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'Good job, NSA! You turned Yahoo! into an encryption beast'

Web firm's crypto revamp praised by erstwhile critics

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Yahoo! has announced major encryption improvements designed to thwart dragnet surveillance efforts by the likes of the NSA.

Alex Stamos, Yahoo!'s recently appointed CISO (chief information security officer), said the internet giant has finished encrypting traffic between its data centres. Stamos also outlined a roadmap for future improvements, including plans to encrypt Yahoo Messenger within months, in a blog post.

"We implemented the latest in security best-practices, including supporting TLS 1.2, Perfect Forward Secrecy and a 2048-bit RSA key for many of our global properties such as Homepage, Mail and Digital Magazines. We are currently working to bring all Yahoo sites up to this standard," Stamos explains, adding that as a process that requires continuous improvement, the project to improve security at Yahoo! will never be completed.

Leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that Google and Yahoo! data centre interconnects were being tapped by the NSA's spies as part of a programme code-named MUSCULAR.

The scheme is designed to hoover up any data missed by PRISM and other NSA programmes and involves tapping into fibre-optic links leased, or run, by Google (and others) between its data centres. Encrypting traffic between its data centres is Yahoo!'s response to MUSCULAR. Google and other tech giants including Microsoft and Facebook are moving in the same direction but Yahoo! has arguably managed to leapfrog its competitors.

Encryption experts who had previously been highly critical of Yahoo!'s historically sloppy approach to privacy protection, including its rollout of sub-standard always-on https connections for webmail in January, are full of praise for its latest plans.

"I'm gonna need to find another company to make fun of now that Yahoo! is taking encryption seriously," said Matthew Green. a cryptographer and research professor at Johns Hopkins University. "Any suggestions?"

"I would also like to say: good job NSA. You turned Yahoo into an encryption powerhouse. *Yahoo*," he added.

Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, also praised Yahoo!'s revamped approach to crypto in an update to his personal Twitter account. ®

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