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7/25/2008
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Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Gmail Adds Easy Email Encryption

E-mail can be a major security headache. That's why corporations take pains to ensure that their sensitive e-mails are protected. Sometimes that means using encryption. Gmail users always get encryption protection when signing in, but now it's easier to encrypt messages and everything else, too.

E-mail can be a major security headache. That's why corporations take pains to ensure that their sensitive e-mails are protected. Sometimes that means using encryption. Gmail users always get encryption protection when signing in, but now it's easier to encrypt messages and everything else, too.The Official Gmail Blog says that Gmail has always supported HTTPS: "Https keeps your mail encrypted as it travels between your web browser and our servers, so someone sharing your favorite coffee shop's public wifi can't read it. Your bank and credit card websites use this same protocol to protect your financial data. Typically, free webmail services don't support https, but from the beginning we wanted to build a product so solid you could run a company on it -- we developed Gmail by running our own google.com mail on it -- so security is something we took seriously right from the start."

But unless you know to navigate to "https://mail.google.com" versus "http://mail.google.com," you're skipping out on all that protection. Gmail defaults to the unprotected mode for a reason. Encrypted data needs to be encrypted and decrypted, which takes time. It also makes for bigger files, which take longer to transit the Internet. The result? Slower e-mail performance. It stinks, but you have to choose between good protection and good performance. Right now, they are mutually exclusive. I tested it out, and to be honest, I didn't notice any real difference in performance. But perhaps my computer is having a good day.

Since not everyone types in the "https://" part of Web addresses, Google has decided to make it a bit easier to encrypt and protect your e-mail. "We've added an option to Settings to always use https. If you don't regularly log in via unencrypted wireless connections at coffee shops or airports or college dorms, then you might not need this additional layer of security. But if you want to always use https, then this setting makes it super easy. Whenever you forget to type https://mail.google.com, we'll add the https for you. If you already have the https URL bookmarked, using this setting will ensure you access your account via https even when you don't use your bookmark. Any http link to Gmail (for example, the one at the top of Google.com) will be automatically redirected to https," it said in the Gmail Blog.

As always, this new feature isn't available to everyone right away. Google is rolling out the functionality in waves. You can choose to enter "https://" yourself, though, to have secure e-mail right away.

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