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How to Make SSL the Default for Gmail

written by: Trevor Parker•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/27/2011

Your e-mail should be yours and yours alone. Google now allows you to make Gmail default to SSL mode. Changing this setting only requires a moment and a few of simple steps.

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    What is SSL?

    SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is a set of protocols for securing connections to the Internet by encryption. Data sent over the Internet is normally unencrypted; anyone who intercepts the data while it is in transit can capture and read the data. Encryption provides a method of masking the data so that only the intended parties are able to read the data. While encryption is widely used as a method of securing sensitive data, each encryption method has its set of vulnerabilities.

    Since encryption on the Internet can involve handling extremely sensitive data, some organizations and companies are recognized as certificate authorities. These certificate authorities, or CAs, are third parties that maintain records for certificate holders- the websites needing secure connections- and often undergo auditing to ensure proper security practices.

    When you are connected to a website through SSL, the website in the address bar will begin with https:// and most browsers will display a padlock. When accessing a secure website, always ensure that the browser is acknowledging the presence of SSL. Some browsers may prompt you if a website's security is flawed or unrecognized, of if there is some discrepancy in the security information provided.

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    Securing your e-mail

    Google offers SSL support for all of its Gmail users. You can access the SSL version of Gmail by simply changing the http:// in the address bar to https://. This will persist during your current session of Gmail. The drawback of this method is that if you leave the page or close your browser, the next time you access Gmail you will have to manually use https:// to access the SSL version of Gmail.

    In order to alleviate this and help provide a consistent sense of security, Google now supports the option of defaulting to an SSL connection upon accessing Gmail. This eliminates the need to specifically type a secure address into the address bar, and reduces the possibility of accidentally accessing Gmail by insecure means.

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    Make it your default mode

    Forcing Gmail to default to SSL mode every time you use it is simple.

    To change your Gmail settings to default to SSL mode, first log into Gmail. Then click Settings in the upper right-hand corner next to your user name. Once the settings page loads, ensure that the General tab is selected. Scroll down until you see Browser connection. Next to Browser connection, toggle the radio button from “ Don't always use https” to “Always use https.” Finally, click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.

    It may take a moment for the changes to take effect. Logging out of your Gmail account and clearing your browser cache, and then logging back in, may help the changes apply sooner.