Plenty of people use encrypted email services to protect their identities and information online. But, that could all be coming to an end soon for many folks because the man behind the most popular free email encryption technology out there is going broke.
German Werner Koch created the Gnu Privacy Guard encryption software in 1997 and now it's the technology behind popular encrypted email services used by journalists, activists and even Edward Snowden such as GPGTools, Enigmail and GPG4Win. Even though tons of people use these programs around the world, Koch likely can't afford to keep his software updated and effective much longer. That's because he's almost single-handedly been providing updates and patches for the program since he created it with very little funding.
Koch's program is free and the code is open source, which makes it easy for other developers to use the software and verify that there aren't any government backdoors. He would like to generate enough money to pay himself and hire a programmer, but the odds don't look good.
In December, he launched a fundraising campaign that has garnered about $43,000 to date — far short of his goal of $137,000 — which would allow him to pay himself a decent salary and hire a full-time developer.
He's received grants and donations in the past, but not nearly enough to keep GPG running in the long run. Koch has a wife and daughter and has only made about $25,000 a year for more than a decade despite operating this critical software. He is now considering leaving the project to enter the private sector where he can make much more money.