Email is one of the earliest forms of online communication. To this day, it remains a fast and convenient means of transferring data. However, as technological development spiked, so did the numbers of those who work outside the law. A massive data leak in early 2019 revealed 773 million email IDs and 21 million passwords.
With over 1.5 billion users, Gmail is the most popular email provider. Those using Gmail are vulnerable not only to universal attacks but also to those from people who know their way around this massive network.
It is never a bad idea to go the extra mile for your safety and privacy. Here’s how you can encrypt your Gmail to keep your communications secure.
Standard security measures for Gmail
The standard security that Gmail grants most emails is TLS or transport layer security. TLS is the replacement for Secure Sockets Layer or SSL.
Though it is highly effective, there isn’t a complete guarantee that the message will be visible only to the recipient. For example, Google itself can read your emails.
This is what allowed them to scan for keywords and generate targeted advertisements until June 2017. Even now, Gmail’s Smart Reply can examine the contents of the message you receive to suggest quick responses.
On the other hand, this ability helps Google identify spam emails or phishing attacks.
Moreover, if the recipient is using a mail server that doesn’t support TLS, messages won’t be encrypted at all.
What else can you do to secure Gmail?
Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions or S/MIME is an enhanced form of encryption offered by Gmail. This allows emails to be encrypted with user-specific keys. As such, they remain protected during delivery and can be decrypted only by the recipient.
Similar to TLS, S/MIME works only if both the sender and the recipient use a service that supports it. Moreover, it works only if both parties have exchanged the keys in advance. It also needs to be enabled by a G Suite admin.
The catch is that this service is available only for paid G Suite Enterprise or G Suite Education accounts. S/MIME is not even an option for the majority of us who use regular free Gmail accounts.
However, if you need to share sensitive data over the Internet, consider paying for a G Suite account.
It is imperative to note that while the message stays secure during the transit, it is still visible to Google when it reaches the recipient.
Also read: When does Gmail mark an email as spam?
Going the extra mile to secure Gmail
If you so wish, you can look into third-party extensions and plug-ins to ensure your security. You can add the SecureGmail extension for Chrome that allows you to send password-protected messages via Google Chrome.
However, to use this extension, you need to have a company account with StayPrivate. The video at the end of the article explains how you can add extensions to Chrome.
Another Google Chrome extension called FlowCrypt adds a Secure Compose button to your Gmail homepage. You can use this extension to encrypt the mail for anyone. If the recipient doesn’t have FlowCrypt, they can access the email using a password.
Snapmail is another popular plugin that allows you to send your message as a regular email or a Snapmail. If you send it as a Snapmail, recipients receive an email with a link to the message, which disappears in 60 seconds. The email is stored on the Snapmail receivers only until the recipient clicks the link.
Also read: 10 best Gmail extensions available on Chrome