Gmail is among the most popular email providers worldwide – with over one billion active users. However, a tiny percentage of these people never consider how insecure it might be.
It is well known Google scans user’s emails to gather information and distribute it to advertisers. Most people consider this unavoidable and not especially harmful.
However, not many Gmail users realize that their e-mails are vulnerable to being intercepted by a third party during transmission to the recipient.
It is possible to make email secure and even Google offers a solution. There are third-party extensions and specific applications, but they all don’t work as intended in some cases.
Learn more about Gmail email encryption, how you can protect your sensitive information, and what is the most secure email provider; for comparison.
By the end, you will be able to decide whether to delete Gmail account or use the suggestions to secure mail for Gmail.
Can I Encrypt an Email in Gmail?
If you use Gmail and do nothing to change the method of encryption for email, you will use the standard mode, which is TLS, or what we know as Transport Layer Security.
It is the primary way how to send secure email attachments in Gmail. What happens here is the person you are sending the email to, if they are using a similar mail service that has support for TLS. You will find all your Gmail emails are encrypted using this method.
In most cases, in the above example, your messages won’t be seen by anyone. However, many know that Google can see the contents of every message, which passes through its servers.
In some cases, this can help avoid spam of phishing attacks, yet it also allows them to use your Gmail account information for marketing. Now, with all the attention and security holes, Google offers an enhanced version of encryption.
Secure/ Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) is available, but only to paid users of G Suite Enterprise or G Suite Education accounts.
Using these methods of encryption, you use specific keys. Messages remain secure through every step of the delivery, and it is only possible for the intended recipient to decrypt the email.
While this makes it harder for anyone to read or intercept your emails, messages are not secure as they reach a destination server, and thus,
Google can still read the content of your email.
Google even went as far as to add ‘Confidential Mode,’ and by using this, you can stop anyone copying, printing, downloading, or forwarding anything you send them. Besides this, you can also set an expiration date, and after this, the message is no longer accessible.
Nevertheless, for end-to-end encryption, Google doesn’t offer any solution, and this is why users head to third-party solutions or even some of the fantastic Google alternatives on offer.
How Do I Send Secure Email in Gmail Mobile?
If you are on a mobile device, here are the steps you need to send secure email. You can see messages that are not protected by the TLS (transport layer security) by the inclusion of a red padlock.
Secure message-sending guide:
- Using your Android phone or tablet, open the Gmail app
- To the bottom right is a + sign, tap to compose a new message
- In the ‘To, Cc, or Bcc,’ fields, enter any recipients names or email address
- Check to the right of the subject for the red padlock. If you see this, this means the recipient isn’t using TLS, and your message won’t be secured
Using Confidential Mode:
- Tap on compose
- In the top right, tap the three dots and select Confidential mode
- Set your expiration date, passcode, and any other security controls
- No SMS passcode – anyone using Gmail can open the message. If they don’t use Gmail, they are emailed a passcode
- With SMS passcode – the recipient receives a passcode via text, so make sure to enter their mobile number
- Tap on done when finished
How Do I Send Documents Securely Via Email?
If you wish to send documents securely, you only have the encryption of emails Google offers when using Gmail. We see that emails encrypted this way are not at the most secure so that documents can be vulnerable.
Google doesn’t appear to be heading in the direction of offering end-to-end encrypted email as it could hurt their overall revenue. Thus, email encryption for Gmail will still be in the hands of third parties.
While you can find extensions, these are not recommended, and you can turn to a service such as NordLocker. Here, you can encrypt your documents using the same AES-256 bit encryption that a VPN service will apply.
NordLocker also allows you to withdraw access to any document for any given person you initially sent it. You can use this for attachment email encryption for Gmail, or you can use it in combination with a VPN.
You then have encrypted email, and you can email encrypt your attachments.
How Do I Send a Secure Email?
You can see that even with a confidential mode set, and all the encryption that Google offers inside its Gmail app, there is no end-to-end encryption. Your messages are still vulnerable, no matter how secure they appear.
It is here that countless users look at Google alternatives. One alternative being email services such as Proton Mail. It is an open-source secure email provider based in Switzerland.
It is way ahead of Google in encryption and is easy to use. You can choose between free and paid version, and you do get full end-to-end to end encryption with both free and paid versions.
In addition to this, many users overlook the use of a VPN for sending emails. These encrypt your data by default and give you a different email address. If you were to use Gmail, there is no way that a particular email can be traced back to you aside from the content is Google can read it.
A VPN offers the best ways to send a secure message over your connections and to stop anyone intercepting your messages before they reach the recipient.
It is possible to send encrypted emails to any recipient, although you may find to do it most securely, you may no longer be using Gmail as much as you once did.