Cryptocat creator moves network to nuclear bunker, fearing espionage by Canadian agents

cold war bunker

Nadim Kobeissi, developer of the secure chat client Cryptocat, claims that agents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service may have installed a backdoor on his computer to monitor his activities, prompting him to migrate the service's network and reset its security keys. While Kobeissi pokes fun at the move — he writes that "having our network inside a Cold War nuclear bunker in Sweden would satisfy our need for the world to be as cartoon-like as possible" — he's not laughing about the alleged intrusion from government intelligence agents.

Kobeissi says the discovery of alleged government tampering came after a couple of odd email exchanges in January with two individuals going by "PG" and "GB." At first they seemed to be soliciting his services for a website project, but when he declined "PG" allegedly claimed to be a Juror and a former correspondent for the French newspaper Le Monde with ties to the CSIS. After returning from a trip to New York City, Kobeissi says he found his SFTP client attempting to make a number of connections on its own, including hostnames that "appear to belong to the CSIS" and a software company that provides IT services for the Canadian court system.

"This may all be just one big prank, with me as the victim."

"These connections were all detected and prevented by my external firewall system," Kobeissi writes in a blog post. "I have documented the connections to the [greatest] extent possible. In anger, I called a close friend to complain about these connections. Shortly after my phone call, the connection requests stopped, even though they had been occurring for days."

Kobeissi started developing Cryptocat as a free tool to make secure communication more accessible, and has been the target of questioning by US customs on several occasions. Last June, Kobeissi claimed to have been detained and interrogated at the US-Canadian border. He says that he's routinely given the "SSSS" (Secondary Security Screening Selection) designation when traveling between the countries, which subjects him to special searches and questioning. There's no solid evidence that Canadian agents were involved in the alleged backdoor, and Kobeissi admits that it could be a prank — but he's not taking any chances.

T.C. Sottek contributed to this report

The Verge
Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.