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Gmail’s TLS Encryption Padlock: What It Means for Senders and Recipients

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30 Oct. 2020

If you send out or receive emails frequently chances are you would be aware of what encryption is. For those of you who don’t, encryption is a way of scrambling or encoding data so that only specific authorized people can understand it. Encryption in email works in a similar way by encoding the data at the sender’s end and decoding it at the receiver’s end.

Encryption is a subject, almost everyone who deals with emails should have knowledge about it. However, one of the places where encryption is most needed and often misunderstood is emails.

One of the top email services is Gmail. The majority of people prefer Gmail because of its easy-to-use interface and versatility. So how does encryption work on Gmail? Let’s find out!

Gmail’s TLS Encryption Padlock

Back in February 2016, Gmail announced a new TLS encryption padlock. This encryption method has proven to be successful and extremely efficient in protecting emails.

What is TLS?

TLS or Transport Layer Security works on encoding your messages while they are on their way to the recipient’s inbox. An email protected by SPF, DMARC, or DKIM can still be hijacked and its content can be viewed if proper encryption is not present. TLS provides this additional security.

What does it mean?

What this means that while a message is on its way from the sender to the recipient, it will be almost impossible for anyone to view it. This however does not mean that the message will stay hidden from everyone once it reaches the specified domain. Google, for example, can view the messages and run some tests on them to determine whether they are spam or not. It can also suggest auto-replies based on the content of the email.

If the person receiving the messages is working with a server that does not support TLS, messages won’t be encrypted at all.

Why Do I Need This?

Historically, data has been sent and received through emails, unencrypted. This gave way to several hackers and other people to eavesdrop on the data. Important data sent via email, like personal details, bank account details, etc. needs to be protected at every cost.

With the growing use of the internet and specifically, email marketing, the need for encryption increased exponentially. This gave birth to TLS.

Without TLS, not only the private data can be leaked, but also chat logs and inbox details can be exploited. By making sure that the sender and receiver both use TLS, the email can be made secure through encryption. It ensures that the data shared between two parties is encrypted using a secure algorithm and no third party can see it.

How Does TLS Work?

TLS uses symmetric and asymmetric cryptography to provide good performance and security.

· Symmetric Cryptography

In symmetric cryptography, the data being sent is encrypted and decrypted using a secret key which is known to both the sender and the receiver. This key can be 128 bit long or 256 bit long and so on.

Symmetric cryptography is fast and efficient but the secret key needs to be shared in a secure manner.

· Asymmetric Cryptography

Asymmetric cryptography uses two keys, a public key, and a private key. The public key is mathematically related to the private key, but the private key can’t be derived from the public key. The sender uses the public key of the recipient to encrypt the data which can only be decrypted by using the private key at the recipient’s end.

Asymmetric cryptography has several advantages, one of them being that the sharing of keys does not have to be secure.

One downside of this method is that due to the complex mathematical relationship between public and private keys, the size of the key has to be large. This might make the encryption/decryption process slow.

TLS usually uses asymmetric cryptography and securely generates a session key. This session key is used to encrypt the data at the sender’s end and to decrypt the data at the receiver’s end. Once the transmission is complete, the session key is discarded.

Benefits Of Email Encryption Using TLS:

· Privacy

Every person or company wants their information, be it personal or public, to be safe. Email encryption ensures that the information stays protected from third parties.

· Efficiency

As the email is encrypted by Gmail, the company does not have to use any external encryption techniques, hence saving time and making the process of sending emails efficiently.

· Cost-Effectiveness

The fact that no external encryption is required makes using TLS encryption a cost-effective choice.

· Authentication

Encryption techniques help separate the important emails from the spam ones. This helps you in identifying whether the source of the email is legit or not.

What Does TLS Encryption Means for Senders and Recipients?

We have discussed TLS, how it works, and why you need it. But with all this new encryption technology at hand, what does it mean for senders and recipients?

● Increased Protection

The data you send and receive via emails will be secure and you can safely share your confidential data with ease. This increased protection helps create an element of trust as important data is shared backward and forward.

● Filtering

Messages coming in from unverified sources are filtered out while those coming from spammers are separated and placed in the spam folder.

● Quick Delivery

As no external encryption protocol is needed, the email delivery is fast and efficient.

With the above-mentioned features, Gmail’s TLS encryption padlock has made sending and receiving emails safer and efficient. Now you don’t have to worry about your data leaking or your chats being read by some third-party because TCL encryption makes sure that you’re safe from all that.

You can always check if a message sent using Gmail was encrypted using TCL encryption or not by going to the message details. The encryption portion of the details will show you the encryption type which in our default case will be Standard(TLS).

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