A reminder about government-backed phishing

TLDR: Government-backed phishing has been in the news lately. If you receive a warning in Gmail, be sure to take prompt action. Get two-factor authentication on your account. And consider enrolling in the Advanced Protection Program.

One of the main threats to all email users (whatever service you use) is phishing, attempts to trick you into providing a password that an attacker can use to sign into your account. Our ​improving ​technology has enabled ​us to ​significantly ​decrease ​the ​volume ​of ​phishing ​emails that ​get ​through to our users. ​ Automated ​protections, ​account ​security ​(like ​security ​keys), ​and specialized ​warnings give ​Gmail users industry-leading ​security.

Beyond phishing for the purposes of fraud, a small minority of users in all corners of the world are still targeted by sophisticated government-backed attackers. These attempts come from dozens of countries. Since 2012, we’ve shown prominent warnings within Gmail notifying users that they may be targets of these types of phishing attempts; we show thousands of these warnings every month, even if we have blocked the specific attempt.

We also send alerts to G Suite administrators if someone in their corporate network may have been the target of government-backed phishing. And we regularly post public advisories to make sure that people are aware of this risk.

This is what an account warning looks like; an extremely small fraction of users will ever see one of these, but if you receive this warning from us, it’s important to take immediate action on it.

We intentionally send these notices in batches to all users who may be at risk, rather than at the moment we detect the threat itself, so that attackers cannot track some of our defense strategies. We have an expert team in our Threat Analysis Group, and we use a variety of technologies to detect these attempts. We also notify law enforcement about what we’re seeing; they have additional tools to investigate these attacks.

We hope you never receive this type of warning, but if you do, please take action right away to enhance the security of your accounts.

Even if you don’t receive such a warning, you should enable 2-step verification in Gmail. And if you think you’re at particular risk of government-backed phishing, consider enrolling in the Advanced Protection Program, which provides even stronger levels of security.

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