Gmail’s Red Padlock and How to Keep Your Email Safe

You’re only as safe as your weakest link and never has that been truer than in the case of email. While you may use an email provider that’s secure, the person you are sending to may not and that puts anything files you send them at risk. This might leave you wondering about the security of your emails.

Not too long ago, popular email provider Gmail introduced a feature to their platform to help keep your emails safe — a little red padlock. If you’re a business who’s worried about email and file security, read on to learn how to keep your emails safe.

How the Little Red Padlock Can Increase Email Security

Gmail is arguably one of the safest ways to send email. Google is constantly updating the Gmail platform to make it safer and has been encrypting emails in transit using TLS since they opened shop on April 1, 2004. They’ve recently added a new feature that helps keep their users even more secure, a red padlock.

What does the red padlock do? The padlock, when open (or unlocked), indicates that the person you are sending your email to uses an unencrypted email provider. This means that whenever you send an email with any sensitive material, whether in the body copy or in an attachment, anyone can access it.

how to keep your emails safe gmail

Image from the Google blog.

This isn’t a problem, say, if you’re sending an email to a relative or a friend about your weekend. But if you work in an office, it’s VERY likely that your coworkers or employees are using email to send confidential work files outside the office to clients. When attempting to send it, a message will pop up and advise you not to send an email to this user for security issues, so what are you supposed to do?

Unencrypted Email is a Part of the Shadow IT Problem

This is a huge problem, one that’s a part of the Shadow IT risks that we’ve covered extensively, and one that’s really difficult to stop. It’s especially risky when your clientele skews older or not so tech-savvy, meaning that they may not realize they are using email providers that are unencrypted.

You’d be surprised how many people still send email through and to unencrypted email accounts. Take the mortgage industry for instance — a study done by HALOCK found that 70% of businesses were allowing employees to send personal and financial information over unencrypted email as email attachments.

So, yes, Gmail keeps your emails safe, to an extent. What it actually allows you to do is to take control of your security by educating you on which email addresses are unencrypted (unsafe). If you chose to send your email anyway, unencrypted, you have no way to guarantee that your email and attached files are not going to be tampered with.

But, really, it’s impossible to guarantee that an email and a file won’t be misused because there’s no simple way to track an email once it leaves your provider. This isn’t just Gmail’s problem, it’s one every email provider faces — no one can track an email, or what happens to it, after it’s left the safety of the provider.

In order for employees to stop using email to send sensitive files, contracts, and documents, you must give them a solution that is just as easy to use and far more secure. It’s likely that in the coming years, secure online portals will be the alternative to using unencrypted email accounts for several reasons.

How to Keep Your Email Safe: The Online Portal

Online portals are accessible from anywhere, which makes it just as simple to get to as email. With SmartFile, you don’t need to download a mobile app; you can simply pull up your mobile browser on a smartphone or tablet, or access it from your desktop. The online portal encrypts files in-transit, and the files are then protected by varying layers of firewalls based upon different technologies, so you know your files are safe.

The online portal is not only available internally, but it can also be used to exchange files with clients. If you exchange files with a client often, you can set up a folder for them, that only they can access, for both uploading and downloading files. If you just need to send a file or document once, you can simply create a password-protected share link for a user to access the file or create an anonymous upload for a one-time upload. These can be sent to the client either directly through SmartFile or copy+pasted into an email.

how to keep your email safe

Secure Portals Help You Keep Your Files Safe

Best of all, the inability to track what happens to the files in an email vanishes. The online portal tracks every file that is accessed, sent, uploaded or download by monitoring users, date and time, IP address, location and more. It’s a handy way for IT departments to have oversight and have a better sense of where their sensitive documents and files go.

Email is Safe, But SmartFile’s Online Portal is Safer

It’s great to see email providers strive to make their platforms as secure as possible, but they can only go so far. If you still find yourself wondering how to keep your emails safe though, their answers won’t be sufficient.

As we continue to see employees access and share sensitive files through Gmail accounts and other, less secure email accounts, it’s likely that company leadership will turn to a secure portal to handle the sharing and sending of secure files — it’s the safest way possible to share sensitive files. If you’d like to see the difference an online portal can make in your file management, sign up for the free trial below.

SmartFile is a business file mangement platform that gives you more control, compliance and security.