German web firms will encrypt emails – suck it, NSA

Well, the Europeans, especially the Germans, are not taking the whole NSA thing lightly. They are not happy. But, real hackers claim it is all a publicity stunt and no one is going to be really safe. We are all doomed to being snooped.

Two of the largest ISPs in Germany are going to encrypt emails in response to German consumer concerns about US intelligence snooping:

The plan by Deutsche Telekom AG and United Internet AG is the digital equivalent of putting an envelope around a postcard. Currently most emails are sent across the web in plain view of anyone standing between the sender and the recipient.

Initially the encryption will only be secure between customers of Deutsche Telekom’s T-Online service and United Internet’s GMX and WEB.DE services — which together account for two-thirds of primary email addresses in Germany — the companies said.

“Germans are deeply unsettled by the latest reports on the potential interception of communication data,” Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann said in a statement. “Our initiative is designed to counteract this concern and make email communication throughout Germany more secure in general.”

However, as the article goes on to say:

But Computer security specialists said the plan appeared to be little more than a publicity stunt, because the technology being used to encrypt the emails while in transit was outdated and didn’t guarantee they were safe from prying eyes while on the companies’ servers.

“The technology employed doesn’t prevent ‘listening posts’ from being established on the system,” said Germany’s Chaos Computer Club, which bills itself as Europe’s largest association of hackers.

The backlash has been very vocal in Europe and while there has been discussion that the impact to US firms may end up being severe, it’s still not clear how a boycott would work in practice.