Top Email Security Tips for Gmail Users

Google’s priority is ensuring user’s information is protected by world-class security, monitoring things like suspicious logins and unauthorized activity. However, without defense-in-depth protection provided by a robust cloud email security solution, relying on Google’s protection alone leaves Gmail users susceptible to email security risks. In this article, you will learn about the importance of email security, the benefits Gmail can provide, the security risks of relying on built-in protection alone, and email best practices to improve your safety as a Gmail user.

What Type of Protection Does Google Provide to Gmail Users?

Regarding Gmail security, Google has various safety measures to protect its services. For instance, it offers two-factor authentication for increased safety during logins. There are multiple ways to detect possible intrusions on their end. However, much of the user’s security still depends on the user. Whatever password you choose, whether you browse safely or whether your passwords are leaked, is solely up to you. Additionally, you can get various virus-infected emails sent to you, which you must know to avoid. If you are browsing safely, avoiding shady emails, and not compromising your passwords, you are taking steps toward online safety.

What Is Email Security and Why Is It Important?

Email securityemail concept with laptop spam virus computer monitor internet security concept businessman reading electronic mail with laptop spam junk emarketing screen spam email popup warning 162459 3219 is a practice that protects email accounts and communications against unauthorized access, theft, or compromise. Organizations can improve their email security posture by establishing policies, using tools, and protecting themselves against malicious threats, including malware, spam, and phishing attacks.

Cybercriminals frequently choose email to gain access to other devices and accounts. They are often able to do so due to human error. A single misguided click is all it takes to trigger a significant security breach for an entire company.

Email security matters because it protects sensitive data that is a critical asset for organizations and can be a target for attackers.

Both businesses and users must be aware of how to protect information with robust email security. In addition, it is essential to ensure best practices for the future are in place.

What Are the Benefits of Using Gmail for Email?

For users, it’s essential to have security and know where they will benefit most. Gmail provides just that for users. 

  • Users are familiar with Gmail- If you’re asking your employees to use it to manage customer service emails, the advantage of this approach is that they won’t have to learn a new tool. Many people are already familiar with the Gmail interface and don't require any training to learn about Gmail. New hires can get started using Gmail straightaway and shorten the time it takes to reach total productivity.
  • Easy to Install- With Gmail, there is no complicated software to configure or accounts to set up. Sign up for your Google account, add your company email address, and let Google handle all the technical requirements. You can start sending and receiving emails immediately and offering a high standard of customer service. There’s nothing to install on the desktop as Gmail is accessible through the web browser, although Gmail is available as a mobile app.
  • High-Grade Security and Spam Filtering- Gmail is a secure platform for storing, sending, and receiving emails. It’s built on top of Google Cloud Platform, which offers the best security standard. Google Workspace Admin lets administrators control how data is secured, see reports, and manage the security of mobile devices. Gmail also encrypts your email in transit using TLS to prevent outside parties from viewing your email.
  • Gmail is Specialized- Gmail does one thing, and one thing well – emails. For extra functionality, Google integrates Gmail with many other apps like Google Meet and Google Calendar, but they are separate entities developed distinctly from Gmail. When you use Gmail, you know you are getting the best possible User Experience, and the platform is very easy to use. Getting lost inside Gmail is impossible, and its features are instantly discoverable.

What Security Risks Do I Face as a Gmail User?

There are security risks for everyone using emailgradient pop up ui ux design, regardless of whether they are a Gmail user. Users risk falling for an attack or breach in which they may have their email addresses, addresses, phone numbers, social security card, and debit card information stolen by cybercriminals. 

Undoubtedly, being a Gmail user also presents its own risks alongside the benefits that Gmail offers. These risks involve users' accounts, data, and privacy. Some common Gmail security threats include:

  • Phishing: Phishing attacks involve deceptive emails that appear to be from legitimate sources. These emails often contain links to fake websites or malicious attachments to steal your login credentials or personal information.
  • Spoofing: Spoofing is when attackers forge the sender's email address to make it appear that the email is coming from a trusted source. This is used in phishing attacks to trick recipients into trusting the message.
  • Malware: Malicious software (malware) can be delivered through email attachments or embedded links. Malware can compromise your device, steal sensitive information, or cause damage if downloaded and executed.
  • Ransomware: Ransomware is malware that encrypts your data and demands payment in exchange for the decryption key. It can be delivered through email attachments or links, often disguised as legitimate files or documents.
  • Spam: Unsolicited, unwanted emails, also known as spam, can flood your inbox and contain phishing links, malware, or other threats. While Gmail has robust spam filtering, some spam messages may persist.
  • Malicious Links: A malicious URL is a link created to promote scams, attacks, and frauds. When clicked on, malicious URLs can download ransomware, lead to phishing or spear phishing emails, or cause other cybercrime. Malicious URLs are often disguised and easy to miss, seriously threatening the digital world. 

