Google has announced its rollout of a new security program dubbed “Advanced Protection.” The aim of the program is to guard private accounts against hackers and phishers seeking to expose personal data.
Announcing the release in a blog post, the company said Advanced Protection is an opt-in program.
As its name implies, the program is billed to offer a high level of protection against private data breaches that have hit the headlines in the recent times.
Who Are the Targeted Users?
With the rollout of the new Advanced Protection program, Google is targeting a demographic of “high-risk” users who would benefit from increased security measures on their accounts.
This group includes individuals that are particularly susceptible to cyber attacks, such as journalists, campaign staffers and people who are in imminent danger from abusive relationships.
This lot and many others are in the high-risk category to hacking, but Google added that Advanced Protection enrollment is also available for those with ordinary accounts as long as they face data safety concerns and are willing to sign up for the program.
Specifically, the company mentioned the program could be of particular use to “political campaign managers,” a likely reference the high-profile data breach affecting the email account of John Podesta, an official for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign last year.
The breach, which is reported to have been sponsored by the Russian government, led to a WikiLeaks release that received heavy attention before the November election. It may have even had an impact on the results.
What Does Advanced Protection Offer?
Below is a summary of the program’s features.
- A Special USB Key for Access:
An unforgiving and strict system will seal any weak links hackers can take advantage of. To log into your account on a desktop, you will need a special USB key.
You have to carry the key in order to have any access to your account. For those using mobile devices, their email and Google-related services will require a Bluetooth Dongle.
- Very Limited App Access:
Any non-Google apps and services will no longer be linked to your account. This only leaves a very lean circle of services and apps that will have access to your email.
- Intensive Proactive Malware Scanners:
The company has had its own malware scanners in the past, though some were still subject to cyber attacks. But the new protection program is dedicated to weed out any vulnerable entry points.
The malware scanners will be intensive and more proactive in analyzing and quarantining documents with potential security threat. Only clean documents from approved sources will gain entry into the mailbox.
- More Hoops to Gain Access If You Lose It:
If you lose your log in keys or forget your password, you will have to sweat for it before you gain access. You will have to pass more hoops than before to prove, beyond doubt, this is your account.
You’ll even have to give an account of how you lost your access in the first place. No intruder will circumvent all these, hence keeping your account more secure.
- User-Bought U2F Keys:
Those who want to be part of the protection will purchase two universal second factor (U2F) keys. One is a Bluetooth LE-enabled key for mobile access that currently goes for around $25.
Desktop users will have to purchase a USB key retailing for $20. The program is accepting keys approved by FIDO Alliance, which has a great track record in authentication protocol and identity management.
Experts’ Response to Advanced Protection
Google’s steps towards fortifying the security of private account owners comes in the wake of relentless hacking into prominent persons’ accounts.
And, inevitably, the new Advanced Protection program has attracted some expert opinion.
Joseph Lorenzo Hall, a chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, congratulated the program. According to him, it gives an upper hand to those with fewer technology chops to have secure profiles.
He continues to claim that had this been done before the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, the state of the country might be different than how it is today.
Effectiveness of Advanced Protection
With objectivity, Google now has some bragging rights with the newly tightened security for its massive base of users and visitors.
With increased protection from intruders to personal data, more and more individuals in the high-risk category will now find the company’s services an offering they cannot resist.
The company has even promised to release regular updates for the Advanced Protection program, in order to keep it a step ahead of hackers.
Though not many in-depth details have been shared about the program yet, it is understood to be the most advanced program to safeguard private data in an era where breaches, even at the high echelons of power, have become commonplace.
But will the Advanced Protection program seal all the security loopholes associated with private email accounts? It is a matter of wait and see.