Yahoo joins rivals by encrypting e-mails by default from January 8

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 5:29pm

Yahoo will encrypt web-based e-mail by default for all of its users from January 8, the company said.

"Yahoo takes the security of our users very seriously," the company said. Yahoo began offering users the option to use the SSL encryption standard this year. The option "encrypts your mail as it moves between your browser and Yahoo's servers", the company said.

SSL is the standard for internet encryption and helps protect communications from third-party snooping. It is widely believed to make it harder for the US National Security Agency to spy on online activities.

Yahoo has lagged behind its major competitors in offering encryption for its web mail service. Google offered SSL as an option for its web-based Gmail in July 2008 and made it the default in early 2010. It became an option for Microsoft's free web mail service, Hotmail, in November 2010, and became the default during the switch to in July 2012. Social networking site Facebook started offering SSL as an option in November 2011 and made it the default for US users in February and for the world in July.

Amie Stepanovich, director of the US Domestic Surveillance Programme at the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, commended Yahoo for the move. "It's always a positive thing when companies take steps to protect their customers' information," she said, but noted that "unfortunately, this often only happens after a harmful event".

While Yahoo is finally implementing SSL by default, Google and Facebook are already moving on to higher levels of security with stronger encryption.