Hardened web server security

We have recently hardened our web server security, giving Runbox an A+ rating on securityheaders.io — in addition to our existing A+ rating on ssllabs.com.

The policies we have implemented are the following:

X-Frame-Options: Tells the browser that we don’t allow the Runbox web site to be framed (included) by other web sites, which defends against attacks like click-jacking.

HTTP Strict Transport Security: Strengthens our implementation of Transport Layer Security (TLS) by making the browser enforce the use of encrypted communication (HTTPS).

Content Security Policy: Protects our web site from Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks.

HTTP Public Key Pinning: Protects us from from Man-in-the-Middle attacks by making sure the TLS certificates used by the browsers are the ones implemented on our servers.

X-XSS-Protection: Sets the configuration for the cross-site scripting filters built into most browsers.

X-Content-Type-Options: Forces browsers to use the declared file content type instead of trying to be too clever, which helps to reduce the danger of drive-by downloads.

These changes will help ensure that your use of Runbox is as safe and secure as possible, and we will continue making security-related improvements in the future.

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TLS Upgraded for Incoming Email

Today we have upgraded the TLS (Transport Layer Security) of our incoming email servers to support version 1.2, which is the most recent. This means that when email is sent to Runbox from other services, the highest level of encryption will be used if the other service supports it.

This also means that all communication between your email program and Runbox now uses TLS 1.2 (if supported by your email program).

 

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Why Runbox being in Norway is important

We are emphasizing Runbox’ location in Norway as something that is important to you as an email user, and you may wonder why. This article will explain it all.

Summary

  • Norwegian ShieldAll your Runbox email is privacy protected because our servers are located in Norway, and Runbox strictly adheres to the Norwegian privacy legislation.
  • Runbox protects your data against disclosure because the authorities must present a valid court order based on evidence of criminal activity to seize any data.
  • Any foreign nation requesting account information or contents have to send a formal request to Norwegian judicial authorities, and only with a Norwegian court order can any data be disclosed.
  • Norwegian authorities are not allowed to perform surveillance of data traffic without a court order.
  • Under Norwegian legislation, Runbox is not required to keep any traffic logs, and is permitted to delete your data if you ask us to.

Norwegian privacy legislation and regulations

First of all, Norway has enacted strong legislation regulating the collection, storage, and processing of personal data, mainly in The Personal Data Act (Lov om behandling av personopplysninger; Personopplysningsloven) and Regulations on the Processing of Personal Data (Forskrift om behandling av personopplysninger; Personopplysningsforskriften).

The first version of The Personal Data Act was implemented as early as 1978. This was a result of the pioneering work provided by the Department of Private Law at the University of Oslo, where one of the first academic teams within IT and privacy worldwide was established in 1970.

Additionally, the Norwegian Data Protection Authority (Datatilsynet), an independent authority, facilitates protection of individuals from violation of their right to privacy through processing of their personal data. It also verifies that statutes and regulations which apply to the processing of personal data are complied with, and that errors or deficiencies are rectified.

Any complaint against decisions made by The Data Protection Authority may be reported to The Privacy Tribunal (Personvernnemda), another independent authority, for decision.

The Norwegian Criminal Procedure Act (Lov om rettergangsmåten i straffesaker; Straffeloven, unofficial translation) is an important law governing the seizure of objects or data when a criminal act has been reported to the police. Section 211 states that mail may only be seized from an electronic communication service pursuant to a court order.

Another important law in this context is the Norwegian Penal Code (NPC, Almindelig borgelig straffelov; Straffeloven, unofficial translation) which states that it is illegal to access information systems or data unauthorized (NPC §145), and this includes all employees in the public sector (NPC §116).

We must also mention Norwegian Law on Electronic Communications (Lov om elektronisk kommunikasjon; Ekomloven), which regulates telecommunications in Norway. This law contains rules for the interception of electronic communications and for the duration of storage of personal data.

