Want to know if your email has traversed the web over an insecure and unencrypted connection? Gmail’s New Security alert feature was released on Feb 9th, 2016 .With 1 billion active users and growing, Google’s Gmail service rolled out a new feature in honor of “Safer Internet Day.” Google played its part for a better internet on “Safer Internet Day” with the new authentication alerts feature. In 2014, around 40% to 50% of the emails between other service providers and Gmail were not encrypted. Google made an announcement in November 2015 that it would warn users of emails from providers that are not sent from secure and encrypted connections. The novel authentication feature is a fulfillment of its promise.

Encryption is a vital security measure in email exchanges, as it reduces the risk of hacking by a third-party. Gmail already uses HTTPS protocol to encrypt user’s connection between the server and web browser, but besides that users do not have any control on the security of the emails that are transmitted on the web. Ideally, emails are sent from one mail server to another server in an unencrypted format. However, with recent advancements in networking and security, Gmail started using a secure transmission protocol Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt messages that are sent through their server as a measure to restrict snooping. This is helpful only when both the parties exchange messages over a TLS protocol. If a server that uses TLS protocol for message transmission with a server that does not use TLS protocol –it is considered as an unencrypted standard.

To avoid cyber bullying and hacking attacks, Gmail now alerts its users who do not support TLS Encryption. The new feature is designed with the intent to help users send and receive emails that are completely safe and secure.
The two new features rolled out on Feb 9th, 2016 are:

  • Gmail users get an alert whether the email is encrypted or will be encrypted during transmission to the recipient.
  • Gmail users also get an alert about the recipient being authenticated.

Gmail now alerts users with a broken lock symbol similar to the one that is used in Google Chrome and other browsers to indicate an insecure connection. Upon clicking the padlock, a dialog box pops up that issues a warning message to the user. The warning sign mentions that their email service does not support encryption and that if the user email contains confidential information, they might want to prefer sending the email using a different email provider that is safe and secure.

The novel security feature also warns users when they receive an email that cannot be authenticated cryptographically indicating the probability of a phishing attack. A question mark (?) sign appears on the avatar or the profile photo of the Gmail user whenever they receive an email that cannot be authenticated. Unauthenticated emails might not always be deceitful or dangerous, but this feature is just a reminder for the users to exercise caution whenever they send or receive emails. The additional security feature has been rolled out as a measure to enhance Gmail user’s privacy by warning them on suspicious account access attempts and enforce strident two-step authentication.

As a commemorative bonus, Google is providing its users with an additional 2GB of storage space on Google drive if they complete the new security check-up on their Google Account. Isn’t it amazing? What are you waiting for? Upgrade to the new Gmail security check and claim your additional 2GB drive space for free now.