How Google is tightening encryption for Gmail

Google is looking to make Gmail safer and its using encryption technology to help.

Virginia Mayo/AP/File
The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels, Mar. 23, 2010. Google on Thursday announced a suite of new tools to protect Gmail users from malicious attacks.

As encryption becomes a controversial subject between the FBI and Apple, Google is promising more of it.

On Thursday, Google announced new tools to make Gmail – and email sent from Gmail accounts – more secure. The tech behemoth is unveiling a broad range of updates that better inform users when email is not encrypted, alert users when a link could be dangerous, and even warn when a user may be the subject of state-sponsored attacks.

“The security of our users and their data is paramount. We’ll continue to build new protections, and work closely with the broader email ecosystem to support and improve standards such as TLS, that keep users safe,” Google said in a blog post.

Google introduced a visual element to encryption security on Safer Internet Day in February. A small, red, open lock appears next to the address the email is going to if the recipient is using a provider that doesn’t encrypt. Some 44 days since the implementation, users are sending 25 percent more email over encrypted connections, according to Google.

And the company is doubling down on the success. A recent study conducted by University of Michigan and University of Illinois in partnership with Google suggests maliciously designed systems on the Internet could still interfere with secure email. In response, Google has announced they will partner with other companies in the industry to draft a set of standards for the industry that will ensure mail is only sent through secured paths.

The improved safety announcement also includes plans to extend Safe Browsing features that will include pop-up and full-page warnings when Gmail users click on dangerous links. A full-page briefing on how to protect passwords and information will also be visible for users suspected of being victims of state-sponsored attacks.

The average user is unlikely to ever see the state-sponsored attack warning. “These warnings are rare—fewer than 0.1% of users ever receive them,” Google states in their blog.

Many of these features have been in the works for months, according to Google. But the emphasis on expanding encryption protection is conveniently timed as Apple and the FBI undergo a legal battle surrounding the viability and rights of companies to use encryption technology.

It’s unclear if the legal battle and the expansion of encryption technology are linked, but Google's recent statement of support for Apple suggest they might be:

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