Because Runbox is similar to an Internet service provider and not a telecommunications company, Runbox is NOT affected by this law. This means that Runbox for instance is permitted to delete your email data upon your request at any time, and that we are not required to store any traffic logs.

The bottom line is that a request from Norwegian police authorities to disclose data from any Runbox account will be rejected by Runbox unless a Norwegian court has decided otherwise.

What does compliance with Norwegian privacy laws mean?

So what does Runbox’ compliance to Norwegian laws mean regarding your personal data when using Runbox, and the content of your emails stored on our servers?

Runbox does not collect any data about you except what is necessary to provide you with our services. This is in accordance with our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which is compliant to The Personal Data Act §8. This paragraph states that personal details can only be collected and processed with consent from the registrant.

Similarly important is §11, stating that personal data must not be used for purposes inconsistent with the initial purpose of collection except with consent from the user.

Only if presented with a court ordered seizure pursuant to the Norwegian Criminal Procedure Act may Runbox be forced to disclose information to The Norwegian Police Service. It is therefore an absolute prerequisite that a crime has been committed.

What about requests from authorities outside Norway?

A request from foreign authorities or agencies regarding Runbox account details or user data has a long way to go before it reaches Runbox:

It will in general start with a legal request (letter rogatory) submitted through diplomatic channels to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who sends it to the Attorney General at the Norwegian Office of the Prime Minister, who will, if appropriate, forward the request to the Ministry of Justice and Public Security who in turn sends it to the appropriate police unit, for example the National Criminal Investigation Service, Norway (Den nasjonale enhet for bekjempelse av organisert og annen alvorlig kriminalitet; Kripos) or The Norwegian Police Security Service (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste; PST) for independent investigation. All requests will of course be evaluated with regards to Norwegian laws and regulations.

The Norwegian police authorities may then present Runbox with a subpoena, which will be rejected by Runbox as a matter of principle. The case may then be submitted to a Norwegian court, and an attorney will be appointed to represent the account owner. If the court finds that there is evidence or probable cause for suspicion of criminal activity on the part of the account owner, Runbox may be presented with a court order requesting us to disclose the requested information.

Norway has entered into agreements with some foreign nations to cooperation in criminal matters regarding disclosure of objects and data, that may simplify the procedure above:

Through the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters requests go directly to the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, through the Schengen Agreement requests go to the public prosecutor in Norway, and between Nordic countries, requests go to central or local police (district chiefs of police). Requests from Canada and Thailand go directly to the Ministry of Justice and Public Security.

All other nations, the United States included, have to follow the general rule outlined above: Requests must be sent through diplomatic channels to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The agreement between Norway and the United States (and Australia) is about extradition of criminals only, not about assistance in “ordinary” legal matters.

Since Runbox Solutions was founded in 2011 we have received 0 court orders for disclosure of account details or user data. We have received 3 requests directly from attorneys in the United States, all of which have been rejected outright.

What about surveillance…

According to the laws mentioned above, the Norwegian police authorities can not execute communication control, for instance surveillance of electronic messages, without a valid court order. An independent tribunal, the Control Committee for Wiretapping (Kontrollutvalget for kommunikasjonskontroll) is established to control that the police’s use of wiretapping occurs within the framework of the law and that the use of such methods is as limited as possible.

This means that no surveillance of traffic to or from Runbox can occur unless a valid court order is presented. However, the regulation that governs wiretapping (Forskrift om kommunikasjonskontroll; Kommunikasjonskontrollforskriften) and the Control Committee for Wiretapping do not pertain to intelligence, which is the domain of The Norwegian Parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Committee (Stortingets kontrollutvalg for etterretnings-, overvåkings- og sikkerhetstjeneste), see below.

…and intelligence?

Let us examine the various Norwegian intelligence agencies and their mandates:

The Norwegian Intelligence Service (Etterretningstjenesten) is a body established in order to survey and monitor civil and military activities outside Norway. This body is not authorized to survey or collect information about Norwegian natural or legal persons, which includes companies. For that reason, Runbox is beyond the authority of this agency.

