Security Tips from Google

This article was created by a Technology Services student employee. Our student employees attend, engage, and report on campus events that feature technology. Students provide a unique perspective on how innovations in technology affect campus life.

By Noah Malmed, Computer Science '15

Have you ever tried to visit a site and have your browser tell you that the site contains harmful material to your computer? Or have you ever wondered what your email provider is doing when they scan email attachments for viruses?

To learn more on the subject, I went to a lecture by Niels Provos (right), a distinguished Security Engineer at Google and a Youtube blacksmith. The talk was organized and hosted by the Information Trust Institute.

In the lecture, Provos talked about how Google attempts to keep everyday users safe from malicious attacks on the Internet.

As a large player in the Internet business and, of course, by having heaps and heaps of data, Google has distinguished itself as a prime research institution for Internet security.

For example, if you use Google Chrome then you may have seen this screen when you try to access a webpage:

Provos explained that by analyzing the data Google has on webpages and comparing it to webpages they know are untrustworthy, they can classify websites as safe or malicious.

You can manually check Google’s analysis of sites also. Google publishes a Transparency Report where you can search through the data they have on a website.

As an example, here is what the transparency report responds with when asked for information on Facebook.com.

The analysis that Google does on webpages is all in reaction to the way modern hackers attempt to infect computers. It is no longer about breaking the security of the computer; it is about breaking the security of the individual.

Cyber attacks on individuals usually take the form of a phishing attack or by tricking the user to install unwanted software.

Phishing is when a hacker attempts to look like a trusted website in order to get the user to input their personal information. If you want to learn more about how you can protect yourself against phishing, check out Microsoft’s security tips.

Unwanted software is a little trickier to define. It’s basically all software a user doesn’t want on their computer that they were tricked into downloading. This is normally done through an installation of another software you actually want. 

Example of unwanted software being installed during a Java update:

Ultimately, your own security is up to you. Companies like Google have made their software secure enough to the where the only weak point is essentially the human operating it.

Make good passwords, make unique passwords, and always be suspicious. The Internet is a crazy place and there are a lot of people who want your information. Don’t let them have it!