Google recently announced two authentication features designed to make communication through emails safe and reliable.
With the first one, Gmail users are warned when they receive an email from an account that is not encrypted and also when they send an email to an account that is not encrypted. A small open lock in the top right corner is used as an indicator for the same. This icon will not appear if the account is TLS (Transport Layer Security) enabled.
TLS is nothing but an encryption protocol that prevents eavesdropping between mail servers. For example, you would want your message sent out to your friend to be read by him/her and nobody else. TLS encryption ensures this. While all Gmail-to-Gmail mails are encrypted, some providers have not enabled TLS and hence mails to and fro their domains aren’t encrypted. Google warns communication with these domains.
With the second update, Gmail users are warned from sending emails to un-authenticated users. A question mark icon in place of the user’s profile picture is indicative of the same.
Through these features, Google hopes to protect users and accounts from phishing and other cyber attacks.
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Official Gmail Blog