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Report of millons of emails secretly scanned prompts cyber privacy questions

Posted: 5:38 PM, Oct 05, 2016
Updated: 2016-10-05 21:56:09Z

Concerns about internet privacy were confirmed again on Monday when reports surfaced about a potential breach in security with Yahoo email accounts.

A government source told the New York Times that the U.S. Justice Department reportedly ordered Yahoo to search incoming emails for a digital signature of a terrorist organization. They say Yahoo was forbidden from disclosing the order.

According to a report from Reuters, Yahoo complied with a classified U.S. Government demand, and scanned hundreds of millions of Yahoo mail accounts last year. The report says the company even built a custom software program to do it, in a move experts say is unprecedented.

Yahoo called the report "misleading," saying no such program exists.

Still for Craig Baute, it's unsettling. He manages the co-working space he owns, which includes sending a lot of emails.

"Email is critical. It's the backbone of my communication," Baute said.

Baute says 90 percent of his communication is done through email. That's why even though he doesn't use Yahoo, he was alarmed to read reports that the company allowed the government to scan its users incoming emails.

"I'd be personally offended," Baute says. "Honestly I just don't know where to turn to like if email was compromised I don't know where to go."

Steve Fox with Security Pursuit says the best way to keep your email private is to encrypt your messages.

"If they get intercepted they are not in plain text they can't be immediately read or deciphered," Fox says. "You would have to come up with a password or a correction key in order to decrypt the secured message."

It's a move Baute is already making.

"I will check out my privacy settings," Baute says. "And I will make sure that I am end to end encrypted through my email."

Microsoft and Google, which operate Outlook, Hotmail and Gmail have both issued statements saying their email services are safe from U.S. government spies.