providers – Sigaint – from their homepage:
What is SIGAINT? SIGAINT is a darknet email service that allows you to send and receive email without revealing your location or identity. We provide this service to help journalists and activists combat the dragnet surveillance that exists on the Internet today. Even if you aren’t in conflict with the state or anyone in particular you as a human being deserve privacy.
You may visit them at: http://sigaintevyh2rzvw.onion/
What made you start a dark net mail service?
We were unhappy with the stability, security, and privacy model of other darknet email offerings, so we decided to run our own. We believe that people deserve privacy, and they should be free from allspying. They deserve dignity.
What do you offer that other services don’t?
Besides friendly, prompt, and helpful support we offer a two-tiered service. Our free offering is ad-supported, and can only be used with our webmail system.
We also offer a paid version of the service, which is only $30 for a lifetime membership. (Payable with Bitcoin or Litecoin, of course.) We call it SIGAINT Pro.
SIGAINT Pro gets you 20x the storage, IMAPS/POP3S/SMTPS access so you can use your account from almost any mail client. You also get access to our new secure Bitmessage gateway.
Do you limit any types of content?
No. Not at all. We believe in freedom of speech.
Also, there is no way for us to know what someone is using their email account for as we keep no logs and all mail is encrypted.
What do you do to make sure that your users data is protected?
SIGAINT has an enhanced server model designed with privacy in mind. We are confident to say that other services do not offer the level of privacy, features, and security that we do.
All user data is housed in a secret location that is protected by the Tor network. We operate two publicly known servers that are just proxies and contain no user data. These proxies only tunnel mail from the clearnet back to our secret data warehouse using Tor, and vice-versa. The proxies are expendable and can be replaced if needed.
Our data warehousing servers were purchased as parts locally using cash to avoid having the hardware tampered with in the mail. We can thank Edward Snowden for putting that fear into us. The servers were assembled and the operators of SIGAINT actually have physical access. We don’t just lease servers somewhere and assume they are safe. This may seem paranoid, but it is necessary.
We don’t use virtual servers or other false sense of security models to run the data warehouse either. We use bare-metal servers and a heavily hardened operating system designed to frustrate exploits and keep us safer against 0days. We feel that if we can’t be shut down legally or technically, the people we unintentionally anger will resort to hacking so we have to be prepared.
Mail between SIGAINT and other darknet email services stays on Tor as much as possible. We have peering arrangements with our competitors because we can see the mutual benefit in doing so.
The operators of the SIGAINT service are anonymous too. We can’t be legally compelled to comply with any order, nor can we because we don’t keep logs.
What is the difference at all between running a darknet and clearnet email service?
The biggest differences are the ability to mask email metadata, keep the user data physically away from spies, and the resiliency these properties offer us.
For example, if our proxies are seized or the clearnet domain is seized the SIGAINT website, email infrastructure, and user data are still online and accessible. We just replace the clearnet proxies and/or the domain and regain the bridge to the clearnet.
What are the possible dangers with running an email service that serves mostly darknet users?..
Possible misunderstandings or shortsightedness of law enforcement that may cause them to do something drastic such as seize our domain name or proxies.
How do you handle requests from law enforcement?
We handle them by replying to their emails explaining that the data they are asking for is impossible for us to retrieve.
Usually when we say the word “Tor” they don’t write back. The more persistent requests sometimes require us to educate them about Tor a bit more than usual.
Have you ever given up user data?
No. Not even once. We get requests about once a week from law enforcement, anti-terrorism departments of entire countries, and sometimes scared/concerned private individuals. We tell them all the same thing: we can’t give them what we don’t have.
Whats the craziest mail anyone ever sent using your service? (That you became aware of…)
A frustrated high school student emailed a bomb threat to his principal. The police contacted us about it and sent us a copy of the email. They also sent us a warrant which we scoffed at. The police threatened to “pull our servers down”. We laughed and told them “GFL”.
How do you prevent child abusers from using your service?
As for pedos, we don’t go actively looking for pedo accounts. If we get complaints about child luring or other sick stuff we will remove the offending email account. There was a case in the Netherlands where we had to nuke an account for child luring. It isn’t very exciting.
Any other interesting cases you had you want to share?
So we were recently contacted by the Government of Costa Rica regarding some sort of malware scam that was perpetrated upon them. For those unfamiliar with the Costa Rican government: they are extremely corrupt and probably deserve the malware. Anyway…
The person(s) who attempted the attack used SIGAINT to send the emails and try to dupe the government officials into installing malware on their computers.
They wanted us to release logs, including IP addresses, and they wanted to know where SIGAINT was situated. When we explained that the service uses Tor and that we were not going to release any information, they threatened to report us to Interpol. So now we are waiting for Interpol to email us so the cycle can start over again. :)
Another funny case…
We also had a state police “service” contact us regarding yet another pissed off student. Apparently he had threatened to shoot up his school on Halloween.
We received an “exigent circumstances warrant” demanding all logs and user data. We explained we have no logs, and that they have no jurisdiction over us so we wouldn’t provide user data. When they asked which jurisdiction we were under, we jokingly told them we were located on “the anarchic state of Tor island.”
They threatened the full force of the FBI upon us. We scoffed. They buckled like a belt, and stopped emailing us in absolute frustration.
In summary: I used to think that we could find a middle ground between security, privacy, and letting law enforcement do their “job”. Snowden showed us that if we give them and inch, they take a mile. The last shred of trust with them has been destroyed as far as I’m concerned.
Thank you for the info, to visit & try sigaint: http://sigaintevyh2rzvw.onion/