After you send an email, it’s pretty much outside your control. Gmail’s new Confidential Mode tries to give you a bit of control back by offering message expiration dates and making it trickier for email to be forwarded on.
With Confidential Mode, users can set an expiration date to all emails, similar to a Snapchat message, and they can also revoke access to a confidential email at any time. The recipient can’t copy, forward, print, or download an email that’s marked as confidential, although there’s no preventing them from taking screenshots.
As added protection, Google also gives users the option of requiring an SMS passcode to open a particular message. When this is enabled, the recipient will get a text message containing the passcode, and they have to enter it to unlock the email.
The new feature is already available without the need to update the app. Gmail did not respond to inquiries when the mode will arrive to iOS devices, but it should hit Apple devices.
While this new feature sounds fine in theory, in practice it means clicking on links within emails, which any security expert will tell you is fraught with danger and it’s where phishing hackers make the bulk of their attacks.
A couple of months on from Google’s early rollout of confidentiality mode and other new features, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been in contact with the tech giant to try and work on a solution to the problem. Google’s response, according to ABCNews, has been to say that it believes no additional security risks have been created with the implementation of the new feature.
That may well be the case for Gmail users, who experience a typical email scenario when receiving confidential emails. However, should that email be sent to someone outside of the Google sphere of influence, a placeholder message and link to the original content is provided instead.
According to the DHS, that “presents an opportunity for malicious cyber actors to mimic the email message and phish unwary users.”
The features are very similar to some found in Microsoft’s full Outlook application, and Microsoft is also adding the ability to restrict emails on its Outlook.com service. These features will largely appeal to businesses that want more control over how emails are used by recipients, but they won’t stop people from taking a screenshot or a photo of an email.