Cybersecurity

Gmail will soon tell you when incoming email is unencrypted

Google will soon warn its Gmail users when they are receiving an email over an unencrypted connection.

While emails exchanged between two Gmail users are already encrypted, messages shuttling between Gmail and another email provider aren’t necessarily locked down, leaving them extremely vulnerable to hackers and cyber spies.

{mosads}These unsecured connections have helped enable some of the government surveillance programs revealed by government leaker Edward Snowden in 2013. They also make it easier for cyber thieves to blast out “phishing” emails, essentially fake messages designed to lure the user into clicking on a malicious link or attachment.

“We are developing in-product warnings for Gmail users that will display when they receive a message through a non-encrypted connection,” Google said in a Thursday blog post. “These warnings will begin to roll-out in the coming months.”

Google’s change could help raise awareness of potentially nefarious emails and also boost consumer desire for encryption.

Federal officials and the tech community have been battling over encryption standards since the Snowden revelations.

In the wake of the disclosures, major tech players such as Google, Apple and Microsoft swiftly moved to encrypt as much consumer data as possible in the hopes of keeping it out of government hands.

Google on Thursday said the percentage of encrypted emails that Gmail users received from non-Gmail accounts skyrocketed from 33 percent to 61 percent between December 2013 and October 2015.

Eighty percent of outbound Gmail messages are also now encrypted, the search engine giant added.

But law enforcement officials have warned this trend is creating a “going dark” problem, where investigators are no longer able to access digital information and messages on suspects, even when armed with a warrant.

In response, FBI Director James Comey has called for some form of guaranteed access to encrypted data, a concept anathema to security specialists, who argue any type of entry point into encryption leaves all data exposed to hackers.

While the White House has backed away from pushing for legislation that would mandate companies provide the government with this entry point, officials are still working with individual tech companies on possible solutions.

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