YAHOO HAS CHOSEN the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas to reveal that it will follow Google's lead and offer end-to-end encryption for its email services later this year.
The news will come as welcome relief for the company's 273 million email account holders. Yahoo became the last major webmail provider to encrypt email in January, unlike Google's Gmail service, which has done so from launch.
In the post-Snowden era, customers are becoming more conscious that their information can be subject to intercept requests from security services, and end to end encryption makes this impossible.
There is no way to avoid disclosure of who has emailed whom, and the subject line is still unencrypted, but the content is covered by a version of PGP encryption, which has yet to fall to the hacking community and remains uncracked.
Google announced in June that it would offer a similar service. However, both might come up against problems similar to those encountered by Lavabit, Edward Snowden's ex-provider, which closed after it was forced to hand over its encryption keys.
Yahoo and Google, however, both claim that they'll lock the data and then metaphorically 'swallow' the keys. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo chief information security officer Alex Stamos said, "We have to make it to clear to people it is not secret you're emailing your priest. But the content of what you're emailing him is secret."
He continued to say that where Lavabit failed. "That's very different from a publicly traded multibillion dollar company with an army of lawyers who would love to take this argument all the way to the Supreme Court."
According to catholic.com, priests are not permitted to take confession electronically in any case, so Mr Stamos need not worry, though this is based on the requirement of a "personal encounter with Jesus", so the Oculous Rift might provide a solution. µ