While Google makes many of its applications, including Gmail, free for individuals, there are many reasons why small and medium-sized businesses should upgrade to a Google Workspace subscription, including:

  • Automatic Email Spam, Phishing, and Malware Defenses- Users can protect incoming mail against phishing and harmful software (malware). They can also choose what action to take based on the type of threat detected. 
  • Encryption of Data in Transit and at Rest- Encryption is an important piece of the Google Workspace security strategy, helping to protect your emails, chats, video meetings, files, and other data. Even if an attacker or someone with physical access obtains the storage equipment containing your data, they won’t be able to read it because they don’t have the necessary encryption keys. 
  • Guaranteed Uptime on Business Email- Google offers ultra-reliable servers that guarantee 99.9% uptime on your business email. They also provide advanced-level security protocols and industry-leading protection from spam and spyware. In addition, Google Workspace automatically backs up your information, digital documents, and emails, guaranteeing that your business data remains secure.
  • Advanced Security- Google Workspace has built-in controls for sophisticated data encryption, multi-factor authentication, security control protocols, and zero-trust cybersecurity infrastructure. Google Workspace also provides secure endpoints that require no patching and stronger protections against account takeovers.

stealing identity online phishing accountGmail security alone is limited, and while it has robust spam filtering, some spam and phishing messages may still reach the inbox. Google is in the email business, not the email security business, and security is a crucial area where Google needs to catch up. Built-in Gmail security features like data encryption and multi-factor authentication (MFA) are a good start. Still, this basic protection can only safeguard the inbox against advanced and emerging threats like spear phishing, ransomware, and zero-day exploits with additional layers of proactive security protection. Despite built-in email security defenses, the FBI reports that 30% of phishing attempts make it through existing systems and are opened by target users. 

Defense-in-depth is essential in preventing cyberattacks and data breach. Securing Gmail in this dynamic modern threat environment requires additional protection via a comprehensive, fully supported cloud email security solution engineered to anticipate and block all threats in real-time before they reach the inbox. Unlike the static built-in protection provided to Gmail users, these defenses must be able to learn from and adapt to the threats identified to better protect against future attacks.

Best Practices for Securing Your Gmail Account

From bank statements to personal letters and even resetting passwords. Gmail has so much information that it holds for millions of users worldwide. Simply put, if a cybercriminal manages to get through to your account, They have access to the rest of your identity. Users need to be aware of the importance of Gmail security and how to stay on top of protecting their information.

By engaging in the following best practices, Gmail users can enhance their email security to protect against cyberattacks and data breach.

There are many ways users and businesses should think ahead to the best course of action, including verifying safety, backing up Gmail, two-factor verification with passwords, and restricting third-party access.

There is always a fifty-percent chance that a data breach will happen. A hacker can gain access to thousands or millions of personal accounts. This is not something that can necessarily be controlled but can be taken more seriously. Google has increased the features for users to protect themselves from becoming a victim of an attack.

It’s important to keep devices free from malware. Google offers a great way to keep one’s account secure with a free security checkup, choosing a robust password includes a mix of different characters, including upper-case letters, lower-case letters, numbers, and special symbols. However, this is still insufficient, and the two-factor must be enabled. This makes it so much harder for hackers to access the account. And lastly, though, third-party apps help to improve productivity. And while most reputable third-party apps are secure enough that you won’t have to worry, every new connection on your account is another potential vulnerability.

You should only open attachments whose identities you have verified. 

You should never open an email attachment that is unexpected or suspicious. These attachments may contain malware, adware, spyware, viruses, etc, that could harm or steal your valuable data. In case of doubt, you can contact the sender and ask for verification.

