Encrypted chat service GhostMail closes as 'world has changed for the worse'

'Simply not worth the risk' of secure services getting into the wrong hands.

Secure app GhostMail that claimed to offer 'military-grade' encrypted messaging is shutting down Unsplash

GhostMail, a secure messaging service offering encrypted emails, chats and cloud storage, has announced it will cease operating "in its current form" on 1 September this year, in a move that appears to be related to the uptake in use of secure apps by terrorist groups.

In a message posted to the homepage of its website, the firm states: "Since we started our project, the world has changed for the worse and we do not want to take the risk of supplying our extremely secure service to the wrong people – it's simply not worth the risk."

It continues: "In general, we believe strongly in the right to privacy, but we have taken a strategic decision to only supply our platform and services to the enterprise segment. We hope you understand this decision and we refer to other free services available, as an alternative to our platform i.e. ProtonMail. Pro users will be refunded and contacted directly."

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GhostMail, which was founded in 2014, claimed to offer a system where files and data were permanent deleted and not stored on the firm's servers. On the 'About' page of its website, the firm says it is owned by an independent and "non-American" company that does "not gather and capitalise" on user details.

"We are simply not interested in your identity or other personal details. By using GhostMail you are protecting yourself and limiting the risk of a range of e-crimes, mass surveillance and intimidating marketing schemes," it asserted.

It is unclear if the service is closing due to demands for customer information from law enforcement. IBTimes UK contacted GhostMail for comment. However, we received no response at the time of publication.

According to security expert Graham Cluley, the strong encryption used – which means it may have been left unable to properly store records or activity logs on users found to be breaking the law – likely played a role in its demise. Indeed, on its website, the firm claims that reading user mail is "impossible".

"If we take GhostMail's statement at face value, one assumes that GhostMail is concerned that criminals and terrorists might abuse its services to hide their communications," Cluley wrote in a blog post. "As GhostMail has no way of perusing its customers' encrypted conversations, it wouldn't know who would be up to no good."

Many encrypted applications, including WhatsApp and Telegram, have been accused by law enforcement in the past for allegedly harbouring terrorist activity. The latter application especially is known to be in constant use by Islamic State (IS) supporters, propagandists and wannabees to spread extremist content.

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