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article imageGoogle launches hardened security options for at-risk users

By James Walker     Oct 17, 2017 in Technology
Google has announced several new account security options aimed at consumers at particular risk of cyberattack. The company's Advanced Protection program offers extended protections to prevent phishing attacks and safeguard data for at-risk users.
Advanced Protection was rumoured earlier this month and formally announced by Google today. Unveiled as part of the company's October Cybersecurity Awareness Month celebrations, the suite of expanded security tools is "specifically tailored" towards users who need more robust protection of their online presence.
Phishing protection
Advanced Protection currently comprises three distinct components. The first involves the use of physical Security Keys to sign into your account. Available in USB or wireless form, the key must be present before you're allowed access to your account.
They work by generating cryptographic security codes that are verified by Google's servers. Until you've entered a correct code from the key, you can't access your data. This effectively eliminates the risk of a malicious actor remotely compromising your Google account as a password alone is no longer enough.
Accidental data sharing
The second part of Advanced Protection limits how your Google data can be used. Malicious applications won't be able to access any files stored in the cloud, preventing attackers from using fake services to infiltrate your account.
This is enforced by allowing only approved apps to be connected. At launch, the selection is restricted to Google's own Gmail and Drive services. Google hasn't disclosed how external vendors can get theirs apps added to the list.
Account personalisation
The third and final element focuses on making it harder for attackers to impersonate you. One way attackers compromise accounts is to use the "I forgot my password" button to pretend they're the account holder and have been locked out. Advanced Protection adds "extra steps" to the account recovery process that include requests for information about why you've lost access to your account.
"Strongest defenses"
Advanced Protection does make using the web less streamlined and convenient. Google said the toolkit is designed for users who are willing to neglect convenience to obtain greater security.
Although Advanced Protection is available to every consumer Gmail account, it's aimed at customers with more complex security requirements. These may be journalists working on sensitive reports or election campaign staffers preparing new policies.
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"Advanced Protection provides Google's strongest security, designed for those who are at an elevated risk of attack and are willing to trade off a bit of convenience for more protection of their personal Google accounts," said Google. "Once you enroll in Advanced Protection, we'll continually update the security of your account to meet emerging threats – meaning Advanced Protection will always use the strongest defenses that Google has to offer."
You can register for Advanced Protection today. You'll need a personal Google account and the Chrome web browser. Support for the security key protocols required by Advanced Protection isn't yet available in other browsers. Google said it expects the feature to come "soon."
More about Google, advanced protection, Cybersecurity, Cyberattacks, Phishing
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