Google tightens HTTPS protections in Gmail in light of government snooping

Users are no longer given the option to turn off HTTPS

Citing the need to protect users from government cyber-spying, Google has tightened Gmail's encryption screws by removing the option to turn off HTTPS.

Google first gave people the option of encrypting their Gmail sessions via the HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) communications protocol in 2008. Google turned it on by default in 2010 for all users, but allowed them to turn it off manually. Not anymore.

"Starting today, Gmail will always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when you check or send email," Nicolas Lidzborski, Gmail Security Engineering Lead, wrote in a blog post Thursday.

He highlighted the security benefits of having HTTPS permanently on. "Today's change means that no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between you and Gmail's servers -- no matter if you're using public WiFi or logging in from your computer, phone or tablet," Lidzborski wrote.

In addition, all messages sent or received by Gmail users will remain encrypted while moving among Google data centers. That is "something we made a top priority after last summer's revelations," Lidzborski wrote, alluding to the press leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden, the former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency who was disgruntled with its surveillance methods and practices.

When it announced the availability of HTTPS for Gmail and later when it turned it on by default, Google officials noted that the security boost from using HTTPS would sacrifice performance by increasing latency to a certain degree. It made no mention of that in Thursday's blog post.

Asked for comment about the security-speed tradeoff of using HTTPS, a Google spokeswoman said the Gmail team has worked hard to mitigate any performance impact, and that at this point the company believes it makes no sense to allow unencrypted HTTP connections. Plus, currently most people use HTTPS, she added.

Lidzborski also revealed in the blog post that Gmail had uptime of 99.978 percent in 2013, which works out to under two hours of downtime for a user during the year.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesGooglesecurityMailSoftware as a servicecloud computinginternet

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

Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?