Google is readying special security tools for its high-profile users, reports claim, going beyond mere two-factor authentication. The development comes as investigations into the political impact of alleged Russian hacking during the US election in 2016 continue, alongside other high-profile attacks on data. However, according to insiders, Google plans to target its new system at a specific subset of users.
Those, people familiar with Alphabet-owned Google’s plans tell Bloomberg Technology, are being described as “corporate executives, politicians and others with heightened security concerns.” It will build on the company’s existing USB Security Key support. Rolled out in 2014, the USB-based system demanded a physical dongle be plugged into a computer in addition to a password or secure code before access to a Google account was granted.
This scaled-up system will effectively double that hardware requirement, it’s said. Dubbed the Advanced Protection Program, it would use both a USB security key and a second hardware key. Without the presence of both, an account would be locked down.
It’s not the only change versus a regular Google account, mind. All third-party programs would be blocked from Google Drive access, it’s said, and Google would push out new updates to security measures on a regular basis.
Two-factor authentication typically requires a username and password, and then access to a device which can receive or generate a special, one-time code. That can be a USB drive, a keychain dongle which produces such a code on a small display, or an app on a registered smartphone. Alternatively, security codes can be sent via text message to a registered number.
Although not infallible, such security does make it harder for third-parties to hack into a system. That’s something which has become increasingly prevalent, with the Democratic National Committee finding its servers attacked last year.
It’s unclear whether Google will ever roll out the Advanced Protection Program to its “regular” users. The company has offered business versions of its services for some years now, promising enterprise customers dedicated uptime in return for subscription fees. However, most individual account holders take advantage of free Gmail service.