February 6th is designated as the international Safer Internet Day, an occasion which celebrates a worry-free internet experience unmarred by the threat of cyber attacks or data theft.
This year, MobileSyrup got the opportunity to speak with Nav Jagpal, a software engineer on Google Montreal’s safe browsing team. Jagpal was happy to provide some tips on how to better protect your online information, as well as shed some light on the measures that Google is taking to protect its users.
“Your digital life has more and more importance to you as time goes on,” Jagpal said in a phone interview. “Because of this, people need to understand how to keep their accounts and data safe while they’re online.”
The engineer mentioned that one of the biggest threats to online security in this day and age is the persistent danger of what he calls “social engineering.”
Social engineering refers to the phishing practice of fooling users into manually entering their sensitive information into a fake form or login screen, usually by making them believe that immediate action has to be taken to stop their data from being compromised.
“As browsers and operating systems become more secure, hackers and malware have to rely on tricking people to get what they want,” says Jagpal. “There’s a more human element to hacking and phishing now that ‘drive-by’ malware is no longer an issue.”
Jagpal said that another security concern is the re-use of passwords between accounts. Statistics show that the average netizen will create upwards of 100 different accounts in their online lifetime, and that many people will use the same password across several or even every unique login.
“Some of the research that we’ve done shows that people re-use passwords for multiple accounts. Even if it’s a strong password, using the same one in multiple places puts you at risk if even one of the accounts gets compromised,” he warns. Jagpal recommended using either a password generating program or your browser’s built-in password manager to make sure your accounts do not share a common weak point.
“At the very least,” he adds, “make sure that your email’s password is unique. So many of our online faculties are tied to our email accounts that you cannot afford to lose access to it.”
So what is Google doing to help its users practice safer browsing?
For one thing, the company has developed a tool called Google Security Checkup which audits an account and scans for vulnerabilities, as well as advising various fixes if it thinks your data could be better protected.
Jagpal also mentioned that Google is working with ‘grey zone’ entities to help uncover the motives and tools of malware creators and phishers and give the company a leg-up on potential future threats. Google Montreal is even working with machine learning teams to help apply better artificial intelligence protocols to its security software.
“Our team prevents over 260 million security incidents every month, and our software protects over 3 billion devices…we’re doing our best to help people understand how to keep their accounts and data safe while they’re online.”