Yahoo is taking steps to bolster the security of its email offering, announcing two new measures at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, including a collaborative effort with Google.

On-Demand Passwords

One of the initiatives, on-demand passwords, is designed to make it easier for Yahoo Mail users to log in to their email accounts. The feature is aimed mainly at people who often forget their login password when they try to access email. The on-demand passwords are texted to users’ mobile phones whenever they need them to get into their email, according to Chris Stoner, director of product management at Yahoo.

“You no longer have to memorize a difficult password to sign in to your account,” he wrote in a post on the company’s website.

With the new password feature, a user now signs in to his or her Yahoo account, accesses the account information page, selects “Security” and clicks on the slider for “On-Demand Passwords” to opt in. Once the user enters a phone number, Yahoo sends a verification code that grants access to email once it is entered. The next time the user signs in, Yahoo will automatically send a password to the user’s phone.

Data Encryption for Yahoo Mail Messages

The other security initiative for Yahoo Mail involves data encryption for email messages. Yahoo is providing an end-to-end encryption plugin for Yahoo Mail that it worked on with help from Google. Using this technology, only the sender and recipient would be able to read messages.

According to Alex Stamos, chief information security officer at Yahoo, there is a wide spectrum of use for end-to-end encryption. It ranges from straightforward, such as sharing tax forms with an account, to the potentially life-threatening, such as emailing in a country that does not respect freedom of expression, he said.

The company is now rolling out the source code for the encryption feature for feedback from the security industry, Stamos said. Its goal is to provide an intuitive end-to-end encryption solution for all its email users by the end of the year. Yahoo intentionally released the encryption extension source code on GitHub and is encouraging other mail providers to develop compatible solutions. It’s also asking security researchers to report any potential vulnerabilities they find.

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