Engineers from bigwig email service providers publish new email security standard

Engineers from bigwig email service providers publish new email security standar

In a draft proposal published on Friday, engineers from some of the world's biggest email service providers have detailed a new mechanism which they have devised collaboratively to bring about improvements to the security of email traffic traversing the Internet.

The draft proposal has been published for consideration as an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standard.

The new email security mechanism detailed in the IETF draft -- which expires on September 19, 2016 -- is called the 'Simple Mail Transfer Protocol Strict Transport Security' (SMTP STS). It has been devised by engineers from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Comcast, LinkedIn and 1&1 Mail & Media Development & Technology.

The SMTP STS email security mechanism proposed in the draft chiefly addresses some of the key issues with the STARTTLS extension which was added to STMP in 2002, as a means for including TLS (Transport Layer Security) with SMTP connections. However, the STARTTLS extension has not been widely adopted even after more than a decade; with the result that email traffic exchanged between servers continues to remain largely unencrypted.

Highlighting the fact that the SMTP STS design is meant to push the adoption of STARTTLS, the engineers behind the new mechanism have said in their draft proposal: "SMTP STS is a mechanism enabling mail service providers to declare their ability to receive TLS-secured connections, to declare particular methods for certificate validation, and to request sending SMTP servers to report upon and/or refuse to deliver messages that cannot be delivered securely."


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