Google to offer enhanced Gmail security to journalists, government officials

Google to offer enhanced Gmail security to journalists, government officials
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Google announced Tuesday that it’s rolling out new, stronger security protections for a small set of users, such as journalists and government officials, who face a higher risk of being targeted by hackers.

The protections are a part of a new Advanced Protection Program, which provides what Google says are its strongest security features. Once users sign up for the program, their accounts' security will be continuously updated by Google as it patches different vulnerabilities and beefs up its cybersecurity.

Users will also be required to use two-factor authentication to log into their accounts with a security key — usually a small USB drive or wireless device — to protect against phishing attempts.

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Users will also not be able to use third-party applications to check their email, like Apple’s iOS mail application or Microsoft Outlook, and will not have access to their accounts if they forget their passwords unless they do a lengthy account recovery process.  

“Journalists, human rights defenders, environment campaigners and civil society activists working on any number of sensitive issues can quickly find themselves targeted by well-resourced and highly capable adversaries," said Andrew Ford Lyons, a technologist at Internews, a nonprofit organization that focuses on international media issues.

"For those whose work may cause their profile to become more visible, setting this up could be seen as an essential preventative step,” he continued.

The announcement comes as phishing attacks against high-profile individuals become more frequent.

Scrutiny of former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump boasts about checking gas prices while in motorcade: 'You think Hillary Clinton would've done that?' Harry Reid on Iraq War vote: 'It tainted my heart' New Hampshire is ‘must-win’ state for Warren, says veteran political reporter MORE’s use of a private email account and server, and its potential to be hacked, dominated the discourse around the 2016 presidential race.

Her campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account was hacked and its contents were published by WikiLeaks during the campaign.

“If John Podesta had Advanced Protection last year, the world might be a very different place,” Joseph Lorenzo Hall told Reuters. Hall is a chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, who was briefed on the new features by Google.