Google’s new ‘Advanced’ accounts keep people much safer online – but they're harder to use

They're designed for users who are willing to sacrifice convenience for protection

Aatif Sulleyman
Thursday 19 October 2017 11:55 BST

Google is letting you sign up to accounts that are much less convenient to use, but far more secure.

The company has announced the Advanced Protection Program, a new initiative designed to protect you from a number of online threats.

They won’t be for everyone, as they’re not as easy to use as regular Google accounts, but for some people that’s a price worth paying for increased security.

Once you sign up to the Advanced Protection Program, you won’t be able to access your Google account with just your email address and password.

You’ll also need to use a Security Key, a small, physical USB device you’ll need to carry around with you.

While it’s certainly inconvenient, it could save you a lot of hassle in the long run. Even if a criminal manages to steal your login details, for instance, they won’t be able to break into your account without the Security Key.

Advanced Protection Program accounts also have limited access to Gmail and Drive apps. Only Google-made apps are supported “for now”, but the company says it wants to expand the offering in the future.

The programme will be wise to impersonation attempts too.

The account recovery process for Advanced Protection Program accounts has additional steps that are designed to thwart any hackers that might be trying to access your account by claiming to be you and pretending to have been locked out.

They’ll face extra obstacles in the account recovery process, including “additional reviews and requests for more details” about why you've lost access to your account.

“We took this unusual step because there is an overlooked minority of our users that are at particularly high risk of targeted online attacks,” wrote Dario Salice, the product manager of Advanced Protection, in a blog post.

“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. 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.”

At present, Advanced Protection is only available for consumer Google Accounts, and you have to sign up through Google Chrome.

“Once you enroll in Advanced Protection, we’ll continually update the security of your account to meet emerging threats – meaning Advanced Protection will always use the strongest defenses that Google has to offer,” added Mr Salice.

You can sign up to the Advanced Protection Program here.

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