Because most organizations running their IT infrastructure on top of Google's G Suite service weren't using or weren't even aware of a very cool security feature Google launched in August, the Mountain View-based tech giant announced today that it would be forcibly enabling that feature for all customers within a week, starting October 10.
That feature is a security alert named "Government-backed attack warning" that Google added to G Suite, its enterprise productivity suite, a product similar to Office 365 and made up of commercial versions of Google services such as Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Sites, Slides, Drive, and more.
Google announced this feature on August 1, 2018, in the form of an optional security alert that G Suite super admins could turn on for their organization.
G Suite super admins could enable this type of alert via their G Suite backend, and they would receive notifications of an ongoing government-backed attack and what user account in their organization was targeted.
Google added this feature ahead of the upcoming US midterm elections, in an attempt to give organizations a heads up of whenever a known government-backed cyber-espionage group is
trying to access email accounts or sending malware or phishing links to an organization's members.
"We heard that many admins weren't aware of this alert and so weren't receiving this critical information," Google said today. "As a result, we're going to turn these alerts ON for most admins starting October 10th, 2018."
The only G Suite accounts where the alerts will remain off is where G Suite admins enabled the feature, tested it, and then disabled it afterward.
G Suite super admins should take note that when this feature is enabled, the alerts for "government-backed attacks" will be sent to G Suite super admins, and not to regular users. G Suite admins can decide if to notify the user or not.
The primary role of this alert is to warn G Suite super admins that a well-resourced cyber-espionage group is targeting their organization/company. When this happens, G Suite admins can configure automated actions, such as resetting a targeted user's account password, or forcing his enrollment in a two-step verification program.
The "government hacking" alerts aren't new, per se. While Google may have only recently added an option for receiving these alerts inside the separate email infrastructure available for companies paying for a G Suite enterprise account, they have been active for regular Gmail users for years.
They've been deployed since 2012, and Google revamped and redesigned the alerts in 2017.
While this new G Suite security alert came just in time to help out organizations involved in the US midterm elections, they're useful for many non-election-related companies and nonprofits, which will likely continue to use them for years.
Google wasn't the only tech giant that bolstered its security defenses ahead of the midterm elections. Microsoft, Facebook, and Symantec also launched various free tools, respectively.
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