The Reuters agency alarms that Yahoo may have allowed the US government to secretly scan all users` incoming emails with a special software program.
The secret software is specially designed to gather information for the US Government agencies and was used to scan hundreds of millions Mail accounts.
The program was developed last year, reports Reuters, and was used by the IT giant to scan the emails of numerous Yahoo accounts under the instructions the National Security Agency and the FBI.
“Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter.” – states the article from the Reuters Agency – “The company complied with a classified U.S. government demand, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events.”
This is the first time a US Internet company agrees to assist an intelligence agency by checking all incoming email of its users in real time. Previously, there has been similar cases of US agencies scanning already stored messages or just a small number of emails in real time.
The whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the NSA PRISM surveillance program, which is considered the most popular of its kind that involved American IT giants that have previously handed over customer data.
One of the companies to take part of the NSA’s PRISM intelligence-gathering program was Yahoo. However, it is not clear if the company is still using the mighty surveillance program so comply with a U.S. classified government requests.
“Yahoo is a law-abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States”. – This is the official reply from the company.
It seems like the program was scanning emails searching for a certain “set of characters”, maybe a phrase or attachment, but what exactly the US intelligence agencies were looking to find it is no clear.
In May 2015, a few weeks after the surveillance program was deployed in the company systems, Yahoo`s security team discovered it. At the beginning, they thought that hackers had broken it but later they found out the CEO had authorized the installation. Two of the former employees said that the decision of the company to obey the government directive led the departure of Chief Information Security Officer, Alex Stamos, in June 2015.
“When Stamos found out that Mayer had authorized the program, he resigned as chief information security officer and told his subordinates that he had been left out of a decision that hurt users’ security, the sources said. Due to a programming flaw, he told them hackers could have accessed the stored emails.” – reported the Reuters agency.
Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said:
“Based on this report, the order issued to Yahoo appears to be unprecedented and unconstitutional. The government appears to have compelled Yahoo to conduct precisely the type of general, suspicionless search that the Fourth Amendment was intended to prohibit. It is deeply disappointing that Yahoo declined to challenge this sweeping surveillance order because customers are counting on technology companies to stand up to novel spying demands in court. If this surveillance was conducted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, this story reinforces the urgent need for Congress to reform the law to prevent dragnet surveillance and require increased transparency.”