You are entitled to concern: data leaks have become so commonplace that CNET now continues. Last month, hackers landed thousands of dollars of Facebook ads on unsuspecting users' credit cards. Meanwhile, one of the largest players in the virtual private network space, NordVPN, has reluctantly admitted to a huge breach after a security investigator whistled on Twitter.
Whether you're ready to add maximum safeguards to your Google account, or you're just curious about how a security system works, here's everything you need to know about the Google Advanced Protection Program and how it can protect your data .
How the program protects your account
The Google Advanced Protection Program protects your personal information by requiring a physical security key, similar to the type of dongle you use to start a car with keyless ignition. You don't have to connect it to your phone, laptop or desktop, but you must keep it close when you access your Google account, such as on a key ring or in your pocket.
The Google Store sells a set of Titan security keys for $ 50, but there are other options.
One of the common denominators among most data breaches is that attacks are carried out remotely, via the internet. That is why physical security keys, like those of Google users or that Microsoft customers can now use to unlock their Windows machines, are such an effective defense against online hackers. Even if a scammer has stolen your username and password, they still cannot get into your account without that physical key.
The same applies to anyone who can steal your password – curious colleagues, a suspicious spouse. Without that key, your Google account is practically impenetrable.
However, there are some considerations
Once you have signed up for the Google Advanced Protection Program, the Google services are slightly more difficult for you to access, as are most third-party apps that use your YouTube, Gmail, Google Drive or other parts of your Google account to work.
All Google apps will still work, as well as a few non-Google apps such as Apple's Mail, Calendar and Contact apps for iOS, as well as Mozilla's Thunderbird email client. However, travel tracking apps, or apps that collect your online purchases by scanning your Gmail for coupons, will usually no longer work. All Google services that are accessed through a mobile or desktop browser now only work with Chrome or Firefox.
If you lose both your security key and your backup key in addition to these obstacles, the process of regaining access to your Google account takes a few days, as Google goes through additional steps to verify your identity before it is unlocked. That's because hackers sometimes contact companies such as Google that occur if you hope to reset your password and hijack your account.
There are one-time costs to set it up, but no monthly costs
The first thing you do You only have to buy two physical security keys. Although you only need one at a time to access your account, Google wants to make sure you have a backup in case you lose it. Google sells the Titan Security Key Bundle in the Google Store for $ 50.
The two included keys run on firmware developed by Google and thanks to a recent hardware update, the Titan USB key now fits on USB-C ports like those on all modern MacBooks, including the new revealed 16-inch MacBook pro 13 November, as well as many Windows machines and Chromebooks. It also comes with adapters, so you can also use it with USB-A and Micro-USB ports.
For most people, the Titan set works great, but if you insist on choosing your own key set, either to save money or because you prefer a different manufacturer, look for a key ring that works with FIDO Universal 2nd Factor (U2F), also known as FIDO2. YubiKey is a popular alternative. They sell compatible keys that each cost between $ 20 and $ 70, which you can order directly through the YubiKey website.
Compatible keys are also available from various online stores for around $ 7 to more than $ 40. Certain Android phones are also equipped with a compatible Bluetooth security key. Google recommends having one Bluetooth fob as the primary key and one USB key as the backup.
Register your keys and log in to the program
After finding out the key situation, return to your Google account to register the keys and log in to the program. Note that from now on you must use Chrome or Firefox – you do not have access to your Gmail, Google Docs or other Google services with Safari, Internet Explorer or other browsers.
While you & # 39; In your account settings again, it might be a good idea to also set up some additional ways that Google can verify that it is you. This will both improve the security of your account and make it easier to get back in if you lose both security keys.
It also works with G-Suite accounts
Many schools, universities, and employers use the Google G-Suite software package for email addresses, cloud storage, and other features and benefits for students, instructors, and employees. Google started supporting G-Suite customers last summer, but you may need to contact your supervisor or system administrator to enable the option.
Google's advanced security program continues to evolve
G-Suite compatibility is not the only new improvement of the advanced security program, as Google has recently extended the scope of the program to also protect people from viruses on Chrome focused. This is a welcome feature, since Chrome already has a pretty bad reputation when it comes to protecting your privacy.
Although it may seem ironic to trust your security for Google after the company has recently caught users' personal data to advertisers and has collected health information about millions of Americans without their consent, the downside of that medal is that Google probably knows you better than any other technology company, so if someone is watching your digital security, this might just be Google.