Microsoft is stepping up its webmail encryption, according to CNet. The update comes a few weeks after Google released an update to its transparency report showing that less than 50 percent of emails received in Gmail accounts from Microsoft’s Hotmail, Live, and MSN email services were encrypted.
The software giant is now implementing a series of changes to its products to better guard them against spies and cyber thieves. Outlook.com, Hotmail.com, Live.com, and MSN.com are now secured with Transport Layer Security protections. TLS is the next generation Secure Sockets Layer and ensures communications on the web are safe. It’s often used in tandem with Forward Secrecy or in Microsoft’s case, Perfect Forward Secrecy, which can keep your information secure even if someone manages to decrypt Microsoft services. Microsoft will only be using PFS for its cloud storage service OneDrive.
PFS is not new, Google has been using it since 2011, but many companies and websites don’t use it.
Microsoft is also launching a “transparency center” at its Redmond, Washington HQ. Governments can review software for open loop holes or “back doors,” though Microsoft has not expressed which products will be available for review, according to CNet’s report.
This particular update to its encryption platform probably has less to do with Google’s transparency report and a lot more to do with former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosures about the NSA’s spying programs. His leak of sensitive government documents had a major impact on the companies the U.S. government was syphoning data from — including Microsoft. Most recently affected was Verizon, which lost a contract with the German government because it complied with U.S. government surveillance.
Microsoft is likely trying to avoid the same fate. Last week the company launched Interflow, a security platform for Microsoft clients to exchange information about cyber threats. Three days later, general counsel Brad Smith said more needs to be done to protect private data. All of its efforts to improve security on its platforms show the company is betting better encryption will mean better business.