Sunny Li / 3.26.2023Home / Email Security

Is Gmail secure? A deep dive into Google’s privacy practices

Is Gmail secure enough to keep your emails safe, or should you switch to another provider? Find the answer in this guide and discover a worthy alternative.
Billions of people use Gmail as their primary email service without questioning its security measures. With email communication being an integral part of today’s life, you must do everything in your power to protect your privacy.Understanding your email service’s security levels is a solid first step. Unfortunately, providers often make bold promises regarding security, but not all live up to them.Gmail is a good example—it appears secure at first glance, but scratching the surface uncovers some practices many users aren’t comfortable with. To keep you informed, this guide will answer some important questions:
  • Is Gmail secure enough for an average user?
  • What security layers should you expect from an email service?
  • How to safeguard your data with a privacy-first email provider?
Use advanced security protectionSkiff Mail surpasses common security vulnerabilities with its end-to-end encryption protocol
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How secure is Gmail?

Over the last decade, providers like Gmail and Outlook have established themselves as the leading email services for personal and business use. The problem is, Big Tech platforms like these don’t focus much on users’ privacy or security.Google is infamous for invasive privacy practices, which extend to all its products. Gmail does offer some degree of safety from malicious parties, but it doesn’t keep your data hidden from Google’s own team. This is why examining Gmail’s security involves a deeper look into what the platform does well and where it falls short.

Breaking down Gmail’s security features

Gmail offers some standard security features you should expect from every provider. All users get phishing protection, which Google claims can prevent over 99.9% of malware, spam, and phishing attempts.There’s also Confidential Mode, which allows users to create passwords and protect confidential data while the message travels through the network. Even though this additional layer of security is useful, it can be unnecessarily complicated.Creating passwords and sending them over 3rd party applications to communicate privately is inconvenient at best. Worse yet, the message can be hijacked while traveling and cracked with a brute force attack if the passwords are weak.As for account security, you get two-factor authentication (2FA)—an additional security layer requiring a one-time passcode sent to your phone. If someone gets ahold of your credentials, 2FA ensures they’re locked out without the passphrase.Despite some decent safety features, Gmail suffers from a significant flaw—the encryption type it uses.In contrast to password protection and other optional security methods, encryption is an integrated security measure most email clients have built in. It keeps your online communication confidential by turning plaintext into ciphertext that can only be decoded with a decryption key. While Google provides somewhat strong encryption for paid Google Workspace accounts, the free version offers an inferior encryption protocol.

Encryption standards offered by Google

Gmail’s default encryption protocol is called Transport Layer Security (TLS). Most major email services offer this type of encryption even though it’s not particularly secure. TLS offers basic protection while the message travels from the sender to the recipient, which is known as encryption in transit.This means your data is only encrypted while traveling between the servers, not while it’s resting on them. In case of a breach, there’s not much protection you can rely on to avoid your data leaking.Encryption methods like TLS also don’t offer complete privacy. Your data and encryption keys are stored on Gmail’s server, which is a significant vulnerability. Not only is your data at risk of being stolen in case of a breach, but the provider also has unrestricted access to it.The only way to get more protection is to upgrade to a paid plan and opt for S/MIME—Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions.The problem is that much like TLS, S/MIME won’t work unless both communicating parties support the protocol. The setup can also be quite inconvenient, as you must first get an S/MIME certificate and configure it manually before you can add it to Gmail.With the above in mind, neither encryption standard supported by Gmail is ideal for privacy-focused users, especially those on a budget or people without extensive technical knowledge.
Choose an all-round secure alternativeWith a user-friendly design and rock-solid encryption, Skiff Mail provides an unrivaled experience
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The encryption type to look for in an email provider

There are three encryption types commonly found in email providers:Outlook, Gmail, and similar email service providers offer at-rest and in-transit encryption methods. These encryption types protect your data at different points of communication. As you saw, encryption in transit only safeguards data during transport, so you also need encryption at rest to ensure your data is safe while being idle on the server.Some providers implement both encryption types, advertising themselves as secure. This isn’t the case because the service still owns the decryption keys and stores them on its servers. This gives them access to plaintext email copies and exposes your data to numerous risks.The best way to ensure full control over your data is by choosing a provider with end-to-end encryption.

