Privacy advocates welcome Yahoo Mail HTTPS roll-out

Yahoo starts providing users with the option to encrypt their webmail sessions

Digital rights and privacy advocates have welcomed Yahoo's decision to provide its users with an option to enable HTTPS (HTTP Secure) for their entire webmail sessions.

"We're really happy that Yahoo! is starting 2013 right by letting Yahoo! Mail users use HTTPS to access their e-mail accounts securely," the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said Monday in a blog post.

In November, the EFF, together with other privacy, security and human rights advocates and organizations, sent a letter to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer asking that the company implement full-session HTTPS for its communication services, including email and instant messaging.

HTTPS, a combination of the HTTP and SSL/TLS protocols, encrypts the traffic between Web clients and servers and prevents potential attackers from intercepting and inspecting potentially sensitive communications.

The lack of full-session HTTPS can be exploited by attackers to hijack accounts and intercept traffic on open wireless networks and also enables some governments that control the Internet infrastructure in their countries to spy on the private communications of political activists, members of the press and other individuals.

"Over the last several years, Yahoo! has repeatedly been urged by security experts to adopt HTTPS, but has taken no visible steps to do so," the privacy advocates wrote in their November letter to Marissa Mayer. "Unfortunately, this delay puts your users at risk, which is particularly disturbing since Yahoo! Mail is widely used in many of the world's most politically repressive states. There have been frequent reports of political activists and government critics being shown copies of their email messages as evidence during interrogation sessions, underscoring the importance of providing basic measures to protect the privacy of e-mail."

"Some of us have already been compelled to recommend that users avoid Yahoo! Mail because of its continued lack of essential security protections," they wrote at the time.

On Dec. 11, Yahoo started rolling out a new Yahoo Mail user interface for Web and Windows 8 and released new versions of its Yahoo Mail mobile applications for iPhone and Android.

The new Yahoo webmail interface has a "Turn on SSL" setting in the Mail Options menu. However, the setting is off by default and needs to be manually turned on by users who wish to take advantage of it. "If you're a Yahoo! Mail user, please take this step right away to protect your privacy when reading and writing e-mail," the EFF said Monday.

"Access is encouraged to see that Yahoo! is now supporting HTTPS globally for its mail and messaging services, an important and overdue step for the security and privacy of its users," AccessNow.org, a digital freedom advocacy group that also signed the November letter, said Friday in a blog post. "Pending technical analysis of its implementation, we believe this decision by Yahoo! responds to some of the concerns raised by civil society and security experts, and signals a continuing strengthening of their services' privacy protections."

Yahoo's competitors have supported full-session HTTPS for some time. Google implemented full-session HTTPS as an optional setting in Gmail back in 2008 and at the beginning of 2010 it turned it on by default for all Gmail users. Microsoft added the option in Hotmail in November 2010 and the new Outlook.com webmail service uses it by default.

Facebook and Twitter have had support for full-session HTTPS since 2011 and earlier this year they started enabling it by default for all of their users.

The next important step for Yahoo would be to enable HTTPS by default globally across all of its products and services, Access said.

In the meantime, the EFF will attempt to tweak its HTTPS Everywhere browser extension so that it always turns on HTTPS for Yahoo Mail even if users are unaware that the setting exists in their email options.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesonline safetyencryptiontwitterinternetprivacyElectronic Frontier FoundationFacebookYahooGoogleMicrosoftsecurityMail

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?