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Yahoo! – encryption for the masses

Not end-to-end

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Yahoo! is the first Web portal to introduce an email encryption service.

The company is clear that the service is not end-to-end, but offers a "certain level of security" to the person receiving the email.

While some people question the value of mass market encryption products, Topsoft, a UK encryption specialist, positively encourages it.

"Encryption suffers from something of an image problem," says Topsoft's non-executive director, Tom Parker. "We need to get it into use in the general population. People are beginning to see the value of the security it offers, but are intimidated by the techie image it has."

However, the Yahoo! system, delivered through a tie-in with Zixit, a Dallas-based encryption firm, should be simple enough to use. It works like this: An email will be sent, in plain text, to Yahoo!. This is sent through a secure connection to SecureDelivery.com, the Zixit site, where it and its attachments are enciphered. Zixit notifies the recipient that a message is waiting for them at the SecureDelivery site, where the message will be stored for up to a week.

Once the site has verified the recipient's ID, the message will be decoded for them to read. At this point they can chose a password so they can skip the ID process on subsequent occasions.

Neither Yahoo! or Zixit would confirm the size of the launch or comment on whether it was a test. No date was given for full roll-out. ®

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