Google’s Advanced Protection Program (or APP, in short) was launched in 2017 and was initially available to high-risk users such as activists, journalists, famous business people, or politicians.
The APP is designed to become the next stage after two-factor authentication (2FA) technology, and its purpose is to offer better protection. Cybercriminals have found ways to hack weaker 2FA methods such as receiving a text msg to a mobile. Often by calling the phone provider of the target, pretending they are the owner of the phone service and then requesting the phone calls and text messages get forwarded to their own mobile. This will allow them to receive the 2FA text msg and gain access. Google’s APP removes this risk and replaces it with a higher level of security described below. And the best part is that nowadays, the program is available to all Google users as long as they meet the necessary conditions. This is great news, especially for businesses and organizations, which are constantly the target of cyberattacks.
How Does the APP Work?
Before you can opt for Advanced Protection, you need to update your recovery email and phone. This way, should something happen and you initiate the recovery procedure, there’s no risk of getting locked out of your account.
The next step is to turn on signing in with 2-Step Verification using physical security keys or a smartphone and computer that both have Bluetooth capability. All these options are available under the Security tab in your Google account.
Physical Hardware Key option
To get started with the APP, you need two hardware security keys – these can be Google Titan Security Keys or any FIDO® compliant security keys.
You need two keys so there will be a backup in case you lose the main one. You can also register more keys for the same account, but unless you want to allow access to multiple users, two keys are enough.
Once you have the keys, you have to register them with the Google account you want to protect. This step is easy and only takes a couple of minutes.
Simply go to https://landing.google.com/advancedprotection/ then click the get started link and follow the prompts.
Once completed, you’ll be able to log in with your password and the main key.
This option is preferred if you using devices that don’t have Bluetooth capabilities, such as desktop computers or you don’t always have mobile phone access.
Smartphone with Bluetooth
Similar to the process above, however this time you select the option to use a smartphone.
You need to make sure that your phone and computers both have Bluetooth and that your phone has a built-in security key. Many recent android and iPhones have this capability, iPhones will also require the Google Smart Lock app to be installed. You follow the process above, but this time select the option to use the Phone security key.
This option is preferred if your devices are all compatible as it doesnt require any additional hardware costs or the risk of them being lost or forgotten like they might if you use a hardware security key plugged into a computer via USB.
Do I Need an APP?
Considering the current online climate, every business and organization interested in keeping their data and the data of their clients safe must think about extra security measures. To date, Google didn’t report any incidents of successful phishing or other types of cyberattacks against users who use APP-protected accounts.
APP is more secure than 2FA and can’t be intercepted in any way as long as you have the key(s). And, even if one of your suppliers or partners suffers a data breach and your data is leaked, hackers won’t be able to access your account without the hardware key.
While it’s true that having to use a hardware key or smartphone may make the login process a bit cumbersome and the APP restricts access to many apps, we strongly recommend that employees part of the IT team and C-level executives use it. More often than not, these are the positions cybercriminals target in a company because they are more likely to have sensitive information or high-level access credentials.
Extra Security Tools
The Advance Protection Program also comes with stringent checks for download to prevent harmful algorithms from reaching your device. Plus, APP only allows access to Google apps and verified third-party apps to your account data (and only with your permission).
Overall, the Advanced Protection Program is a great option for anyone interested in upgrading their cybersecurity system. So, the best thing to do right now is to turn this feature on for all your Google accounts.
If you don’t know how or have doubts, give us a call or send an email. Our team is happy to provide details and help you with the activation process.