Google moves Gmail to more secure HTTPS service

The timing of the action is seen as a response to Chinese hacking attempts against the online mail service.

At the risk of inconveniencing some users, Google has moved its Gmail to a more secure protocol. The timing of the action is seen as a response to Chinese hacking attempts against the online mail service.

Google had previously offered HTTPS access to Gmail as an option, but Tuesday said it has become the default and would be rolled out to users over the next several weeks.

HTTPS, which encrypts Web traffic, is more resource intensive and thus more expensive for Google to offer. The change was announced on the company's official blog, though without a mention of Google's dispute with China over e-mail hacking attempts.

"Using HTTPS helps protect data from being snooped by third parties, such as in public Wi-Fi hotspots," wrote Sam Schillace, Gmail engineering director.

"We initially left the choice of using it up to you because there's a downside: HTTPS can make your mail slower since encrypted data doesn't travel across the web as quickly as unencrypted data. Over the last few months, we've been researching the security/latency tradeoff and decided that turning HTTPS on for everyone was the right thing to do."

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transport Protocol Secure. It is intended to prevent eavesdropping and so-called man-in-the-middle attacks on information as it traverses the Internet.

Default HTTPS use on Gmail will protect confidential business information, which HTTP doesn't attempt to accomplish. This is important to business users, especially those Gmail users whose business includes campaigning for human rights in China.

HTTPS is the connection protocol already used by financial institutions and other organizations that require secure connections to Web pages and applications. URLs for these connections begin HTTPS://.

For most users, the change should be smooth and perhaps even go unnoticed. However, users that are setup to use Gmail while offline could face trouble.

"If you use offline Gmail over HTTP currently, the switch to HTTPS is likely to cause some problems," the company warned. It offered a link to a page offering instructions for working around the issue.

My take: Though Google's reputation is justifiably tarnished by its near clueless handling of the Nexus One smartphone introduction, it's handling of the China issue--and willingness to sacrifice perhaps billions in long-term revenue--shows Google takes protecting its customers most seriously.

The Nexus One flap will eventually blow over. But, among those who pay attention, Google's noble defense of its customers will be remembered for a very long time.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Gmailsecurity

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

David Coursey

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?