Yahoo and Google Shake Hands To Provide End-To-End Encryption
Yahoo has announced that it will start working with Google to provide email encryption to its users that will make it mathematically impossible to decrypt the content of the email, even for the email service providers like Yahoo and Google.
The efforts for encrypting emails began earlier this year when Edward Snowden revealed that U.S. government had been reading emails and had surveillance plans. Yahoo hired a security researcher, Alex Stamos, in April to work out a solution for the Yahoo mail users so that it is impossible for National Security Agency to breach the users’ privacy by eavesdropping on their emails.
Google introduced the concept of end-to-end encryption. Google has been providing encryption to its email clients using HTTPS and other protocols but this new technique encrypts the email at the sender’s computer or smartphone and then only the receiver can decrypt it when the email is received. It means even if somebody hacks the email in the wires, the email will appear rubbish.
Yahoo is now following in the Google’s footsteps adopting the same technique as it is the most secure way of encrypting emails to the date. The technique uses Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption, which is yet uncrackable. The reason behind it being uncrackable is that unlike other encryption techniques that rely on service providers to store keys that are used for encryption and decryption, it stores users’ own unique keys on their computers or smartphones hence the name “end-to-end encryption.”
The biggest hurdle in using PGP is that it is very difficult to use since it requires great deal of technical knowledge. Google has released the code of their solution so that the developers can help them in making it easier to use for the consumers. Another thing to note is that PGP only encrypts the content of email and not the subject line and recipient.
“We have to make it clear to people it is not secret you’re emailing your priest, but the content of what you’re emailing him is secret,” said Stamos.
Google and Yahoo collectively service very large amount of users. According to ComScore, Google had 366 million Gmail visitors while Yahoo had 273 million in December 2013. Such efforts by both tech giants will make millions of users’ communications safe. The encryption tool will be an optional feature and users can use it in addition to the encryption techniques already provided by the both companies.
Such technique will also relieve the companies of the stress of facing courts in cases where the jury asks to release users’ email communications. Since they would not own the encryption keys, they can say in the court that they cannot help them in this matter.
Stamos said that encrypting messages will make it difficult to provide targeted ads in the emails, but he noted that emails sent to a mother or an activist do not hold much business value.