In addition, if you’re wondering if an attachment is safe to open, here are a few steps to follow:

  • Double-check who the sender is- Checking the sender’s email and name is a very important step before deciding to click on an email attachment. However, you cannot just rely on the sender’s name to verify an email. Many cybercriminals spoof senders' names to make it look like they’re coming from a trusted source when they’re not. Even if you use an email provider like Gmail, which released an update that shows a blue checkmark next to “verified” senders, don’t trust it entirely. Cybercriminals have already found a way to exploit Gmail’s blue checkmark verification. Instead, rather than clicking on the attachment, contact the sender through another communication method to confirm that it is the person or organization who sent it. 
  • Don’t open any email attachments marked as spam- Many email providers flag spam emails and automatically place them into your spam folder. If your email provider does this, ensure you don’t open attachments from flagged emails, as they will likely be phishing attempts. 
  • Use antivirus software to scan attachments- Antivirus software is a program you install on your computer that detects, isolates and removes viruses and other malware before cybercriminals can successfully infect your computer. An added benefit to some antivirus software is that it can scan the attachments in your email to check if they’re safe. If they’re not safe, your antivirus software will let you know. Gmail will scan attachments for you before downloading, but you should also consider scanning them with the antivirus/anti-malware software installed on your local computer.

Backup your Gmail

Gmail allows you to back up your data and download to your local computer using a function called Google Takeout as part of your existing Google account. This enables fast restorations of emails and attachments, giving user settings and preferences. By going to your contacts page, selecting the contacts that need to be saved, and then clicking “Export,” you can easily back up all your Gmail addresses. You can also save them to your computer or cloud storage service in ZIP format.

When protecting data and finding a source that can help, you must remember to back up your account and ensure that all messages are secure. Google Takeout is a great place to start. It provides a helpful way for a user to download or move data to another device. 

Here are a few things you can do with Google Takeout:

  • Move a collection of images to your laptop for editing.
  • Reserve your Outlook, Apple Contacts, or calendar.
  • Apparent space on your Google Drive by archiving old documents to physical media.
  • Create redundant archives of essential files to store on other cloud services.

Use multi-factor authentication (MFA).

set social media business icons It’s essential to use a strong password for your Gmail account and a multi-factor authentication system, which is a multi-step account login process that requires users to enter more information than just a password.

A second form of authentication can help prevent unauthorized account access if a system password has been compromised. Digital security is crucial for businesses and users as they store sensitive information online. In reality, everyone interacts with applications, services, and data stored on the Internet using business and personal accounts.

While passwords protect digital assets, they are simply not enough. Expert cybercriminals try to find passwords actively. By discovering one password, access can be gained to multiple accounts for which you might have reused the password. Multi-factor authentication acts as an additional layer of security to prevent unauthorized users from accessing these accounts.

Before December 2021, Gmail users didn't need to use the multi-factor authentication app. However, with the evolving landscape of threats, it is now very dangerous for users not to have the MFA app for Gmail. As a result, Google is requiring account holders to use this additional layer of security to protect data from security compromises, phishing, password brute-force attacks, and hacking. 

Here are the steps for setting up 2-Step Verification for Gmail:

  1. Open your Google Account.
  2. In the navigation panel, select Security.
  3. Under “How you sign in to Google,” select 2-Step Verification>Get started.
  4. Follow the on-screen steps.

You then can verify it’s you with a second step. 

After you turn on 2-Step Verification, you must complete a second step to verify it’s you when you sign in. To help protect your account, Google will ask that you complete a specific second step.

Set up recovery information.

If your account is inaccessible, you should have some recovery information stored as a backup. To set up recovery information:

  • Select “Google Account.”
  • Click on “Personal Info” in the navigation bar to the left.
  • Select “Email or Phone” from the Contact Information section.
  • You can add a recovery email or change or delete a recovery email. Select “Edit” to do so.
  • Follow the steps displayed on the screen.

Use separate email accounts for business and personal communications.

There is always the risk that a malicious hacker will break into your account. With only one account, you'll lose access to all your data - business and personal. Keep multiple email accounts to boost security. By using separate Gmail accounts for business and personal communications, you can send different types of messages from several locations instead of a single hub.

Never access your emails on public Wi-Fi.

Avoid checking emails while on public WiFI. Using Wi-Fi in public places can be dangerous, although tempting. Awareness that using public Wi-Fi can leave you vulnerable to cybercriminals is critical.

Restrict access to third-party apps. 

Installing a 'third-party' app may ask for information like your location, contacts, or calendar. Some apps may need to access specific data for them to work. You can change or manage this permission in your main device settings even if granted. For more information and to manage it, visit Manage Your Google Account> Security > Third-party apps with account access.

Check crucial account events.

It is essential to keep an activity log as a security measure. This will help you identify and track any hacking attempts. To check, navigate to Manage your Account > Recent Security Activities. You can also use 'Your Devices’ to view the devices you have signed into your Google account.

Make your account more secure.

