How to Encrypt Email in Gmail

Gmail now allows you to send private emails. You will be able to add more security to your email so that only the intended recipient will be able to read it. Every time you write a new message, you will see an option to make your email more secure with just one click. It’s easy to learn how to encrypt email in Gmail, so if you’re not very tech-savvy, it shouldn’t be much of an issue. Hopefully, it will make you feel more secure when sending an email.

Good to know: learn how to create email templates in Gmail.

How to Send Private Email in Gmail on PC

According to estimates, Gmail currently has more than 1.8 billion active users. That is many, many emails traversing the globe between users and a lot of unprotected data – Gmail only uses TLS (transport layer security) to encrypt its emails. This leaves chinks in the armor, through, which allows hackers access to your precious data. Follow these steps to encrypt your email using Confidential Mode:

  1. Log in to your Gmail account.
Gmail log in screen view.
  1. Click on the “Compose” button on the left side of the window.
Clicking on "Compose" button in Gmail desktop app.
  1. Create an email as you usually would, then click on the lock icon at the bottom of the window.
Clicking on "Lock" button in email creation window in Gmail app for desktop.
  1. Configure encryption settings, duration, etc., and select the expiry date for the mail you are sending. Recipients cannot interact with email past the expiry date. Furthermore, you can send the recipient a passcode via SMS for added security.
Confidential mode in Gmail app for desktop view with options.
  1. Send the mail when you’re ready and include an SMS passcode, if desired.
Gmail view with passcode option enabled.
  1. Revoke access to an encrypted email by opening the email from the “Sent” folder and clicking “Remove access.”
"Remove access" option for encrypted email in Gmail desktop app.

Tip: get acquainted with Gmail automation with these useful Google scripts.

How to Send Private Email in Gmail App

  1. Launch the Gmail App, and click on the “Compose” button.
Tapping "Compose" button in Gmail app.
  1. Click on the three dots in the top-left corner of the mail composition window, and select “Confidential mode.”
Bringing up "Confidential mode" button in Gmail app.
  1. Set the expiry date of the email by tapping on the drop-down arrow in the “Set expiry” section.
Setting email expiry date in Gmail app.
  1. As with the web client, you can choose to set a passcode for your encrypted mail using the Gmail app.
Setup Password For The Encrypted Email
  1. After you’ve set things up, you will see a dialog box showing an expiry date, confirming that the mail is encrypted. Hit the “Send” button, and your encrypted mail will be delivered to the recipient.
Sending encrypted email via Gmail.
  1. Revoke access to an encrypted email on the app by pressing the hamburger menu in the left corner and navigating to the “Sent” folder.
Remove Access To Encrypted Email In Gmail
  1. Click on the “Remove access” button in the email.
  1. If you want to add an extra layer of security to your encrypted email, you can also add the SMS passcode option.
Adding SMS passcode to encrypted email in Gmail app.
  1. If the recipient of the email is IN your contact list, and their phone number is saved to your account, Google will automatically link it to the email. If not, you’ll see a pop-up asking you to add the phone number when you hit “Send.”
Tapping "Add missing information" option to add phone number before sending encrypted email via Gmail app.
  1. When you add the recipient’s phone number, they can receive an SMS code for verification.
Adding extra information before sending encrypted email via Gmail app.

FYI: learn how to set up automatic forwarding in Gmail by reading our guide on the matter.

How to Open an Email Sent with Confidential Mode

If you have received an email sent with Confidential Mode in Gmail, follow these steps to open and read it:

From a Gmail Account

  1. Open the email in your Gmail inbox.
  1. If the sender has selected “Standard” encryption, you can view the email the same as any other email. However, you’ll see a content expiry notification below the email content.
Email showing content expiry warning in Gmail app.
  1. If the sender has used the SMS verification method, you’ll be asked to get an SMS on your phone number to verify your identity. Click on “Send passcode.”
Pressing on "Send passcode" option in Gmail app.
  1. Enter the passcode you received, and click “Submit” to unlock your encrypted email.
Entering the passcode to unclock encrypted email in Gmail app.

From Another Email App

  1. Open the mail in your email client of choice. If you’re looking for a disposable email account, we have a list of the best throwaway email providers.
  2. Tap the “View the email” button.
Tapping the "View the email" button in alternative email app.
  1. You will be redirected to your browser.
Redirected to browser via the third-party email app.
  1. If the email requires a passcode, tap “Send passcode.”
Tapping the "Send passcode" button in browser.
  1. Enter the passcode, and press “Submit.”
Pressing on "Submit" button after inputting password for encrypted email.
  1. Your email will become visible.
Encrypted email view in browser.

Tip: learn how to use Google Tasks effectively without leaving Gmail.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are email attachments encrypted?

Generally, email encryption services don’t encrypt the attachments of the email. Despite that, hackers can’t access the attached documents unless they decrypt the entire email first. If you want to add another layer of protection to email attachments, use third-party services like Persistent File Protection to encrypt the attached documents too.

Does a paid Gmail account offer enhanced encryption?

Yes, paid Gmail accounts offer a high level of encryption with S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions). It encrypts your email via user-specific keys, ensuring only the intended recipients can decipher the message. However, the sender and the receiver must have S/MIME enabled for it to work.

Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Ojash Yadav.

Ojash Yadav
Ojash Yadav

Ojash has been writing about tech back since Symbian-based Nokia was the closest thing to a smartphone. He spends most of his time writing, researching, or ranting about Bitcoin.

Ojash also contributes to other popular sites like MakeUseOf, SlashGear, and MacBookJournal.

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