Google Adds Security Features to Gmail Face-lift

A redesigned Gmail brings new security measures to improve data protection and applications for artificial intelligence.

Kelly Sheridan, Former Senior Editor, Dark Reading

April 25, 2018

3 Min Read

Google today announced a wave of G Suite updates, most of which focus on Gmail. The email service is getting a new Web look, advanced security features, artificial intelligence applications, further integrations with apps across G Suite, and management changes in Tasks.

"This week's [changes] are about giving users more agency in the cloud," explains Suzanne Frey, Google's director of security, trust, privacy, and compliance.

One of the new features is Gmail confidential mode, which lets users protect sensitive content by creating expiration dates or revoking previously sent emails.

"These are additional controls available on an email-by-email basis," she continues, noting that emails can be revoked even after they're viewed. "Think of it like a Drive file. If you share a Drive file with someone and remove access for them, it works in the same way."

Users can also require recipients to provide additional authentication to view messages, which makes it possible to protect data even if a recipient's email account has been hijacked and the message hasn't been deleted. Even if an account has been hijacked, an attacker would have to have access to the victim's phone and mobile password to view the SMS and open the email.

Google is also introducing built-in information rights management controls so users can remove the option for recipients to download, copy, forward, or print emails, decreasing the risk of messages being shared to third parties.

Security alerts also have been redesigned to be larger and bolder, with simpler messaging so users understand when an email has been flagged or a security threat is imminent.

Users will be able to access these new email security capabilities by clicking the padlock icon on the bottom of their email screens. The security advancements announced today will eventually be available to G Suite users and consumers. Right now, access is limited to enterprise users in the early adopter program; Frey says general availability will start in the coming weeks.

The Gmail update includes new artificial intelligence applications, including Nudging, Smart Reply, and high-priority notifications. Nudging reminds users to follow up and respond to messages, and Smart Reply, a feature released in May 2017 to suggest quick email responses, is arriving on the Web in addition to mobile. Smartphone users can also enable high-priority notifications on Gmail so they are only alerted to important messages.

Today's security updates build on those from last month, when Google rolled out phishing protections designed to prevent business email compromise (BEC), a growing enterprise threat, by warning users of potential attacks or automatically moving messages to the spam folder.

Those capabilities have driven an increase in Google's security data, which it in turn can use to improve defenses, Frey says. "The more signals we get, the more signals spam and phishing protection gets." Now, she reports, 99% of BEC scenarios are automatically moved to spam.

Back in January, Google launched the Security Center for G Suite Enterprise with the intention of giving admins a central dashboard to view data and gauge their security posture. The center provides detailed metrics for employees' devices; for example, the types of phishing emails received and who is receiving the most. Admins can also view guidance for managing devices.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Sheridan

Former Senior Editor, Dark Reading

Kelly Sheridan was formerly a Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focused on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial services. Sheridan earned her BA in English at Villanova University. You can follow her on Twitter @kellymsheridan.

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