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Is Gmail secure enough to protect your emails?

Hackers aren't the only bad guys who might secretly be reading your emails. Your email provider might be reading them, too. No one should have the right to access your emails without you knowing, so improve your Gmail account’s privacy with these 8 tips.

Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė

Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė

Is Gmail secure enough to protect your emails?

If you are wondering whether your Gmail account is secure from hackers, then the answer is yes, but only to a certain extent. Gmail is encrypted with TLS, Transport Layer Security, while transferring your data and it protects your emails at rest with industry-standard 128-bit encryption.

Google has quite a few security features in place to make it harder for outsiders to intercept your data, remember that it’s not just hackers you should be concerned about. Your email provider might be secretly reading your emails as well, and your Gmail account is no exception. After getting caught out, Google apparently stopped and “employed” bots to scan your emails and collect valuable information about you.

Shortly after that, they slipped up again. This time they gave their partners full access to users’ Gmail account emails. It wasn’t just bots but real human beings who were reading Gmail users’ emails without their knowledge. According to their partners and Google, they needed this information to train their AIs.

Gmail security

If you truly care about your privacy, deal with sensitive information, or shiver at the thought of someone reading your emails, you should consider enhancing your Gmail account's security (or looking for a privacy-oriented alternative).

Privacy-oriented email providers make money selling premium plans rather than ads or selling your data. They also use end-to-end encryption giving you excellent security. End-to-end encryption helps prevent your data from being intercepted. If Google had utilized end-to-end encryption with their own services, many would not be looking for better alternatives. Some of the email providers we've rated here even integrate burner emails, anonymous payment, masses of storage, spam filters, MITM attack protection, and free trials – so there's no reason to sacrifice your privacy anymore.

But, if you're accustomed to Gmail don't despair, you don't have to find another email provider. Gmail encryption, a password manager and even a Gmail security checklist can help boost your protection. Here are 8 ways you can quickly increase your Gmail account security and privacy now.

8 Ways to improve Gmail’s security

#1 Encrypt your Gmail

Encrypt your Gmail account emails to make sure that no one snooping on you – not even Google – can read them. There are many third-party plugins to choose from, and some may require more technical know-how than others. Read our recommendations and full review here.

#2 Use strong passwords

Gmail encryption is important, but so is having a strong password. If your password is ‘password123’ or something similarly easy, you’re in trouble. If you use it for all of your accounts, that’s even worse. Most people use weak passwords. They can be easily guessed or have previously leaked in one of many data breaches, which makes hackers job fairly easy. Learn how to create strong passwords and keep them safe with a password manager.

A password manager is a perfect tool if you don't want to wrack your brain trying to think of complex passwords. A decent password manager, like NordPass, will automatically create complex passwords, and store them too. When it comes to having to type the password out, a password manager can automatically fill the password for you.

Worringly, we're still not very smart when it comes to passwords. NordPass found that the most common password in 2021 was “123456” used by over 100 million people. The second most common password was a slightly more complex “123456789”. (Not so brilliant if you want to outsmart hackers). Invest in a password manager instead of having to resort to extremely common passwords.

#3 Use 2-step verification

Make sure you activate 2-factor authentication (2FA). With 2FA, you will need a password as well as a unique code sent to your phone to access your account. It adds an extra step to your login process; however, that means that it will make it twice as hard to break into your Gmail account. Combine this method with Gmail encryption and hackers will have a very hard time breaking into your account.

Be aware that Google will have access to your phone number which some of you may not like. Try using a burner sim (which is simply a spare SIM card that you can use to receive access messages). That will hide your real number from Google and keep you that little bit more private.

#4 Learn to recognize phishing attempts

If you click on a suspicious link or open a malicious attachment sent to your email address, there’s a high chance that your device or your Gmail app will get infected with malware. However, it’s easy to learn to recognize phishing attempts and identify which email attachments are generally safe to open.

Phishing emails and messages rise year-on-year, and they can be pretty brutal. In 2015 a spear-phishing campaign took down an entire power plant in Ukraine. Even Apple and Meta have been tricked by phishing emails, when they handed over user data to hackers posing as fake police. In other cases, ordinary people have lost savings and retirement funds to hackers posing as bank officials and postal companies.

PRO TIP: Make sure to check your Sent box regularly. If your account has been compromised, hackers might send phishing emails to your contacts, so if you see any emails that you didn't send that's a major warning sign.

#5 Regularly update your operating system

All the Gmail encryption in the world won't help if you're running on out of date software. Sometimes, the security of your Gmail app depends on the security of your device. Make sure to update your operating system and your browser regularly. The latest updates usually patch vulnerabilities hackers can use to break into your device.

Software updates might also reveal new features in an app or program, as well as secure your data with vital security updates. So it's always a good idea to keep all of your devices running the latest software. Our blogpost will tell you what to remember before you update your software, as well as give you some tips on protecting your privacy online.

#6 Regularly check your Gmail activity

For better Gmail security, keep an eye on your Gmail account for suspicious activities, as well as what devices are logged into it and where. Sometimes, hackers will secretly leech your information without leaving clear signs that someone has access to your account. Follow these steps regularly to check whether your Gmail hasn’t been hacked.

#7 Use VPN on a public Wi-Fi

If you need to check your emails on public Wi-Fi, make sure you use a VPN. It will encrypt your traffic so hackers snooping on the traffic won’t be able to see your data, or try to divine victim's IP addresses.

In fact, most of us still don't know how dangerous public WiFi can be. When you connect to public WiFi everything you do online can be seen by the service provider. If a hacker was sitting nearby they could intercept what you're doing online and steal your data.

NordVPN encrypts your internet connection when you switch on the app, this means that everything you do online is kept truly private and secure. Hackers will try to find out everything about their victims, including their IP addresses. So always use a VPN when you're in coffee shops, airports, hotels, and shopping malls, it could save your accounts from getting hacked.

Moreover, NordVPN's Threat Protection feature will also help you identify malware-ridden files, stop you from landing on malicious websites, and block trackers and intrusive ads on the spot.

#8 Complete Google’s security checklist

Go through Google’s security checklist and see whether there’s anything else you can change in your settings to improve your Gmail’s safety. If you're absolutely privacy-focused, try out these email providers which provide you with encrypted messages. Changing email provider can be a pain, however. If you want to stick with Gmail, it can't hurt to investigate the Google security checklist.

Protect your Gmail account with NordVPN, providing some of the best online privacy around.

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Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė
Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė
Jomilė is a content writer who loves to investigate the latest Internet privacy and security news. She thrives on looking for solutions to problems and sharing her knowledge with NordVPN readers and customers.

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