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3/20/2014
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Google Now Encrypts Gmail Traffic To And From Its Servers

Full HTTPS for Gmail traffic aims to allay concerns of cyber-spying

Google today filled one more privacy and security hole in its Gmail email service by encrypting all message traffic between email users, the search engine giant's email servers, and its data centers.

The full HTTPS encryption move was the next logical step to protecting Gmail users from the snooping eyes of government or malicious actors. "Starting today, Gmail will always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when you check or send email. Gmail has supported HTTPS since the day it launched, and in 2010 we made HTTPS the default. 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 WiFi or logging in from your computer, phone or tablet," said Nicolas Lidzborski, Gmail Security Engineering Lead, in a blog post announcing the move.

"In addition, every single email message you send or receive--100 percent of them--is encrypted while moving internally. 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 said, in a thinly veiled reference to leaked documents about the scope of the NSA's electronic surveillance operations.

Google and other content providers and vendors have been under scrutiny for how they protect their customers' information ever since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked confidential NSA documents showing the agency's electronic spying prowess and practices.

"Our commitment to the security and reliability of your email is absolute, and we're constantly working on ways to improve," Lidzborski said in the post.

During the past two years, Google has worked to better lock down Gmail accounts. Last year, Google reported it had been successful in preventing email account hijacks, which peaked in 2011. Vetting the legitimacy of log-ins with stronger authentication has been the key to preventing account takeovers, according to Google. The company has reduced the number of compromised accounts by 99 percent as of early last year.

"Every time you sign in to Google, whether via your web browser once a month or an email program that checks for new mail every five minutes, our system performs a complex risk analysis to determine how likely it is that the sign-in really comes from you. In fact, there are more than 120 variables that can factor into how a decision is made," said Mike Hearn, a Google security engineer, in a February 2013 post.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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