The Norwegian Police Security Service (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste; PST) do NOT have any legal rights beyond The Norwegian Police Service, which is discussed above.

The Norwegian Defence Security Department (Forsvarets sikkerhetsavdeling, FSA) applies to military institutions only, and is not relevant for Runbox customers at all.

The National Security Authority (Nasjonal sikkerhetsmyndighet, NSM) is established to control governmental and civil institutions regarding security, and because Runbox does not provide services to such institutions, this authority is not relevant to Runbox or our customers.

Joint Counter-terrorism Center (Felles kontraterrorsenter, FKTS), is a recently established department within PST staffed with people from PST and EtterretningstjenestenFKTS is a cooperation agency sharing information and analyzing terror threats against Norway. FKTS is subject to the laws and regulations governing the activities of The Norwegian Police Security Service and the Norwegian Intelligence Service.

In order to monitor these agencies and ensure they are acting in accordance with laws and regulations, the Norwegian Parliament has established The Norwegian Parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Committee (Stortingets kontrollutvalg for etterretnings-, overvåkings- og sikkerhetstjeneste), and Control Committee for Wiretapping (Kontrollutvalget for kommunikasjonskontroll). Their mandate is to ensure that the police’s use of wiretapping is in accordance with the law and is as limited as possible.

What is the conclusion of all this?

All your Runbox email stored on our servers is safe because Runbox is located in Norway. Runbox strictly adheres to the Norwegian Personal Data Act and the Norwegian Criminal Procedure Act, which is the main legislation governing our operations. This fact, along with our ethics, prevent us from doing anything unauthorized with your data.

Specifically, Runbox protects your data against disclosure requested by the authorities because they must present a valid court order to seize any data. Such a court order is difficult to obtain, because it must be based on evidence of criminal activity related to the account owner.

Norwegian authorities are not allowed to perform surveillance of data traffic without a valid court order. Norway has established independent agencies to ensure that these agencies follow the laws and regulations under which they operate. In addition, Norway is an open democracy with a critical and investigative press which readily publicizes any suspicion of breached laws and regulations.

Any foreign nation asking for data have to send a formal request according to established protocols and strict rules. And any such legal request will be scrutinized by Norwegian judicial authorities, and only in cases where Norwegian law is breached could a request result in a court ordered seizure which is necessary to obtain data from Runbox.

In short, no authority or agency can monitor Runbox’ data or traffic without a court order, which can only be issued on evidence of criminal activity in violation of Norwegian penal code.

Additional protection

Runbox customers automatically have an advantage by storing their email in Norway, and you can add another layer of protection by encrypting your communication with Runbox.

To protect your privacy even further, Runbox does NOT use Google Analytics or any other third-party tracking of our customers’ usage. We never use data or traffic information for any other purpose than anonymous statistics in order to improve our services and our system’s performance. Our service is absolutely ad-free, and we do not share or sell your personal details to anyone.

The combination of the strict Norwegian legal environment, our solid IT infrastructure, Runbox’ ethics and Privacy Policy, and the technology Runbox provides, means that Runbox provides a service that is uniquely private and secure.

For more information about the privacy and security of Runbox’ services, please see the following links — and feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.

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Email Encryption with Runbox

There has been much talk in the media recently about using email encryption to avoid surveillance and monitoring. In this article we help you understand what email encryption is, how it works, and the options that are available to you as a Runbox customer.

Summary of this Article

  • Email communication involves at least a sending email client, a sending email server, a receiving email server, and a receiving email client.
  • Email communication between client and server is typically encrypted using basic encryption methods such as TLS or SSL.
  • In addition to this, you can use end-to-end encryption with any email service — and we show you how to use encryption with Runbox.

First, the Basics

Email Communication
Email Communication
The client establishes a connection with the sending server, which passes the message on to the receiving server from which the recipient downloads the message.

