Comcast will start encrypting email to and from Gmail accounts

Google’s unveiling of a new section to its Transparency Report that, among other things, shows which services support encryption in transit, has quickly lead to another welcome announcement.

Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas has announced that the company is planning to turn on encryption with Google in the next few weeks. The statement had to be a reaction to Google’s revelation that Comcast encrypts a very small fraction of emails in transit from or to Gmail, or none at all.

A quick search shows that does the same, and that less than 50 percent of the emails sent from Hotmail accounts to Gmail still aren’t encrypted. But while Verizon is yet to comment on this, Microsoft is already working on the problem: late last year the company announced that they are “working with other companies across the industry to ensure that data traveling between services – from one email provider to another, for instance – is protected.”

“Although this is a significant engineering effort given the large number of services we offer and the hundreds of millions of customers we serve, we’re committed to moving quickly,” they commented.

“In fact, many of our services already benefit from strong encryption in all or part of the lifecycle. For example, Office 365 and customer content is already encrypted when traveling between customers and Microsoft, and most Office 365 workloads as well as Windows Azure storage are now encrypted in transit between our data centers. In other areas we’re accelerating plans to provide encryption.”

“Gmail has always supported encryption in transit by using Transport Layer Security (TLS), and will automatically encrypt your incoming and outgoing emails if it can. The important thing is that both sides of an email exchange need to support encryption for it to work; Gmail can’t do it alone,” Brandon Long, Tech Lead at the Gmail Delivery Team noted on Tuesday, and pointed users towards the official website of the Reset the Net initiative.

It seems that their approach – shaming those who are lagging behind – is working.

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