Online privacy is gaining more and more importance nowadays, and recent news suggests Yahoo is jumping on the bandwagon pioneered by Google in an effort to create an encrypted e-mail system. The new system is claimed to be completely secure, preventing government officials and even the e-mail providers themselves from accessing any content created by the user. Long story short, decryption will be impossible.
This will be the first time an advanced security system is available for a great number of end-users if two companies succeed in achieving their plans. Although they are long time rivals, engineers in both firms are known to talk to each other about the project according to inside sources.
The encryption system will be be powered by a version of PGP, a technology that is based on encryption keys being stored in the users' laptop, tablet or any other device. The technology differs from traditional ones, as there are no servers storing data like usernames or passwords. PGP used to be very troublesome to use, as there were no password reset options and clunky software was required to send short e-mails, but Yahoo and Google are working hard to bring it down to a less tech-savvy level.
Despite the system increasing the level of privacy, serious concerns are also voiced by security researchers. To give a recent example, Google took down a sex offender by going through his e-mail this week, and handed over the information to authorities to track him down. If the newly developed system goes live, e-mail providers will no longer be able to provide the FBI or other authorities with any data whatsoever. This makes many security experts uncomfortable in what they call a disruption in "public-private surveillance partnership".
Transparency became even more important after Snowden's leaks, and if the secure e-mail system goes live, Yahoo and Google will be able to claim they don't have the encryption keys if asked, unlike Snowden's provider Lavabit which "shuttered" itself after a law order.
Time will tell if encrypted e-mail systems will go mainstream or not, but it's highly possible they will come only after quite a bit of debate.
Source: WSJ (behind Paywall) | Image courtesy of komputerswiat