What You Should Know About Gmail Encryption

Arcalea - What You Should Know About Gmail Encryption

Business owners and executives around the world have come to fully embrace, G Suite, formerly Google Apps. Gmail, Docs, Drive, and Calendar have all proven to be indispensable tools with customization options, simple interfaces, and robust security. Gmail encryption is an essential feature for any business (especially ones that use email campaigns) yet many people are still unaware of it.

So what is Gmail encryption, how does it work, and why is it important? In this post, we’ll explain the basics you need to know about sending secure emails.

What is Encryption?

According to SearchSecurity, Encryption “is the conversion of electronic data into another form, called ciphertext, which cannot be easily understood by anyone except authorized parties. The primary purpose of encryption is to protect the confidentiality of digital data stored on computer systems or transmitted via the Internet or other computer networks.”

In other words, encryption is about encoding your data in a way that only you and your intended recipients can access. This prevents strangers from hacking your important data online.

Why Encryption is Important

Even if you’re not working in a clandestine government agency, it’s still important to ensure your emails are securely encrypted. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Sensitive Information – Your business has important information that should not be publicly disclosed. This can include financial reports, client contracts, personal employee or customer information, research and development reports, and more. A single leak can impact the success of your business or the livelihood of your employees and customers.
  • Private Conversations – Who could forget the Sony hack in 2015? Over 170,000 emails between various film producers, actors, and directors were leaked. Among the emails were disparaging words against certain celebrities (Angelina Jolie, Kevin Hart, Leonardo DiCaprio), salary complaints from Mark Cuban, even racist jokes about former President Obama’s film tastes. This cost a lot of people their jobs and tarnished Sony’s name for years to come. Remember that even the most casual conversation can be misinterpreted. Some emails are best kept internal (or unsent!).
  • Viruses, Malware, Spam – If an outsider manages to intercept your email with someone, then they have enough information to send you or your recipient a nasty virus or infection. It may present itself as a harmless link but can proliferate throughout your business’s network and delete important files. Avoid this at all costs!

How Email Encryption Works in Gmail

Now that you might be more serious about encryption, the next question is: how does encryption work?

In the case of Gmail, Google announced in 2014 that it was making HTTPS the default setting in Gmail. HTTPS or Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure is a secure version of HTTP, the protocol ensuring the data sent between your browser and the website remain protected and encrypted. You’ll notice on many websites, the top icon beside the address bar shows a green padlock. This indicates a website with HTTPS. In terms of Gmail, this meant that no one could intercept your email conversations when it’s stored or when they’re in transit. This held true whether you were on your phone, tablet or laptop, and even if you were on public WiFi.

Sending an Encrypted Email in Gmail

Google relies on TLS or Transport Layer Security, an industry standard for email encryption. When you send an email, your browser contact’s Google’s server to establish a secure connection. Your message is encrypted (encoded) and then decrypted (decoded) several times, passing through Google’s servers until it reaches your recipient.

Google will even display a red padlock indicating when a message cannot be secured for TLS. This usually occurs when the recipient doesn’t have TLS enabled email services, but more and more email providers are adopting TLS.

The catch? Gmail is still not truly end-to-end encrypted, where only the communicators can read the contents of the email. It only works when the encrypted email is sent to a Gmail address. It’s been three years and Google still has no updates for its end-to-end encryption tool.

Additional Encryption Tools

So Gmail is definitely a secure option, but only if you’re recipient also uses Gmail. Here are a few alternatives to look into as Gmail builds its end-to-end encryption solution:

  • Snapmail – This tool is reminiscent of the mobile social networking app, Snapchat, from the name to the functionality. This Google Chrome extension adds a green “Snapmail” button next to the “Send” button in your emails. After your recipient accesses the email, it self-destructs after 60 seconds. No worries, and no trace of your conversation.
  • Tutanota – If you’re looking for a completely different email alternative (complete with an Android and Apple app), check out Tutanota. This is a completely open source email service with end-to-end encryption. It may not be as ubiquitous or supported as Gmail, but if security is your concern, this is your email solution.
  • ProtonMail – Want to take your security and privacy to the next level? Look into ProtonMail. This email service not only promises end-to-end encryption and open source code, but they also operate out of Switzerland and claim all your emails are protected under Swiss privacy laws. No personal information is required, ensuring your identity remains anonymous.

Creating a Safe and Secure Environment

The world is changing rapidly, and businesses need to keep up. In the history of the Internet, email has been one of the most popular and reliable ways to communicate. But the Internet is a much larger, and in some ways, scarier, place in this modern age. As hackers and scammers become extremely advanced, it falls upon the users to take the necessary steps to protect themselves. Ensure your information remains secure and encrypted.

For more business advice on your digital strategy, visit Arcalea’s blog today.

Leo Herrera is a graduate from DePaul University, with a major in Marketing Honors from the IME program, and a minor in Creative Writing. He is currently an Account Executive at Arcalea.

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Arcalea shares information, ideas, news and updates about various aspects of the industry. If you'd like to hear about a specific topic, please let us know and we'll make it a future post!

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