Google is improving its cybersecurity to protect midterm election candidates’ emails from phishing attacks. Out of the 1460 candidates running for governor, Senate, or the House of Representatives, 65% use Gmail for their campaigns, according to anti-phishing company Area1Security.
It’s not only campaign emails that are susceptible to cybersecurity attacks. As most people use their email addresses to create social media accounts, services like Twitter and Facebook are also at risk.
Russian hackers were a major topic in the 2016 election after successfully phishing John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair. Podesta clicked on a fraudulent email alerting him to change his password, allowing hackers to steal over 50,000 of his emails. Since then, Google has taken steps to protect particularly vulnerable people like campaign workers, activists, business leaders, and journalists. Moving forward, Google intends to upgrade its cybersecurity efforts across its entire suite of products.
Under Google’s new Advanced Protection Plan, individuals at high-risk of a phishing attack must use a physical key to login to their email. In addition, Google will only allow a select group of third-party apps to access users’ email accounts. Finally, if users get locked out of their accounts, they will be required to verify their identities in more detail during the account recovery process. Although the plan does create a more arduous process for the user, “…it never hurts to go to a higher form of security as long as you don’t lose your security key,” said Guemmy Kim, Google’s product manager for account security.
Google isn’t the only tech company upping its cybersecurity. Last April Microsoft, the email provider for 9.3% of candidates, created the Defending Democracy Program. The program established account safeguards for political organizations to protect accounts from hacking and defend against misinformation. Aside from improved cybersecurity, the program also aims to make political advertising more transparent and to protect the electoral process by working with law enforcement directly.
Additionally, Microsoft has partnered with top academic institutions and think tanks to oppose “state-sponsored computational propaganda and junk news,” according to their website. The program doesn’t only affect U.S political organizations, but all stakeholders in democracies internationally.