Security, Earthlink, and Apple

by Daniel H. Steinberg

On the last day of the Mac Geek Cruise, Randal Schwartz entertained and alarmed those of us checking our email using a wireless connection. I looked at his machine and saw my log in and password displayed clear as day. Fortunately, Apple makes this very easy to fix if your ISP provides the support at their end. If you use the Mac OS X Mail application, just open up the preferences, edit your mail account and select the Account Options tab. Check the Use SSL checkbox.

I did this for my CoreCom account and it worked like a charm. (A very helpful email I received from them in response to an inquiry detailed the security they provide.)

I also checked the box for my Earthlink account and got the cryptic error that I was unable to connect to the remote server. This, of course, means that Earthlink doesn't support SSL. I wrote a quick email to Earthlink. I just wanted to know what their plans were for securing my email. I received this as part of their reply:

Please note that currently we do not support SSL for POP3 email. And we
have no future plans to add SSL to our mail computers at this time.
However, we are always interested in comments from our customers and the
public regarding ways to improve our product and service. We will
certainly consider your suggestion. In the meantime, you can learn about
all of our services and pricing plans by visiting the following site:

I really like Earthlink and with one exception have had very good experiences with their technical support people. Apple really likes Earthlink. Jobs has mentioned them in the MacWorld keynote and trial Earthlink software was included on my PowerBook. In order for Apple to make security as easy as checking a box they need to push their partners to support the protocols. Of course, Earthlink is raising other security concerns. Check out this recent Wired article about which Earthlink employees have access to your password.