Google notifies users about dark web exposure

Google has announced new tools, features and updates to improve users’ online safety, help them evaluate content found online, and alert them if their Gmail identity appears on the dark web.

New tools and options for users

A new tool called About this image will help users decide whether the contents of an image they found online can be trusted or not.

Google dark web

The About this image tool in action (Source: Google)

“[The tool] provides you with important context like when an image or similar images were first indexed by Google, where it may have first appeared, and where else it’s been seen online like a news, social or fact checking site,” explains Jen Fitzpatrick, Senior VP of Core Systems & Experiences at Google.

Another helpful “tool” for users is the newly introduced option of using passkeys – digital keys linked to a user account and a website or app – to authenticate to one’s Google account. The authentication process is made easier, and the security of the account is improved: “Unlike passwords, passkeys can only exist on your devices. They cannot be written down or accidentally given to a bad actor.”

Google is also adding a spam folder to Google Drive, to give users a new way to suppress potentially malicious content.

“By introducing a Spam view, we’re simultaneously giving users more control over their content while blocking bad files without risking impact to our users,” Google told Help Net Security.

“Spam view will function identically to the spam folder in Gmail, and users will have the option to review files in it.”

Dark web scans for your personal data

Data that is obtained through security breaches typically finds its way onto the dark web, creating a risk of identity theft. Accessing and exploring the dark web necessitates the use of a specialized browser, but not all users possess the technical know-how or desire to venture into that realm.

Dark web report allows users to check if their name, address, email, phone number or social security number can be found on the dark web and advises them on what to do if this occurs.

Google dark web

Dark web report (Source: Google)

This feature was previously only available to Google One subscribers in the US, and will now be available to all Gmail account users in the US (and soon to users in unspecified select international markets).

Control your data in Android apps

To give users more control over their data and to protect their privacy, Google has added new features to Android 14:

  • Users will now be alerted when apps share their location data with third parties, and can decide wether to accept or decline location sharing.
  • It will now be easier to request account or data deletion in the Google Play data safety section.

An improved Safe Browsing API

Google is making Safe Browsing into a real-time API, to more effectively block phishing sites. (Since they tend to exist for less than ten minutes to avoid block lists, real-time detection will add speed and efficiency in thwarting such threats.)

“With Safe Browsing API v5, Safe Browsing will offer support for browsers to issue real-time checks on the maliciousness of a given website, while preserving the user’s privacy,” Google told Help Net Security.

“With support for Oblivious HTTP, and the use of an anonymizing IP Proxy, Safe Browsing will be able to alert users online of the latest malicious attacks, like phishing and malware campaigns, as they browse the web using a browser integrated with the latest Safe Browsing API.”

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