Yahoo today announced a feature that allows users of its e-mail service, Yahoo Mail, to send and receive encrypted messages. But it isn't quite what it seems.
Yahoo is the first of the major web portals to provide an encryption service. Competition comes from Ireland-based Hush Communications through Hushmail.com and by Mountain View, California-based ZipLip.com.
But whereas mail encrypted by programs such as Lotus Notes and Network Associates' Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is encrypted and sent by one machine and received and decrypted by another, Yahoo's service is based on secure website technology.
When a user chooses the 'SecureDelivery' option on Yahoo Mail, the e-mail message and attachments are encrypted and stored online, Yahoo said. The recipient is sent a notification and the message can then be picked up from SecureDelivery.com, a wholly owned subsidiary of ZixIt.
To read the message the recipient must enter a pass phrase. This will unlock a web page secured by Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology. SSL is used by many websites to secure communication between people and sites.