In order to understand how email encryption works, we need to cover the basics of email communication. Don’t worry, we’ll keep it non-technical and it’s pretty simple.

To send an email to someone, 4 things are usually needed (in addition to the Internet itself):

  1. A sending email client such as Outlook, Apple Mail, and Thunderbird.
    An email client is a program or app, which is running on a computer, tablet, or smart phone. When you use a webmail service such as Runbox Webmail, your browser acts as the email client. Whatever it’s called, it’s the program you use to write your email messages.
  2. A sending email server such as Runbox.
    When you use Runbox your email client connects to our servers, which takes care of figuring out where on the Internet the recipient is located. More correctly, it looks up the domain name part of the recipient’s email address and connects to the servers responsible for that domain name.
  3. A receiving email server such as Gmail.
    The receiving email server accepts the message and stores it until the recipient downloads it to her email client.
  4. A receiving email client such as Outlook, Apple Mail, and Thunderbird.
    Similar to the sending email client, the recipient uses an email program to send and receive email. The email client regularly connects to the receiving email server to check for new email, and usually keeps a copy of the messages on the server so that they are available to other devices the recipient may be using.

Standard Email Encryption

Encrypted Communication
Encrypted Communication
The server presents a valid SSL/TLS certificate and the encrypted connection is indicated by a padlock and green bar in the browser.

The email communication between the client and server (#1 and #2 above) is already encrypted by default if you are using the recommended settings. When using Runbox Webmail encryption is always enabled, which you can tell by the padlock in the address bar and the web address starting with “https” (where the “s” stands for secure).

This type of encryption is called Transport Layer Security or TLS for short (which has succeeded Secure Sockets Layer, SSL) and protects your data from being eavesdropped on its way from your email client to our servers.

After accepting the message for relay, the Runbox outbound email server then looks up the email service responsible for the recipient’s domain name and connects to one of their servers. Runbox always attempts to establish an encrypted connection using TLS, but many services do not support such connections yet.

After connecting to the receiving server (#3 above), Runbox hands over the message for further processing.

The final step (#4 above) between the receiving email server and the recipient is usually encrypted, but it depends on the encryption support of the receiving email service’s servers and the settings in the recipient’s email client. More details: Secure Transfer of Email

Why this type of encryption isn’t sufficient

In other words, there is no way of knowing whether the communication is actually encrypted all the way from you to the recipient. Although some email services provide encrypted email storage, this doesn’t resolve the problem of unencrypted connections further down the message’s path.

In the event that someone was able to eavesdrop on communication encrypted using SSL/TLS, they would in principle not be able to decrypt the contents without somehow accessing the private encryption key which is only stored on the provider’s servers (unless Perfect Forward Secrecy was implemented, which is the case with Runbox).

However, this type of encryption is still theoretically vulnerable to surveillance because the encryption standards used have been developed in cooperation with US intelligence agencies, although any such weakening has been denied by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology).

End-to-end encryption of email

End-To-End Encryption
End-To-End Encryption
Sender and recipient have exchanged encryption keys and the communication is encrypted from end to end, in addition to the SSL/TLS encryption which is attempted established by the sending server.

The best solution available is to add another layer of encryption on the email communication all the way from sender to recipient. This is called end-to-end encryption and is already available for use with virtually any email service or provider.

When using end-to-end encryption, the contents of messages will be unreadable to a potential eavesdropper all the way from sender to recipient. It is of course always important that the two parties take great caution to secure their computers or devices to prevent them from being compromised.

Note that the metadata (sender and recipient addresses, subject line, timestamp, etc) of email messages is always unencrypted in order for the message to be routed to its recipient.

There are two main email encryption standards available: PGP and S/MIME. This may look cryptographic in itself, but we will explain both of them. Runbox supports both standards, which can be used with an email client or with Runbox Webmail.

See Encrypting Your Runbox Email for an overview of email clients and their encryption support.

