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How to Protect Your Emails on Gmail

By Julia Clarks | December 9, 2019 |

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Gmail is the most used email client thanks to its integration with most of its sister Google products. In 2016, Gmail passed the 1-billion user mark, a feat that cannot be claimed by any other email provider. The second most used provider is Outlook, which has over 400 million users. With such a huge clientele base, it is most likely you are also one of the Gmail users.  

The most used services usually attract cybercriminals, hence the need to be cautious about your safety. It is natural to be concerned about your privacy and security. The best news is that you are in the right place. Before letting you deep into the “how” of keeping your emails private and secure, it is important to first understand what Google is doing to protect you so that you will know when and where to do more.  

All standard emails on Gmail are protected using TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption technology. However, there is a catch when using this type of encryption, and it leads to a number of loopholes being identified. For starters, TLS only works if the receiver of the email is also using the same encryption method. That means if you are sending your email to someone who is not using TLS encryption, then your email will not be protected. The good thing though is that most of the major email service providers use TLS. Therefore, assuming that the TLS methods will be compatible, most of your messages should be safe and secure.  

TLS is among the best protocols as it helps in preventing your emails from being intercepted while in transit. However, this method does not promise to keep your messages safe once they reach the recipient. For instance, the first culprit to intrude upon your private space is Google themselves. The company is able to pry into your emails and scan through them searching for any spam or malicious emails. It also scans through emails in order to enhance the functionality of supporting features. With everything considered, the major issue is that if the receiver of your email is using a provider that doesn’t support TLS, then your emails sent to them will be entirely unprotected along the way. Therefore, you should be careful of what you send, especially to email addresses that are based on unpopular service providers.  

How to Encrypt Gmail for Business 

If you are using Gmail for business, then encryption is a must-have form of protection. There is a plethora of features included in Google for business aka G Suite. Among those features is S/MIME, which is an encryption technology that protects emails utilizing certain keys in order for the information to remain protected amid delivery. With this form of protection, your emails get decrypted and can only be read by the intended receiver(s). Just like TLS, S/MIME encryption needs to be activated by both the sender and the receiver in order for them to stay protected.  

You can check if your messages will be protected before sending them. You simply need to follow these steps:  

  • Begin by composing a new message. 
  • Enter the information of the recipient in the corresponding field.
  • Check on the right side of the recipient’s name for a lock icon, which indicates the level of encryption that the receiver’s service provider supports. If you are sending your message to multiple recipients that have got different encryption levels, then the icon will indicate that the Gmail encryption status is at its lowest.  
  • By clicking on the lock, you will be able to alter the S/MIME settings and get more information concerning the encryption level of your recipient.  

If you are the recipient, you can also check the encryption status of the email received. Do so by following these steps: 

  • Open the email message you wish to check the status of. 
  • On Android devices, you need to select View Details > View Security Details, and on Apple products, you will need to tap on View Details
  • A colored lock icon will then be visible, indicating the level of encryption used on the received emails. The icon will appear in one of three colors, which indicate the following: 
  • Green—the level of encryption is high. S/MIME encryption, which is most suitable when sending the most sensitive data, is applied. In order to decrypt the email, the receiver will need the proper key. 
  • Gray—indicates that the email is protected using TLS encryption.  
  • Red—indicates that there is no encryption at all applied to the email received. This can be due to a lack of compatibility between the encryption methods of the sender and the recipient.  

How to Encrypt Your Emails  

You can take your Gmail security a step further with the use of data-centric protection. This method of security focuses on protecting your information. Therefore, no matter where your data is hosted, it will stay protected. Forming the heart of data-centric security is the end-to-end encryption method. It creates a secure shell for your data by adding a reliable layer of security, ensuring that your information is protected not only while it is on its way but also when it reaches its destination, making sure that only the sender and the receiver have the ability to access the content. Your data stays protected wherever it goes, even when you have sent it to the receiver and they decide to forward it. Letting TLS be your sole means of protection may be risky as there are compliance issues. With end-to-end encryption, you are at ease as your data security is at its highest.   

In addition,  the end-to-end encryption method also protects your data from being exposed. This means even Google will not be at liberty to access and read your information as they please. In order to decrypt data encrypted using this method, the appropriate keys need to be used. Now, if the end-to-end encryption method is provided by your provider, it means the keys will also be stored by the same provider. This also gives the provider the ability to use those keys to access your data as they please. However, if the keys are stored using a third-party tool, then only the intended recipient and sender will have access to the information.  

With all the risk that comes with having your provider keeping the encryption keys, which means that they have got the ability to access your emails without your knowledge, it is best to encrypt your data using a third-party tool. Reinforcing your Gmail protection with a third-party solution that provides strong, data-centric encryption will give you complete peace of mind. This strategy will eliminate the idea of hackers managing to breach your email security when they gain access to the Google database or Google being able to read your private email.  

Although Gmail’s native method of encryption is automatically activated, applying third-party encryption shouldn’t be a problem. There are a lot of reputable and trusted providers that let you use one-click encryption without any compatibility issues. Their solutions will work well with the native encryption and only supply a much-needed added layer of security to your emails. To reach the ultimate security, you should also consider adding client-side encryption that addresses the TLS weaknesses. This method secures your static emails and attachments and not just the ones in transit. The client-side encryption keeps your emails encrypted until the recipient opens them so that even if the hacker is to intercept them, they won’t be able to read them or make sense of the information contained.

FileWhopper — Sending Large Files Fast and Securely
Are you looking for a way to send huge files online in a safe and secure manner since Google Drive and OneDrive want you to pay fortunes? Well, FileWhopper is the solution. While this program is in beta, you can send up to 1TB of data, guess what, for FREE! This is a system that covers all the frustrating corners when sending large files online. On top of being available for free, the service offers high-end security measures and the storage of your data for up to 14 days (or even 3 months if you wish so) before it being completely erased from the server. Here is how FileWhopper works:
1. Get the tiny FileWhopper app, which you will use to upload your data to the server.
2. Browse and select the files or folders you wish to send and upload them.
3. Copy the link to the uploaded files or folders and share it with the intended recipients (up to 8 people).
4. Remember to also share the password, which the recipient will need in order to decrypt the files.
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