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8 Security Measures Gmail Uses to Keep You Safe

Gmail is the world’s number one email service provider, and many factors have brought it to that position. One of those factors is security. As an email service provider from Google, it meets standard security protocols, but what exactly does it offer?

Here, we’ve dived into some methods Gmail uses to keep you and your information safe. Of course, many security measures are working in the background, but here are the more apparent ones you can interact with daily.

1. TLS Encryption

TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption is an internet protocol that protects email from hackers and interceptors while it’s sent through web connections. Google previously used SSL (Secure Socket Layer) for encryption, and you might still find support documents saying SSL instead of TLS. However, TLS is a more updated, effective version of SSL.

You can learn more in our guide on the differences between TLS and SSL.

While most of your Gmail-sent emails will be encrypted with TLS, not all email service providers use it. And the recipient must be using a TLS-supported email service for TLS to work. Google has been a strong advocate for encryption and has helped increase the percentage of email services using encryption.

You can check if your email is secured by TLS by clicking the tiny arrow below the recipient’s name after you receive an email from them.

screenshot of email details window on gmail

Check the security section and see if you find Standard encryption (TLS).

2. Smart Spam and Phishing Filters

You could possibly be receiving hundreds of emails every week, some of them promotions, some important, and some malicious. Gmail has a funnel with effective filters that help you weed out unnecessary or potentially dangerous email ploys.

Gmail’s spam filters are especially effective since Google has a large list of domains notorious for that behavior. Apart from that, Google also blacklists certain suspicious keywords in emails and uses that to detect if they may be trying to sell you something you didn’t ask for or demanding sensitive information.

However, these emails evolve daily, and keyword and domain lists may struggle to catch up with them. That’s where Google uses machine learning and AI to detect spam and phishing attempts with almost unerring accuracy. And where it fails, you can manually adjust it so that it learns from that in the future.

3. 2-Factor Authentication on Unknown Platforms

screenshot of gmail two factor authentication login request

Whenever you try to log in to Gmail on an unknown platform, Google, by default, demands that you confirm your identity with a two-factor authentication (2FA). 2FA means that you authorize your access through two methods (“two-factor”). It could be your password and your phone, for example.

In most cases, Google will ask you to use your phone’s YouTube or Gmail app to confirm that it’s really you. You can also use an authenticator app and a few other ways; Google offers various alternatives to 2FA security.

This adds an extra layer of protection to stop people who might know your password from logging in to your email.

4. Suspicious Login and Activity Notifications

screenshot of gmail sign-in block notification

Google will block all suspicious sign-in attempts when they detect someone trying to log into your account from a different location or device. When you get emails like this, always click Check activity to review recent activity on your Google Account and secure your Gmail account.

After a few suspicious activities with your email address, Google will temporarily disable the account until you can confirm your identity. This is a last resort option, and it will happen if you continuously ignore security notifications.

Google also forwards most security alerts to the recovery email attached to the account. So, even if you’re not actively using that email address, you can get notified when suspicious activity occurs through your active email inbox.

5. Advanced Protection Program for High-Profile Users

Google has a free program for high-profile users like journalists, politicians, activists, etc., who might be prime targets for hackers and phishers. It’s called the Advanced Protection Program (APP), and it adds another layer to the regular two-factor authentication.

While enrolled in APP, you must log in to your Gmail account by confirming your identity with your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone. This way, it can physically confirm that it’s really you trying to access your data. You can activate APP to secure your account with an Android phone and an iPhone.

6. Antivirus and Anti-Malware Scanners on Attachments

Virus found in Gmail email attachment

Bad actors can install viruses into your computer by sending them hidden in attachments. Gmail has antivirus scanners to prevent this. They scan attachments before you can download them and notify you when they detect something suspicious.

As a general security protocol, you should only download attachments from trusted sources. But Gmail goes the extra mile by making sure you don’t download something infected with malware.

7. Send and Receive Confidential Emails

Gmail confidential mode settings

The “Confidential mode” email feature is for sending sensitive information that requires utmost discretion through email. Confidential mode will set an expiry date for the email, remove options to forward, copy, download, or print it, and you can set it to demand an SMS passcode before the recipient can access it. However, the SMS code authentication option isn’t available for all countries

Gmail can open confidential emails, but other email providers will generate a link to open it safely on Google’s domain. So, it still remains confidential despite it not being hosted on Gmail.

You can send confidential emails in Gmail by toggling the padlock button at the bottom of the compose email window.

Your recipient can still take screenshots of confidential emails.

8. Effective Device and Third-Party Apps Management

If your device with your Gmail account gets stolen or lost, Google provides easy device management that can help you log out of sessions on that device.

Simply go to your Google Account’s Security page and scroll down to Your devices. Click the Manage all devices button to open the list of all your devices and sessions.

screenshot of gmail security Your Devices section

You can choose what devices you would like to log out of and how your sessions have been inactive (if applicable).

A little further down the Security page, you’ll find a similar list of third-party apps and services. You can manage your connections on each of them from there.

Gmail Is One of the Safest Email Options

Because Gmail’s security architecture is based on your Google Account, it’s one of the safest email services you can get online for free. And Google provides plenty of options for adjusting your security to meet your needs.

But beyond Gmail’s built-in security features, you can make your email extra safe by taking extra measures and being proactive with your security.


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