Google to give 10K free security keys to ‘high risk’ individuals


(IANS) Google will provide 10,000 “high-risk” users with free hardware security keys, after the tech giant warned more than 14,000 Gmail users that they may have been targeted in a state-sponsored phishing campaign.

In a Twitter thread, Shane Huntley who is director of Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG), said that the group has sent a batch of government-backed security warnings.

The state-sponsored phishing campaign is the handiwork of Russian group APT28 (or Fancy Bear), said to be made up of operatives of Russia’s GRU intelligence agency.

In a blog post, Google said on Friday that as part of its work to keep its users safer and increase awareness of APP (Advanced Protection Programme), “we partnered with organisations across the globe to provide free security keys to over 10,000 high risk users throughout 2021”.

“Users who enroll in APP are protected against a wide variety of online threats, including sophisticated phishing attacks (through the use of security keys), malware and other malicious downloads on Chrome and Android, and unauthorised access to their personal account data (such as Gmail, Drive or Photos),” Google added.

Huntley said that the new warnings are normal for individuals such as activists, journalists and government officials.

“If you are an activist/journalist/government official or work in [national security], this warning honestly shouldn’t be a surprise. At some point some [government] backed entity probably will try to send you something,” he tweeted.

“What we see over and over again is that much of the initial targeting of government backed threats is blockable with good security basics like security keys, patching and awareness, so that’s why we warn,” Huntley added.

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