Google Beefs Up Gmail Security
Every email will be encrypted while moving internally throughout Google's network.
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"Joel, this is Marty Cooper, I'd like you to know that I'm calling you from a cellular phone." Exactly 40 years ago, on April 3, 1973, Motorola engineer Martin Cooper placed this call -- the first ever on a cell phone -- to Joel Engel, his rival at AT&T’s Bell Labs.
Cooper, now 85, made history in downtown Manhattan using the bulky prototype he had developed.
Cooper's prototype arrived on the market a decade later at the staggering price of $3,995. Designed by Rudy Krolopp, it was known as the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, or simply "the brick.” Featuring 20 large buttons and a long rubber antenna, it measured about 11 inches high, weighed almost 2 pounds, provided one hour of battery life and could store 30 phone numbers.
Motorola Mobility, LLC
Released in 1984, Nokia’s Mobira Talkman was advertised as one of the first transportable phones. It was sold for use both in and out of a car -- if you could lift it.
Nokia's concept evolved in 1987 with the handheld mobile Mobira Cityman 900. Weighing 28 ounces, it was one of the lightest phones at that time and cost 24,000 Finnish marks ($5,178).
Motorola Mobility, LLC
Ahead of its time, the Motorola MicroTAC was the smallest available phone when it was released in 1989. Featuring the flip-phone form later adopted by the fashionable StarTAC, the first clamshell cellular phone, the MicroTAC was 9 inches long when open and weighed only 12.3 ounces.
Launched in 1992 -- also when the first text message arrived -- the Nokia 101 was the first commercially available GSM mobile phone.
Although it lacked the famous Nokia ringtone, introduced in 1994, it featured a monochrome display and memory for 99 phone numbers. Its design anticipated the successful "candy bar” phones.
Bcos47 /Wikimedia Commons
Released in 1993 as a joint creation of IBM and BellSouth, this was the first smartphone. A fax machine, a PDA, a pager and a mobile phone, the IBM Simon featured no physical keys, but used a touchscreen and optional stylus. Amazingly, it included applications such as games, email, a notepad, calculator, world clock, address book and a calendar. It only sold in the United States, for $899.
Launched in 1999, this was the first mobile phone with integrated GPS.
Featuring a large grayscale LCD screen, it offered a 12-channel GPS navigator and maps to trace position. It also sent coordinates via text messages to a list of emergency numbers and featured a "friend find” service to track other Benefon Esc users.
Launched in 2000, the Samsung SPH-M100 Uproar holds its place in history as the first mobile phone capable of storing and playing MP3 files.
Cell phone photography arrived in 2000, with Samsung's SCH-V200, a VGA-camera-equipped phone. Released in South Korea, it featured a digital camera with a 180-degree rotating lens and a maximum resolution of 352 x 288 -- a far cry from the 41-megapixel camera phone that Nokia will release in European markets in May.
Motorola Mobility, LLC
Motorola brought contemporary design to mobile phones with the Razr V3 in 2004. Thin, trendy and stylish, it featured a VGA camera, quad-band compatibility and Bluetooth support.
The phone became an icon. According to Motorola, more than 110 million units sold worldwide.
Mattew Yohe/Wikimedia Commons
The launch of Apple's iPhone in 2007 changed everything. With its unique design, easy-to-use operating system and a multitude of apps to download, the multi- touchscreen phone set the standard for all cell phones to come.
Ildar Sagdeje/Wikimedia Commons
Once an accessory for the privileged, Martin Cooper's vision is now a staple of life. Today the world has nearly as many mobile phone subscriptions as inhabitants.
Indeed, 6 billion people, out of the world's estimated 7 billion, have access to mobile phones.
To ensure all messages are 100 percent secure, Google announced that Gmail will now always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when users check or send an email. HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. It appears in front of a URL, indicating that Internet data is encrypted and transmitted over a secure session.
While HTTPS has been the default security setting on Gmail since 2010, it is now the only way messages can be sent and received.
"Today's change means that no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between you and Gmail's servers — no matter if you're using public Wi-Fi or logging in from your computer, phone or tablet," Nicolas Lidzborski, Gmail's security engineering lead, wrote on the Google blog.
The change also means that each and every email is encrypted while moving internally throughout Google's network.
"This ensures that your messages are safe not only when they move between you and Gmail's servers, but also as they move between Google's data centers — something we made a top priority after last summer's revelations," Lidzborski wrote, referring to the 2013 revelation from Edward Snowden that the U.S. National Security Agency was secretly tapping into the data centers of Google and Yahoo.
In addition to the company's internal moves, Google advises users to take a number of additional steps to keep their online data safe, including:
Signing in and out of Gmail each time it is used
Enabling two-step verification
Always locking computers and mobile devices when they aren't being used
Lidzborski said Google is working hard to make sure Gmail is always accessible to users when needed. He noted that in 2013, Gmail was available 99.978 percent of the time, which averages out to less than two hours of disruption for a user for the entire year.
"Our engineering experts look after Google's services 24/7, and if a problem ever arises, they're on the case immediately," Lidzborski wrote. "Our commitment to the security and reliability of your email is absolute, and we're constantly working on ways to improve."
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