PGP: Pretty Good Privacy

Despite the name, PGP is considered to be cryptographically very strong and is probably the most popular email encryption standard today.

PGP is the easiest encryption standard to get started with because it doesn’t involve anyone but the sender and recipient of a message. It is based on a “web of trust” because it only involves the sender and recipient and assumes that they trust each other.

  • Both parties must have a PGP enabled email client or webmail service.
  • The sender must have generated a private/public encryption key pair using software that is downloaded and installed locally.
  • The recipient must have downloaded the sender’s public key, because the recipient’s public key is used by the sender to encrypt the message. The recipient’s private key is used to decrypt the message.
  • Can be used with webmail services with a web browser.

To get started, see our Encrypting and Securing Email Using OpenPGP help page.

S/MIME: Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions

S/MIME is a standard being adopted by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) and requires some more preparation on the part of the email user.

  • S/MIME functionality is built into most major email client programs.
  • Both parties must have an S/MIME enabled email client.
  • A certificate must be obtained from a Certificate Authority and installed in the sender’s email client.
  • Is based on a “chain of trust” because the Certificate Authority validates the sender’s identity and makes the public key available to others.
  • Is not suitable for use with webmail services using a web browser.

We hope this article helped you understand how email encryption works and how to get started using it. And as always, please contact us if you have any questions.

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New Privacy Products Available

Runbox prioritizes security, reliability, and privacy above all else. As you probably know, Runbox’ email servers are hosted in Norway, and Runbox Solutions operates under Norwegian legislation which protects our customers’ data.

Our services are protected by Extended Validation SSL with Perfect Forward Secrecy, ensuring encrypted communications between client and server. We enforce a strong Privacy Policy and we do not share any account details or user data with any third party.

To complement our security and privacy features we are now launching the following products:

No Backup

Store your email and files on a separate, dedicated disk volume without backup. This means that when you delete an email it is immediately and permanently removed from our servers.

Read more about No Backup

Domain Registration in Norway

You can register any top-level domain (TLD) name with a Norwegian registrar via Runbox and operating under Norwegian jurisdiction.

By registering a domain name ending with for instance .no, .cc, or .co, your domain’s records are kept in Norway and in the country corresponding with the TLD of your choice.

Read more about Domain Registration in Norway

Domain Management

Runbox can register a domain name for your exclusive use. Runbox Solution’s company name, address, and contact information will be used and we will be the legal registrant. Your personal or business details will not be associated with the domain name, but you will be reserved the right to use it exclusively.

Read more about Domain Management

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U.S. judge rules search warrants extend to U.S. companies’ overseas email accounts

A U.S. federal judge has ruled that U.S. Internet Service Providers must hand over customer emails and other content sought by U.S. government search warrants, even when the data is stored overseas.

The ruling addressed a search warrant against Microsoft Inc. for one of its customers whose email is stored on a server in Ireland.

As a Norwegian company and email service operating under Norwegian jurisdiction, Runbox is not affected by this ruling.

Runbox will not disclose account information or email data to authorities unless presented with a Norwegian court order.

Find out more about Runbox’ privacy policies and Norwegian privacy regulations.

Read the full story at Reuters.

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New IMAP servers deployed with Perfect Forward Secrecy

Our new IMAP servers were successfully deployed today after upgrading the new ZFS based storage, which resolved an error that had previously caused problems. The technical details of this error can be found in the official bug report from the operating system distributor.

The combination of new, powerful IMAP servers and a modern, ZFS based SAN (Storage Area Network) should significantly improve IMAP performance in the coming days and weeks as we move email accounts to the new storage unit.

Perfect Forward Secrecy support for IMAP

Additionally, the new IMAP servers support Perfect Forward Secrecy on SSL (encrypted) connections, which prevents an unlikely eavesdropper to decrypt the communication between client and server.

You do not have to change anything in your email client to enjoy these new technologies, but do let us know if you experience any problems.