Your Google Account is at the core of your online presence, and keeping it secure is crucial to protect your personal information and maintain your privacy.

Google Security CheckupAs I was exploring ways to enhance the security of my Google Account,  it provided valuable information on how to make my account more secure. Google takes online security seriously and recommends following the steps outlined below:

Step 1: Involves doing a security checkup, which includes adding or updating account recovery options such as a recovery phone number and email address, turning on 2-Step Verification for added protection, and considering enrolling in the Advanced Protection Program for heightened security.

Step 2: Advises updating my software, including the browser, operating system, and apps, to ensure they are safe from hackers. The article provides information on how to update Google Chrome and other browsers, as well as Android devices and Chromebooks.

Step 3: Emphasize the importance of using unique and strong passwords for each account. It recommends utilizing a password manager to generate and manage these passwords effectively.

Step 4: Make recommendations against keeping unnecessary apps and browser extensions to minimize vulnerability. The article provides instructions on uninstalling apps and extensions on various devices.

Google Security Settings RecommendationsStep 5: Highlights the need to protect against suspicious messages and content that hackers can use to deceive users. It gives users tips to avoid giving out passwords, replying to suspicious emails or messages, and clicking on links from untrustworthy sources. It also suggests utilizing Gmail's built-in protection and reinforcing it by reporting spam or phishing emails.

Businesses and users should also check for security notifications by signing into their Google Account, selecting their profile picture, and clicking "Recommended actions." This takes you to the Security Checkup, where you will receive personalized recommendations to improve your account security. If there are no recommended actions, it means your account is already secure, but there may still be security tips to enhance its security further.

Additional steps to make your account more secure include using the Google Account with third-party apps and services, enhancing safe browsing, and protecting your online identity.

 Your Guide to Online Security and Privacy

Google’s Safety Center aims to help businesses and users stay safe and secure online. The Safety Center is just one more way we inform people about what we do to keep personal information private and safe and give them control. It links to many easy-to-use privacy controls so people can choose the settings that are right for them. It features helpful security tips that keep users and businesses safe whenever they’re online, not just on Google. It focuses on five points: phishing protection, safe browsing, proactive alerts, account safety, confidential mode, and email encryption.

Each of these provides information regarding malware and phishing attacks. Gmail blocks more than 99.9% of spam, phishing attempts, and malware from reaching you. Gmail protects users, identifies dangerous links in email messages, and warns you before you visit the site. Gmail warns you before downloading an attachment that could put your security at risk. In addition, they protect your account against suspicious logins and unauthorized activity by monitoring multiple security signals. To keep things confidential, your messages expire after a set period, and remove the option for individuals to forward, copy, download, or print your message from Email. Finally, in Google infrastructure, messages are encrypted at rest and while in transit between data centers.

Use confidential mode.

Gmail Select Confidential ModeGmail has a secure mode to send confidential messages and attachments to protect sensitive information. You can use the confidential mode to revoke or set a time limit for messages. The receiver of the confidential message can copy, forward, print, and receive a 'view-only' without downloading. This can be enabled by:

  • Click to compose.
  • On the bottom left of the screen, click on Turn on Confidential Mode.
  • Set an expiration time and passcode. This affects both the text of your message as well as any attachments.
  • If you choose “No SMS passcode,” recipients can access the message using the Gmail application. The recipient who does not use Gmail will receive a code.
  • If you select SMS passcode, recipients will be sent a text message with a passcode. Please enter the recipient’s mobile number and not your own.

With Gmail's confidential mode, your users can help protect sensitive information from unauthorized or accidental sharing. Confidential mode messages don't have options to forward, copy, print, or download messages or attachments.

Confidential mode lets you:

  • Set a message expiration date
  • Revoke message access at any time
  • Require a verification code by text to open messages

Keep Learning About Improving Your Email Security Posture as a Gmail User

Gmail Confidential ModeGmail continues providing excellent service to its billions of users all over the globe. It is widely known as an exceptional email service available to users and takes various measures to protect users from external threats. However, users must use the best practices we’ve discussed to secure their email accounts. 

Learn more about email safety and how to keep your data secure in Guardian Digital’s related resources:

  • Implementing a comprehensive email security system can help protect against advanced threats like targeted spear phishing and ransomware. 
  • Following email security best practices, you can improve your email security posture to protect against attacks and breaches.
  • Keep the integrity of your email safe by securing the cloud with spam filtering and enterprise-grade anti-spam services.
  • Get the latest updates on how to stay safe online.

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