Google offers high-risk Chrome users additional scanning of risky files

Google is providing a new “risky files” scanning feature to Chrome users enrolled in its Advanced Protection Program (APP).

Chrome scanning risky files

About the Advanced Protection Program

Google introduced the Advanced Protection Program in 2017.

It’s primarily aimed at users whose accounts are at high risk of compromise through targeted attacks – journalists, human rights and civil society activists, campaign staffers and people in abusive relationships, executives and specific employees – but anyone can sign up for it.

It offers:

  • Anti-phishing protection, as attackers can steal users’ credentials, but they need the security key/smartphone that’s in the user’s possession to gain access to the account
  • Extra protection from harmful downloads
  • Protection from malicious third-party apps that may want to access users’ Google Account.

Some features, like the one announced on Wednesday, will work only if the user uses Google Chrome and is signed into it with their Advanced Protection Program identity.

Additional scanning

Chrome started warning APP users when a downloaded file may be malicious last year, but now it will also give them the ability to send risky files for additional scanning by Google Safe Browsing’s full suite of malware detection technology before opening them.

“When a user downloads a file, Safe Browsing will perform a quick check using metadata, such as hashes of the file, to evaluate whether it appears potentially suspicious. For any downloads that Safe Browsing deems risky, but not clearly unsafe, the user will be presented with a warning and the ability to send the file to be scanned,” Chrome engineers explained.

“If the user chooses to send the file, Chrome will upload it to Google Safe Browsing, which will scan it using its static and dynamic analysis techniques in real time. After a short wait, if Safe Browsing determines the file is unsafe, Chrome will warn the user. As always, users can bypass the warning and open the file without scanning, if they are confident the file is safe. Safe Browsing deletes uploaded files a short time after scanning.”

Aside from helping users, the new feature is expected to help Google improve their ability to detect malicious files.

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