Google posts warning notice if they suspect government has attempted to breach users’ Gmail accounts.
It looks like the squabbling between the FBI and Apple has reached a conclusion of sorts, with the news that the Feds are taking their ball and going home, claiming they have figured out another way around the encryption on the San Bernardino shooter’s phone.
The battle may be over, with the agency declaring themselves the winner. But the war continues.
For other tech companies–and not incidentally, for people who still think the right to privacy is a thing–the fight will probably continue indefinitely, given the government’s lust to access our information freely, all the time, without constraint.
Google, for example, appears to be firmly on the side of making the Internet more secure for users. Moreover, the tech giant has taken the giant step of facing down not only hackers and spammers, but the government too, which was once thought of as sacrosanct when it came to requests for cooperation from information companies.
It used to be that all any government agency had to do was shout “Terrorism!” and any company would immediately roll over and do their bidding. There is a decidedly different feel in the air in the wake of the Snowden revelations, even nearly three years later, which should give hope to those who value freedom.
Google has revealed through a post on their official security blog that they have made improvements to the overall security of Gmail by providing users with more information on what is happening with their accounts. This information even takes the form of advising account holders of possible covert attempts by government agencies to access their accounts. Now, if Google suspects there has been an attempt to breach a user’s account, that user’s email home page will display a full-page warning alerting the user.
Although Gmail has been notifying users of possible government hacking attempts since 2012, until now the warning only appeared as a bar on top of the Gmail website. Less than 0.1 percent of users have actually received the warnings, and those have mostly been restricted to journalists, activists or policy makers involved in sensitive issues in which the government might take an interest.
The new full page warning states: “There’s a chance this is a false alarm, but we believe that government-backed attackers may be trying to trick you to get your Google Account password.”
Google recommends that users receiving the warning enable two-factor authentication for their Gmail accounts, as well as set up a Security Key for added protection.
But really, common sense should dictate that for all users. Two-factor authentication simply means that users will be asked to respond from their phone or other device and enter a code that has a short half-life and quickly expires, in addition to entering their Google password. And honestly, this is an inconvenience that, in light of the potential alternatives, is minimal.
These are no doubt welcome developments from Google. But the real question becomes why do we and Google accept that this is simply reality? If it’s true that government is illegally trying to access our accounts, how do we let them get away with it, even with the attempt?
Indeed, the war is far from over.