Google has expanded some features in its Advanced Protection Program (APP) – allowing users to send suspicious files to the company, which can then be scanned for malware and other threats.
By introducing this additional layer of protection, Google is hoping to protect high-profile people who are especially at risk of being targeted by online attacks.
The new feature was rolled out to users earlier this week. We’re taking a look at how this new feature will protect users from online threats, as well as how much of a step up this is from the existing APP.
Google’s Advanced Protection Program (APP)
Google first introduced its Advanced Protection Program (APP) three years ago, in an attempt to help secure the accounts of journalists, political organizations, activists, and other users who are at higher risk of targeted online attacks.
Although APP users are already well protected from phishing attacks, cybercriminals are now misleading people by encouraging them to download malicious files instead, with Google citing malware as an example.
To combat this, Google began warning APP users back in August 2019 when they downloaded a file that could be malicious.
The New Update For APP Users
Previously, the Advanced Protection Program features would flag or block a download that was deemed to be a concern for the user.
Now, however, Google says that if a downloaded file seems suspicious, a new option will also be available for enrolled users to send it for an in-depth scan. According to a new blog post, the file will be scanned by the full suite of malware detection technology in Google Safe Browsing before opening the file.
The APP program also requires two physical security keys – with one acting as a backup. If an Advanced Protection user loses access to their account, Google has additional steps in place to verify their identity so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Google stated that expanding the APP will allow users’ security protections to evolve as online threats continue to change.
“It's important that users’ security protections automatically evolve as well. With the US election fast approaching, for example, Advanced Protection could be useful to members of political campaigns whose accounts are now more likely to be targeted.” – Google blog post
How Exactly Do You Send A Risky File To Google?
According to Google’s update announcement, when a user downloads a file, Safe Browsing will perform a quick check using metadata to evaluate whether it appears potentially suspicious.
The user will then be presented with a warning, and the option to send the file to be scanned for any downloads that seem unsafe.
If the user chooses to send the file, Chrome will upload it to Google Safe Browsing, which will scan it using various analysis techniques in real-time.
After a short wait, if Safe Browsing determines the file is unsafe, Chrome will warn the user. If they wish to, users can ignore the warning and open the file without scanning – but that’s probably not the smartest idea.
In a world that seems to be relying on the internet more and more each day (especially since the start of the pandemic), it’s becoming increasingly important to protect our software from external threats. Good move, Google.