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[Resolved] “Heartbleed” SSL vulnerability

On April 8, it was revealed in the media that a vulnerability in the internet encryption standard OpenSSL had been discovered. This vulnerability could potentially allow someone to access additional parts of the memory of servers protected by the OpenSSL software.

As stated in the OpenSSL Security Advisory:

A missing bounds check in the handling of the TLS heartbeat extension can be used to reveal up to 64k of memory to a connected client or server.

This could potentially compromise sensitive data such as the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of users, and actual content.

Runbox’ servers are secured

Runbox immediately upgraded our installations of OpenSSL on April 8 upon learning about this vulnerability. We have also reissued and reinstalled all our SSL certificates for both Web, POP, IMAP, and SMTP services.

Additionally Runbox web services already supports Perfect Forward Secrecy, which issues unique SSL key pairs for each connection. This prevents an unlikely eavesdropper from retroactively decrypting communications between server and client even if they managed to get the private key.

What you can do

We have no indications that any information has leaked from our systems, and our assessment is that the risk of such leaks is very small. Client computers and software are not affected by this vulnerability.

However, we recommend that you change your Runbox password to be entirely certain that no one else can access your account. It’s a good idea to change your password regularly, and use different passwords for different services. Please see Tips for choosing and protecting passwords for some useful rules about password generation and usage.

More information about Heartbleed from the security company Codenomicon is available at http://heartbleed.com/.

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Extended Validation SSL certificate installed

In order to further increase the security of our services we have now installed an Extended Validation SSL certificate on our main website https://runbox.com.

The certificate is issued by the WebTrust certified certificate authority GlobalSign and verifies that Runbox Solutions AS owns and operates the website and domain name runbox.com.

What is Extended Validation SSL?

The Extended Validation SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate provides the strong encryption included with regular certificates, and additonally validates our company’s identity by showing our company name and country code in green to the left of the browser address bar:

runbox.com EV SSL

Extended Validation certificates are only issued after rigorous vetting to verify the legal identity and physical presence of the website owner, establish their exclusive control over the domain name, and confirm the identity and authority of the individuals acting for the website owner.

This Extended Validation certificate also covers https://secure.runbox.com and https://www.runbox.com. Other runbox.com subdomains are still using a regular SSL certificate, which has the same encryption level but not the “green bar” identity validation.

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Runbox now supports Forward Secrecy

In recent weeks there has been some discussion in news outlets about SSL/TLS, which is used by many websites to encrypt the data being transferred between web servers and web browsers.

Since it’s theoretically possible for outsiders to break such encryption, an increasing number of people are requesting improved encryption methods.

What is SSL/TLS?

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and its successor TLS (Transport Layer Security) are cryptographic methods used to secure communication on the Internet. By using pairs of private and public keys, the web server and the client can securely encrypt and decrypt the data being transferred between two parties.

Gold-padlock.svgWhen a web browser connects to a website protected with SSL or TLS (indicated by a padlock icon in the browser) it receives the public key from the server, which is then used to encrypt the subsequent communication. The data can only be decrypted using the private key, which resides on the server.

The problem with keys

However, if someone was able to break in and copy the private key from a server, they would theoretically be able to decrypt any communication to/from that server — provided that they were also able to eavesdrop on the communication.

The solution: Unique keys

To counter this it’s recently become possible to configure web servers to issue a unique key pair for every single connection, and immediately destroy the keys once the session is complete.

This method is called Forward Secrecy because it prevents anyone from retroactively breaking the encryption.

Forward Secrecy on Runbox

Runbox has now implemented Forward Secrecy in order to further improve the security and privacy of our services. It’s now virtually impossible to eavesdrop on the data being transmitted between your web browser and Runbox’ web servers — and you don’t have to do anything in order to enjoy this new level of security.

For those who are interested in the technical details, here is an analysis of the security provided by https://runbox.com, which is now our main address:

https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=runbox.com

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