Why end-to-end encryption is superior to other methods

End-to-end encryption is the gold standard of email security, keeping your correspondence safe from everyone—including the provider.To help you understand how this encryption method ensures comprehensive safety, the following breakdown explains its mechanism at every stage of your correspondence:
StageWhat happens
SendingThe message is encrypted on the user’s device before sending
Message transmissionWhile traveling through the communication channel, the message is safe from unauthorized users since no one has access to the decryption key
ReceivingThe recipient decrypts the message using the key created by them and stored on their device. Nobody has the key except the recipient, ensuring complete privacy and data security
While encryption in transit and at rest cipher your message once they reach the provider’s server, E2EE does it on your device before the message leaves it. The email reaches the server encrypted, so the provider can’t see the plaintext version because only you and the recipient have the key.If you need an alternative to Gmail that offers this level of security and confidentiality, Skiff Mail can be an excellent option.

Fortify your correspondence with Skiff Mail

Skiff Mail is a privacy-first email provider using two separate keys to keep your data secure:
  1. Public Key—Used to encrypt the message and shared between the sender and recipient
  2. Private Key—Used for decryption into plaintext and stored on the user’s device
The platform doesn’t store or have access to user data or login credentials. You can sign up without leaving any personal information and enjoy complete confidentiality.For additional security, Skiff offers two-factor authentication using the Authenticator app. Instead of providing a phone number, you can generate security codes with the app to stay anonymous.Skiff is transparent about its privacy and security practices, so you can check out the whitepaper for a detailed overview of its measures. It’s also open source, so the codebase is available on Skiff’s GitHub.The platform’s numerous security measures are packed in a modern, user-friendly interface. You don’t need to download any additional software or manually configure certificates to secure your email—end-to-end encryption and other safety measures are active by default.Skiff offers three end-to-end encrypted products besides Mail:
  1. Skiff Pages is a privacy-first alternative to Google Docs, keeping the documents on your shared workspace end-to-end encrypted and completely secure
  2. Skiff Drive lets you store all types of files in a safe environment and offers optional integration with InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), the largest decentralized storage solution
  3. Skiff Calendar is integrated with Skiff Mail by default. It keeps all appointments encrypted so that only members can see them and lets you host video conferences
For safe and anonymous file sharing and communication, Skiff integrates with some of the best-known crypto wallets:

Use Skiff for free, upgrade as needed

Skiff’s generous free plan includes numerous useful features, most notably:
  • 10 GB storage space
  • Fast email and text search
  • Four aliases
  • Custom signatures
Besides the free plan, Skiff offers three paid tiers:
  1. Essential—From $3 per month
  2. Pro—From $8 per month
  3. Business—From $12 per month
The following table shows what each plan provides so that you can choose the one that matches your needs:
Drive storage15 GB100 GB1 TB
Folders and labelsUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
E2EE link sharing aliases101015
Custom domains125
Workspace collaborators66Unlimited
Doc version history24 hoursUnlimitedUnlimited

Get started with Skiff and create a secure workflow

If you want to level up your online security, you can get started with Skiff in three quick steps:
  1. Visit the signup page
  2. Choose your login credentials
  3. Explore Skiff’s products
If you’re coming from Gmail or another provider, you can transfer your conversations and data to Skiff using the platform’s one-click migration. Skiff won’t save unencrypted copies, so you can enjoy complete privacy from day one.While E2EE is among the strongest encryption standards a secure email service can offer, note that it can’t protect you if your device has already been compromised by malware.You should always use antivirus software and strong passwords to ensure that your device is secure. To avoid phishing attempts, only open links and download files from credible and trustworthy sources.

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