Yahoo vows to encrypt all its users’ personal data

Yahoo vows to encrypt all its users’ personal data

SAN FRANCISCO    (AP) — Yahoo is expanding its efforts to protect its users’ online activities from prying eyes by encrypting all the communications and other information flowing into the Internet company’s data centers around the world.

The commitment announced Monday by Yahoo Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer follows a recent Washington Post report that the National Security Agency has been hacking into the communications lines of the data centers run by Yahoo and Google Inc. to intercept information about what people do and say online.

Yahoo had previously promised to encrypt its email service by early January. Now, the Sunnyvale, Calif., company plans to have all data encrypted by the end of March to make it more difficult for unauthorized parties to decipher the information.

Google began to encrypt its Gmail service in 2010 and has since introduced the security measure on many other services. The Mountain View, Calif., company has promised to encrypt the links to its data centers, too. A Google engineer said that task had been completed in a post on his Google Plus account earlier this month, but the company hasn’t yet confirmed all the encryption work is done.

Other documents leaked to various media outlets by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden this year have revealed that Yahoo, Google and several other prominent technology companies, including Microsoft Corp., Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc., have been feeding the U.S. government some information about their international users under a court-monitored program called PRISM. The companies maintain they have only surrendered data about a very small number of users, and have only cooperated when legally required.

The NSA says its online surveillance programs have played an instrumental role in thwarting terrorism.

The increased use of encryption technology is aimed at stymieing government surveillance that may be occurring without the companies’ knowledge. Even when it’s encrypted, online data can still be heisted, but the information looks like gibberish without the decoding keys.

“I want to reiterate what we have said in the past: Yahoo has never given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency,” Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer wrote in a Monday post on the company’s Tumblr blog.

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NSA harvesting hundreds of millions of personal email contact lists – report

NSA harvesting hundreds of millions of personal email contact lists – report

The National Security Agency is logging hundreds of millions of email and instant messaging contacts belonging to Americans and others around the world, according to a report based on documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The data harvesting program, first reported by The Washington  Post Monday, collects address books from email and instant  messaging service in an apparent attempt to map social circles  across the globe. Online communication services frequently expose  an individual’s contact list when that person signs onto their  account, sends a message, or connects a remote device – such as a  cell phone – to a computer.

An internal NSA PowerPoint presentation indicated that the NSA’s  Special Source Operations collected 444,743 email lists from  Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from  Gmail, and another 22,881 from other services. The documents note  that those numbers show what the NSA collects in one day, meaning  the intelligence agency could collect more than 250 million lists  each year.

The NSA is capable of collecting approximately 500,000 so-called  buddy lists from live-chat services and the “in-box”   displays from web-based email services, according to the Post.

Two NSA sources told the Post the intelligence agency uses the  data to identify international connections and then find smaller,  more nefarious connections between suspected criminals. The  collection relies on secret deals with foreign telecommunication  companies, with NSA agents monitoring internet traffic outside  the US.

The sources refused to estimate how many Americans are snared in  the dragnet but did admit it could number in the tens of  millions. An unnamed official was careful to mention the  collection comes from “all over the world,” and “None  of those are on US territory.”

Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of  National Intelligence, said the NSA “is focused on discovering  and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence  targets like terrorists, human traffickers and drug smugglers. We  are not interested in personal information about ordinary  Americans.”