Over the next few weeks, Google will start rolling out new security alerts for critical issues affecting individual Google accounts, with the alert displayed in the Google app currently being used.
The major benefit is that recipients of Google’s security alerts – which it pushes to users when it detects their account may have been hacked – don’t need to check their email or a phone’s system alerts for the warning.
Instead, the alert will appear right in the Google app in use, potentially reducing the time it takes for at-risk individuals to take action and secure their accounts.
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Explaining why the new in-app alerts could help, Google notes in a blogpost that after it started issuing Android system security notifications in 2015, it boosted engagement 20-fold over email alerts, which required opening the email app and finding the alert from Google.
The new system for delivering critical security alerts has a higher chance of reaching users when they’re paying attention to one of Google’s apps. Google only demonstrates the alert in Gmail.
Users should see an alert icon next to their avatar in the search bar of the Gmail app. Clicking on the alert takes them to a ‘Critical security alert’ page with a ‘Check activity’ button that leads to an explanation of why Google issued the alert.
The new delivery mechanism could be extra valuable if it also eventually works with frequently used Google apps, like YouTube, Google Maps, the Google app, or Waze.
According to Google, the new in-app security alerts for Google apps are “resistant to spoofing”.
Google is planning a limited rollout in the coming weeks and will expand availability early next year. The company has announced the new feature as part of its contribution to National Cybersecurity Awareness month.
Google’s Safe Browsing system for Chrome and other browsers now protects four billion devices, while Google is blocking over 100 million phishing attempts per day. Google Play Protect, its built-in anti-malware system for Android devices, scans over 100 billion apps every day.
Google is also introducing a new privacy control to avoid interactions with Google Assistant being saved to a Google account. A new ‘Guest mode’ can be enabled with a voice command that prevents anything a user says to Assistant from being saved to the user’s account.
This could come in handy when interacting with Google’s Home and Nest smart speakers about subjects a user doesn’t want linked to their account.
The one drawback of Guest mode is that Google Assistant is not personalized when it’s on.
This builds on Google Assistant privacy controls introduced last year that allow users to delete recent Assistant activity from a Google account with voice commands, such as “Hey Google, delete the last thing I said to you” or “Hey Google, delete everything I said to you last week”.
Separately, in Android 11 Google for the first time has brought Smart Replies to its Gboard keyboard suggestions feature and it has done so in a privacy-preserving way, with suggestions being created from on-device processing rather than in the cloud. The suggestions appear on top of Gboard’s suggestion strip.
While Android can access the content of incoming messages, the Gboard smart keyboard app cannot and it can only see a suggestion once the user taps one of them.