The FBI has seized the entire email database of a popular anonymous webmail service called TorMail meaning that all those secret mails now can be read by the US government.
The database was taken while investigating a hosting company known for sheltering child porn last year and now the FBI claims that it has uncovered a vast trove of email which can be used in unrelated investigations.
Taken from Freedom Hosting, the database surfaced in court papers last week when prosecutors indicted a Florida man for allegedly selling counterfeit credit cards online. The untouchables built a case in part by executing a search warrant on a Gmail account used by the counterfeiters, where they found that orders for forged cards were being sent to a TorMail e-mail account: “email@example.com.”
They then obtained a search warrant for the TorMail account, and then accessed it from the bureau’s own copy of “data and information from the TorMail email server, including the content of TorMail email accounts.”
In othe rwords, the FBI is gathering information into a virtual lock box, and leaving it there until it can obtain specific authority to tap it later. So far it is not searching the trove for incriminating evidence before getting a warrant. But now it has a copy of the TorMail’s servers, the bureau can execute endless search warrants.
What is alarming for TorMail users is that the mail service once boasted of being immune to spying. This is the second major victory for the Untouchables over so-called anonymous communication. Last year it won a court order compelling secure email provider Lavabit to turn over the master encryption keys for its website. This would have given agents the technical ability to spy on all of Lavabit’s 400,000 users. Rather than comply, Lavabit shut down and is appealing the surveillance order.
TorMail was the webmail provider of the Darknet of anonymous and encrypted websites and services, making the FBI’s cache extraordinarily valuable.