Can better encryption from Yahoo and others stop the NSA?

Yahoo encryption

Let the NSA keep spying. The tech industry, fed up with the world’s biggest spy agency’s secret intrusions into its servers and systems, clearly intends to lock the backdoors on its own – but will it work?

On Thursday, Yahoo’s freshly appointed Chief Information Security  Officer – on the job for just four weeks now – explained how it was boosting security for its users, largely in response to the revelations of government snooping.  Alex Stamos wrote that his team was in the middle of a “massive project” involving end-to-end encryption of traffic between Yahoo’s data severs, as well as encryption of Yahoo Messenger and even the search queries people type into the front page.

If you want to look for info on Justin Bieber, Yahoo believes the government doesn’t need to know about it. (But seriously, stop doing that.)

“Hundreds of Yahoos have been working around the clock over the last several months to provide a more secure experience for our users and we want to do even more moving forward. Our goal is to encrypt our entire platform for all users at all time, by default,” Stamos wrote in a blog post.

Given enough money and resources, which the NSA has in spades, it’s unclear whether any level of encryption is enough.

Other tech giants have expressed the same goals, encrypting the back-end channels and server chatter that the NSA has tapped to read “metadata.” Frankly, this kind of metadata is just as revealing for the NSA as reading our emails and listening in on our phone calls would be.

If Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, and the others lock down enough of those back doors, will they be able to prevent the spying we’ve all become so fed up with? Security experts will tell you that Yahoo’s long-overdue move is a step in the right direction – end-to-end encryption, to prevent confidential data from being casually spied upon. Especially the “forward secrecy” Yahoo said it’s turning on, which should add an extra level of security.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) applauded Yahoo’s effort in its “Encrypt the Web” call to action, and notes that many companies including Facebook, Dropbox, Twitter, and Microsoft have adopted the group’s best-practices policies.

“By enabling encryption across their networks, service providers can make backdoor surveillance more challenging, requiring the government to go to courts and use legal process,” the group wrote in a recent update.

But given enough money and resources, which agencies like the NSA have in spades, it’s unclear whether any level of encryption is enough. The NSA prides itself on being able to break through encryption,  and when it can’t, it creates other ways around it – even going so far as to fake Facebook servers recently.

Google’s Larry Page, at a March appearance at the TED conference in Vancouver, said he thought this level of nefariousness was a threat to democracy.

“I don’t think we can have a democracy if we’re having to protect you and our users from the government for stuff that we never had a conversation about,” he told interviewer Charlie Rose.

While Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, and the rest recently convinced the government to allow them to release some statistics on the NSA’s spying, it’s hardly the level of transparency that we need.

Encryption is a start. It’s an important step. But to really keep the snoops out of our data, we need to stop them from prying in the first place.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Gaming

Logitech’s newest headsets sound as good as they look, but they’re not perfect

Logitech's G935 and G432 bring style and impressive sound to the table. They boast leatherette earpads, positional 3D sound, and 50mm drivers, Logitech has become a formidable adversary for competitors, but the company's new headsets aren't…
Gaming

Get over here! All the details on next week’s Mortal Kombat 11 closed beta

Mortal Kombat 11 will hold its closed beta period from March 28 through March 31, giving those who pre-ordered the game the chance to check it out prior to its official launch in April.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Mobile

Huawei has a bold Plan B should tensions affect its software relationships

Huawei has its own software for smartphones and computers prepared, should its relationship with Google and Microsoft be adversely affected by ongoing tensions between it and the U.S..
Cars

Ford to expand autonomous-car research in race to launch robo-taxi service

Ford is in a race with Waymo and GM Cruise to launch large-scale taxi and delivery services using autonomous vehicles. Already testing its technology in four U.S. cities, the automaker looks set to expand its program to a fifth.
Computing

Debunking Dark Mode: Here’s why it won’t improve your laptop’s battery life

Dark Mode is known to improve battery life for certain devices, like a smartphone with an OLED screen. Does that apply to laptops, as well? To find out we tested two laptops, one running Windows and one running MacOS.
Computing

In the age of Alexa and Siri, Cortana’s halo has grown dim

In a sea of voice assistants, Cortana has become almost irrelevant. The nearly five-year-old voice assistant is seeing little love from consumers, and here’s why it is dead.
Gaming

EA is losing out on the true potential of Titanfall studio with ‘Apex Legends’

Apex Legends is a solid battle royale game, but one can’t shake the feeling that its creation was dictated by Respawn’s new owners: Electronic Arts. In the process, the studio’s soul could be lost.
Gaming

The 'Anthem' demo's crash landing raises more questions than answers

Bioware bravely allowed gamers to see a large chunk of 'Anthem' over two demo weekends, but it backfired. Lackluster missions, performance issues, and muddled messaging over micro-transactions leaves the game with an uphill battle.
Gaming

Apex Legends proves battle royale is no fad. In fact, it’s just getting started

Apex Legends came out of nowhere to take the top spot as battle royale in 2019, and it now looks as if it'll be the biggest game of the year. Its sudden success proves the battle royale fad still has plenty of life left in it.
Home Theater

Apple is arming up to redefine TV just like it did the phone

Curious about what Apple's answer to Netflix will be? Us too. So we combed through some patents, and looked at the landscape, to come up with a bold prediction: Apple's streaming service will be way bigger than anyone thinks.
Home Theater

How the headphone jack helps Samsung out-Apple the king

Samsung’s latest flagship phones and wearables unveiled at the Galaxy Unpacked event had plenty of exciting new tech. But one of the most useful features Samsung revealed is also the oldest: The mighty headphone jack.
Gaming

Age of Empires II thrives 20 years later. Here's what Anthem could learn from it

Age Of Empires II is approaching its 20th birthday. It has a loyal following that has grown over the past five years. New always-online games like Anthem would love to remain relevant for so long, but they have a problem. They're just not…
Gaming

Devil May Cry is Fantastic, but I still want a DmC: Devil May Cry sequel

Capcom's Devil May Cry 5 is one of the best games of 2019 and a welcome return for the series, but its success should not discount just how wonderful Ninja Theory's DmC: Devil May Cry really was.