Google Beefs Up Gmail Security

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To ensure all messages are 100 percent secure, Google announced that Gmail will now always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when users check or send an email. HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. It appears in front of a URL, indicating that Internet data is encrypted and transmitted over a secure session.

While HTTPS has been the default security setting on Gmail since 2010, it is now the only way messages can be sent and received.

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"Today's change means that no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between you and Gmail's servers — no matter if you're using public Wi-Fi or logging in from your computer, phone or tablet," Nicolas Lidzborski, Gmail's security engineering lead, wrote on the Google blog.

The change also means that each and every email is encrypted while moving internally throughout Google's network.

"This ensures that your messages are safe not only when they move between you and Gmail's servers, but also as they move between Google's data centers — something we made a top priority after last summer's revelations," Lidzborski wrote, referring to the 2013 revelation from Edward Snowden that the U.S. National Security Agency was secretly tapping into the data centers of Google and Yahoo.

In addition to the company's internal moves, Google advises users to take a number of additional steps to keep their online data safe, including:

  • Creating strong passwords
  • Signing in and out of Gmail each time it is used
  • Enabling two-step verification
  • Always locking computers and mobile devices when they aren't being used

Lidzborski said Google is working hard to make sure Gmail is always accessible to users when needed. He noted that in 2013, Gmail was available 99.978 percent of the time, which averages out to less than two hours of disruption for a user for the entire year.

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"Our engineering experts look after Google's services 24/7, and if a problem ever arises, they're on the case immediately," Lidzborski wrote. "Our commitment to the security and reliability of your email is absolute, and we're constantly working on ways to improve."

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