Security Experts:

Google Reports Huge Drop in Hacked Gmail Accounts

In a blog post on the company’s war against scams and spam, Google announced on Tuesday that they’ve worked-up a method that is stopping nearly all of the attacks aimed at Gmail account holders. According to the data, only .3% of the malicious or potentially unwanted messages are hitting inboxes.

For those doing the math, Google’s security measures, including complex risk analysis in addition to more than 120 other variables, have lowered the number of compromised Gmail accounts by 99.7% since the peak of the hijacking attempts in 2011.

The types of attacks and attempts vary, but Google singled out two noteworthy events. In one case, an attacker used stolen passwords in an attempt to access a million different Google accounts daily for weeks. In another example, a gang attempted sign-ins at a rate of more than 100 accounts per second.

"Every day, cyber criminals break into websites to steal databases of usernames and passwords—the online “keys” to accounts. They put the databases up for sale on the black market, or use them for their own nefarious purposes. Because many people re-use the same password across different accounts, stolen passwords from one site are often valid on others,” Google explained in a blog post. 

Over the last few years, Google has introduced several defensive measures for users, including a wide range of account recovery and verification procedures, and two-factor authentication. Some of their protection measures have been headline grabbing events, including warnings to journalists that their Gmail accounts have been potentially accessed by an unauthorized third-party.

“If a sign-in is deemed suspicious or risky for some reason—maybe it’s coming from a country oceans away from your last sign-in—we ask some simple questions about your account. For example, we may ask for the phone number associated with your account, or for the answer to your security question. These questions are normally hard for a hijacker to solve, but are easy for the real owner,” wrote Google Security Engineer, Mike Hearn.

In order to maintain a high rate of protection, Google’s blog post urged users to update their security settings, and use all of the available tools.

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.