Much has been said about the evidence that Russia hacked the U.S. election in 2016, and there is evidence they are doing it this year as well. There’s also evidence that they were responsible for a disinformation campaign on Facebook.
Perhaps with this in mind, Google is highlighting a feature for their G Suite users. This will let businesses know if their users are being targeted in a government-backed attack. It will be a simple feature that can be turned on and off, and a simple email will alert the businesses if there has been a phishing, malware, or other attack.
Old Technology with Renewed Interest
It should be noted that this isn’t really a new feature for Google. They have been routinely warning Gmail users of government-backed hacks for a number of years.
“Since 2012 we’ve warned our users if we believe their Google accounts are being targeted by government-backed attackers,” said Google. “We send these out of an abundance of caution – the notice does not necessarily mean that the account has been compromised or that there is a widespread attack.”
“Rather, the notice reflects our assessment that a government-backed attacker has likely attempted to access the user’s account or computer through phishing or malware, for example,” the company concluded.
The reason for this announcement for this older feature is because Google was picking up criticism of Gmail’s new confidentiality mode. The United States’ Department of Homeland Security was concerned that protected email links would unintentionally lead to more phishing attacks.
How the Feature Will Work
As outlined in a blog post, the feature will be turned off by default, but admins can turn it on in the Admin Console. If Google believes a government-backed attacker has tried to access a user’s account or computer, through a cyberattack, it will send an email alert to the admins.
This does not mean the account receiving the email has been compromised, and it also does not mean there was a widespread attack on an organization. It simply means a user’s account has been targeted.
After turning the feature on, admins can set up the default notifications. They can specify who should be notified of an attack. By default the emails will go to the super admins of the G Suite domain, but this can be changed in the Admin console.
Admins will have a choice of actions to take on individual alerts. They can secure the account and alert the user. When the user is alerted, they can also let them know what actions have already been taken.
Microsoft has launched something similar through its AccountGuard pilot program. However, this is only available at this point to political organization accounts. “This service is part of Microsoft’s ‘Election Defense Technologies’ and is offered on a non-partisan basis by invitation only,” reports Bleeping Computer.
If two major players like Google and Microsoft are fighting government-based attacks, it stands to reason other organizations can’t be too far behind. It’s one thing if you’re looking at a hacker breaking into organizations’ or individual’s accounts, but it takes it to a whole other level to consider what could happen when a government is using all its assets to hack an organization.
What do you think of Google’s efforts? Do you think it will help with hacking attempts? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Image credit: Google G Suite website displayed on smartphone hidden in jeans pocket by Piotr Swat/Shutterstock