If you have an email, there’s a high chance that your email is registered on Gmail. Gmail has over a billion and a half users, but most of us don’t really use our Gmail accounts to their full potential, which could actually help us make our online mail much safer and less prone to be leaked.
But if you take a look at some of the security features that Gmail provides for its users, you’ll find that there’s a lot that you can do to make your emails safer and your inbox cleaner. You'll have to deal with less emails from marketers who think you need all the newest models of lawnmowers and scammers promising to make you richer if only you could give them a “small” loan.
These are some of the features that can help you make your Gmail accounts safer.
1. Manually Block Spam
If a spammer account isn’t getting flagged automatically by Gmail’s Report Scam feature, and continues to clutter your email like an unwanted pest, Gmail allows you to block the sender manually.
To block a sender, click on the email, then the three dots at the top right, and choose the Block option from the drop-down. All future messages from the sender will go straight to the spam folder, so you don’t have to deal with them anymore.
Don’t rule out the spam-reporting feature, however, since it’s not meant to block messages according to the sender, but rather help Gmail filter out emails with similar content and styles, even some “spam” words. In some cases, emails that are flagged by users are analyzed by Google to help improve its algorithms and update its automatic filters.
If it’s not the sender or the general element of the email, but rather something specific to that email that you’d like to block, it’s best to use the Filter messages like this feature instead. This helps you set some specific actions for all future emails with similar elements, such as marking them all as unimportant, or marking them as unread.
2. Reset the Undo Send Time
This is a tip that might just save you from a faux pas of legendary proportions or just some general embarrassment that may result from a simple typo. Gmail has a feature that allows you to Undo sent emails, before your they end up in your recipients' inbox forever.
However, the default time for you to stop an email from being sent is 5 seconds, which may not be sufficient if you only realize your mistake a second too late.
So, it’s great news that you have the option to customize this timer, and set it for up to 30 seconds at a time. To change the timer, simply click the cog icon in the top right corner of your main page, then from that, go to Settings, and under the General tab, click on the drop-down menu besides Undo send. Choose the timer of your choice, and you never know when your future self might thank you for saving them.
3. Send Confidential Emails
Gmail has a special feature for making your emails confidential. Confidential emails sent on Gmail cannot be copied, forwarded, printed, or downloaded by the receivers, and the sender can also protect access to the email with a passcode. These emails are not meant to stay in the ether of the internet forever, and you can set an expiry, after which the email will disappear.
To turn confidential mode on, just click on the padlock sign under the Compose Message window, and set your specifications for the message. A confidential email can stay in the receivers’ inbox for up to five years, but no longer. The recipient(s) of the email will be able to see the expiry of the email.
Unfortunately, this feature cannot ensure that your receiver won’t take a screenshot of the email, so there’s not anything you can do about that.
However, if the person receiving the emails are not using the Gmail apps, they will need to view the emails on a web browser.
A few caveats to these self-destructing, super-secure messages: If the people getting these emails aren't using the official Gmail apps, they'll need to open the messages up on the web instead. Also, bear in mind that there's nothing to stop your contacts taking screenshots of confidential messages and then passing on those images, so the mode is best used for people you trust.
4. Clear Cached data
If you have an unstable internet, Gmail is now available offline too. However, offline usage means that the computer you’re using Gmail on will store some information in the form of cached data, which can be compromised if the wrong person gets physical access to your computer device. This is especially risky if you’re using a public computer, or borrowing a friend’s or co-worker's device.
To delete the offline cache on your device, go to the Settings menu, and select Offline. Under Security, mark the box that says Remove offline data from my computer, and log out between every use.
If the Offline feature on your Gmail account isn’t activated, you can always turn it on by going to the Offline section under Settings.
5. Hide Embedded Images
You may have noticed that sometimes pictures with your emails get screened, and Gmail asks your permission to display them. This is because embedded pictures in emails are a security concern, and have remained so for quite some time. Images can track information about your browser, your device, and even find out if you’ve read an email or not. Many of the issues have been resolved now, but the most common culprit is email tracking.
Senders can embed small pixels called tracking pixels in pictures to track things and collect all sorts of data, such as what time you opened the email, and what kind of device you read the email on. While some of these trackers are used by marketers to find out how their promotional material is doing, this is not the kind of data you would want to give away.
Google automatically does some of the lifting, and hides pictures it believes have been used in the wrong way, which is what I was talking about earlier. However, the automatic feature may not catch every culprit.
If you want to make sure you don’t accidentally end up sharing any sensitive data from your mail, go to the General tabs under Settings and check the box that says Ask before displaying external images next to the Images option. Don’t worry, you’ll still have the option for opening pictures from trusted senders.