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Yahoo! To! Switch! On! Webmail! Crypto! By! Default! Next! Year!

Never mind NSA backdoors, Purple Palace has got your back

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer and CFO Ken Goldman

Following in the footsteps of Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, Yahoo! has said that it will make SSL encryption the default for all users of its Yahoo! Mail service beginning in January.

The Purple Palace confirmed the plan in an emailed statement to the Washington Post on Monday.

Yahoo! has only offered SSL encryption for its email service since January of this year, well behind other, competing webmail services, and the feature is currently only enabled for users who opt in.

By comparison, Google's Gmail service has made SSL the default since January 2010, and the online ad giant has been gradually switching on the protocol for search and other services ever since.

Microsoft followed suit in 2012 by adding encryption to its own webmail service during the migration of its users from Hotmail to Outlook.com, and Facebook switched on SSL by default for all of its worldwide users in August of this year.

Yahoo! has been criticized for dragging its feet to do the same, even as security researchers have raised concerns that SSL web encryption may actually have been compromised by domestic spying programs, based on documents revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

In July, Snowden made the eyebrow-raising claim that Microsoft had collaborated with the NSA and the FBI to build a government backdoor into its encrypted Outlook.com service, a charge Redmond has since denied in a letter to the US Attorney General.

More crucially, however, researchers now believe that spy agencies including the NSA and the GCHQ have been actively working to compromise many of the encryption methods used on the web for years, and that deciphering SSL-encrypted communications may present little difficulty for them.

If that is in fact the case, then Yahoo!'s decision to switch on SSL years after most of its competitors is not just very late, but very little.

Still, any move toward increased security at the Purple Palace is welcome. In a statement to the Washington Post, the company said it "takes the security of [its] users very seriously." ®

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