Gmail now features Advanced Protection suite for politicians, celebrities

Google has announced a new Advanced Protection programme in Gmail which is 'specifically tailored' to protect the online security of journalists, public figures, celebrities, and politicians.

Google says Advanced Protection Programme in Gmail will cater to those who are at particularly high risk of targeted online attacks.

In a detailed blog post, Google announced that while most of its security suites are aimed at securing data belonging to the general public, the new Advanced Protection Programme in Gmail  is for those who are more vulnerable to targeted online attacks from cyber criminals.

'We took this unusual step because there is an overlooked minority of our users that are at particularly high risk of targeted online attacks. For example, these might be campaign staffers preparing for an upcoming election, journalists who need to protect the confidentiality of their sources, or people in abusive relationships seeking safety,' said Google.

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'Sometimes even the most careful and security-minded users are successfully attacked through phishing scams, especially if those phishing scams were individually targeted at the user in question,' it added.

However, Google added that beneficiaries of the Advanced Protection Programme in Gmail will have to 'trade off a bit of convenience' to enjoy the new security feature.

Those enrolling for the new programme will be required to use small USB or wireless devices as Security Keys using which Google will be able to authenticate such users. These keys will be part of a 2-Step Verification process which means that even if a hacker knows a user's password, he won't be able to log in to the user's account if he doesn't use the Security Key.

Beneficiaries of the Advanced Protection Programme will also be able to access specific apps authenticated by Google. This will ensure that hackers will not be able to redirect targeted users to malicious apps and sites, even though the feature will severely limit a user's browsing freedom.

According to Google, such users will only be able to access Google apps but the list of authenticated apps will be expanded in the future.

Richard Parris, CEO at Intercede, says that Google’s roll out of Advanced Protection is certainly a promising step considering the staggering number of high-profile hacking campaigns that have targeted Gmail in the recent years.

'Despite this, one thing that stands out to me is that in the eternal battle between digital security and a painless user experience, Google’s new advanced program falls short on the convenience front. Being the patience-poor and fickle creatures that we are, unfortunately if a security measure compromises the end user experience it will almost certainly never be fully embraced by the mainstream.

'What’s needed is a level of security that is both secure and convenient to the end user and this can be done. There are highly secure, cost-effective and convenient solutions already available and these should be made an industry standard. Striking the right balance is the cornerstone to security success,' he adds.

It remains to be seen if Google will be able to offer similar security suites to less-targeted users in the future and if the company will be able to offer safe browsing and Gmail authentication programmes in the future without curtailing users' browsing freedom.