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Improved malware protection for users in the Advanced Protection Program

Posted by Daniel Rubery, Software Engineer, Chrome, Ryan Rasti, Software Engineer, Safe Browsing, and Eric Mill, Product Manager, Chrome SecurityGoog

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Google’s Advanced Protection Program helps secure people at higher risk of targeted online attacks, like journalists, political organizations, and activists, with a set of constantly evolving safeguards that reflect today’s threat landscape. Chrome is always exploring new options to help all of our users better protect themselves against common online threats like malware. As a first step, today Chrome is expanding its download scanning options for users of Advanced Protection.

Advanced Protection users are already well-protected from phishing. As a result, we’ve seen that attackers target these users through other means, such as leading them to download malware. In August 2019, Chrome began warning Advanced Protection users when a downloaded file may be malicious.

Now, in addition to this warning, Chrome is giving Advanced Protection users the ability to send risky files to be scanned by Google Safe Browsing’s full suite of malware detection technology before opening the file. We expect these cloud-hosted scans to significantly improve our ability to detect when these files are malicious. 

  

When a user downloads a file, Safe Browsing will perform a quick check using metadata, such as hashes of the file, to evaluate whether it appears potentially suspicious. For any downloads that Safe Browsing deems risky, but not clearly unsafe, the user will be presented with a warning and the ability to send the file to be scanned. If the user chooses to send the file, Chrome will upload it to Google Safe Browsing, which will scan it using its static and dynamic analysis techniques in real time. After a short wait, if Safe Browsing determines the file is unsafe, Chrome will warn the user. As always, users can bypass the warning and open the file without scanning, if they are confident the file is safe. Safe Browsing deletes uploaded files a short time after scanning.

Online threats are constantly changing, and it’s important that users’ security protections automatically evolve as well. With the US election fast approaching, for example, Advanced Protection could be useful to members of political campaigns whose accounts are now more likely to be targeted. If you’re a user at high-risk of attack, visit g.co/advancedprotection to enroll in the Advanced Protection Program.

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