How secure is your email? Google Apps for Business adds encryption to Gmail

Written by Michael Smith on the 25th of March, 2014

Last week, Microsoft defended its right to break into customers' accounts and read their emails while Google conversely increased the security of Gmail to make mass surveillance of its customers' email practically impossible.

Add to that the fact that on April 8th, support for Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003 also ends, then perhaps its time to pose the question: ‘How secure is your business email’ or maybe and perhaps more importantly, ‘how secure would you like it to be?’

Today, there are 3 basic places where most people’s email can be compromised:

  • On your device(s) or your recipient’s device(s)

If someone can sit at your computer, look at your phone or tablet, it's likely are that your email is there for them to read. That means anyone (or any program) can access the internal storage, read email and get to file attachments. Nor does it have to be a person - reading email is exactly what malware does.

  • On the network

At network level, your any recipients’ email ‘connections’ involve a series of routers and switches owned and operated by different organisations. If one connection is secure, there’s no guaranteeing the other connection in the sequence is secure. Its at this level that your mail can be subject to surveillance, for instance.

  • On the server

Servers are where your email provider stores your email. If someone steals or works out your email password, they don’t need your devices; they can log in via your email provider directly.

So how do you protect against these risks?

The best way is encryption. Scrambling data so it’s only intelligible using the correct password or credentials. If the provider as in the case of Microsoft, states in its terms and conditions that it can access your data when it sees fit, then I’m afraid you always have a door open.

Google’s position is different. It wants to stop surveillance of Gmail and is using a secure communications protocol called HTTPS which encrypts email from your computer to Google, between Google's servers, and from Google to the person receiving your email. Last Thursday, the Gmail team announced that it will always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when you check or send email as well.

This means that no one can access your messages as it passes between you and Gmail's servers or between Google's data centers. It also means that every single email message is encrypted regardless of whether you're using public WiFi, a desktop, phone or tablet. That has to be good - whether you use Gmail for business or pleasure.

Add to this the fact that Gmail is available 99.978% of the time ( less than two hours of disruption for a user for an entire year) then it is hard to find a server that is as secure or reliable.

References: CNN Money; Microsoft defends the right to read your email. CNN Money; Google tries to NSA proof GMAIL

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