None of Google’s 85,000 employees have been successfully phished in over a year — and it’s because of a simple $20 product anyone can use

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Getty

  • Google told Business Insider that none of its employees had been successfully phished since it started requiring them to use security keys to log in.
  • Phishing, or using misleading emails to steal passwords, is one of the most common ways people get hacked.
  • Google attributes its success to products called security keys, or USB devices that you need in addition to a password to log in to a protected account.

One of the most common ways that people get hacked is called phishing or spearphishing.

Basically, attackers craft an email that looks just like something you’d normally click on, like a bill or an email telling you to change your password. Unsuspecting people click on the link in the phishing email, leading them to a site designed to look legitimate. The victim plugs in their username and password, unwittingly giving it to the attacker. Now there’s a good chance that account will be hacked.

Spearphishing was one of the main ways Russian spies were able to break into the Democratic National Committee’s network before the 2016 US election, the Justice Department says.

It’s a big problem for businesses. You can make sure your computers are as secure as possible, but all it takes is one employee with access to sensitive data who gets fooled by an email to cause a bad breach.

One company, however, seems to have solved the phishing problem: Google. And it’s all because of a $20 gadget called a security key, which Google requires its employees to use.

None of Google’s 85,000 employees have been successfully phished on their work accounts since it started requiring security keys to log in, the company said.

“We have had no reported or confirmed account takeovers since implementing security keys at Google,” Google told Business Insider.

Google started requiring employees to use physical security keys in early 2017, according to Brian Krebs, the security journalist who first reported Google’s success against phishing attempts.

YubiKey Neo

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YubiKey

Your company may already require you to have two-factor authentication turned on, meaning that when you log in with a username and password, you have to enter a second code, usually texted to you or delivered through an app.

Google took this one step further and required all employees to start using security keys, according to Krebs. Instead of getting a text after entering your password, you merely plug the security key into a USB port on your computer and press a button.

That’s a pretty big success for such a large company. Google has a lot of sensitive user data, so it’s very encouraging to know its employees aren’t getting phished.

You can use a security key with your own Gmail account. YubiKey models compatible with USB, USB-C, and mobile devices are available from Yubico.

In October, Google launched an advanced-protection program involving security keys for people at the highest risk of being phished, including journalists, business leaders, and activists. Google has also worked with various industry groups, such as the FIDO Alliance, to develop security-key technology called U2F.

A 2016 Google study found that text-message or app-based two-factor authentication, sometimes called “one-time password,” had an average failure rate of 3%, while the U2F or security-key approach had a 0% failure rate.

There are more details about how Google’s approach to authentication and login security is starting to pay off at Krebs on Security.

Do you have a story to share? Email the author at kleswing@businessinsider.com.

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