For many internet users, their Google account is their most personal and important of online accounts. This one account may hold your email, calendar, contacts, apps, cloud-hosted files, to dos, photos, and more.
Hopefully, you have taken steps to protect such a precious account. For example, using a strong password, turning on two-factor authentication, and so on.
But if you are looking for an even higher level of security, you can try a feature called the Google Advanced Protection Program.
What Is the Advanced Protection Program?
Google offers the Advanced Protection Program (APP) as an option for you to enable on your Google account. Google has designed it for journalists, activists, those working in politics, or those working in business. It’s aimed at anyone who may need extra security for their account, as a more secure approach to two-factor authentication .
APP is free and you can enable it on any Google account. It works by using physical security keys. When you want to access your files, emails, contacts, and so on, you use the combination of your password and the physical key to log in. This helps protect you from hackers. If a hacker wants to access your data, they need not only your password but also your physical key.
This is particularly effective at protecting against phishing attacks. Even if a phisher is able to get your username and password, they won’t be able to log into your account without also having access to your phone.
What Is a Physical Security Key?
So, does this physical security key need to be some kind of expensive, complicated piece of hardware? Fortunately not. You can simply use your smartphone as a security key.
It used to be the case that a security key had to be a special device which only security-aware businesses would use for their employees. But now, it’s easy for anyone to have their own security key for personal use.
As long as you are running Android 7+ or iOS 10.0+, you just need to activate your device as a security key and you can start using it for APP.
How Do You Enroll in the Advanced Protection Program?
The instructions are slightly different for iPhone and Android users when enrolling in APP.
Enrolling in APP Using an Android Device
- Open the web browser on your Android phone and go to g.co/advancedprotection. This takes you to the APP landing page.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page and find the Get started button. You’ll be taken to a splash page showing you information about the program.
- Click on Next to continue.
- Now you’ll need to enter the password for your Google account.
- You’ll see another splash page including a list of all your different Android devices. If you have an old phone still linked to your Google account, you’ll see it here. Make sure you select your current phone to use as a security key.
- Now click Enrol to register your Android device as a security key.
- You’ll see a warning screen about logging in. It will warn you that you could get locked out of your account if you don’t have your phone nearby. It also reminds you you’ll need to have Bluetooth enabled on both your phone and the device you’re signing into to log in successfully.
- Click Finish enrolment to complete the process.
- The enrolment process should take just a few seconds. Then you’ll see a notification from Google Play services saying Your security key is ready. It will also show you a confirmation screen saying Your account is now defended by Google’s strongest security.
- Google recommends you purchase a physical security key as well to prevent the security measure from accidentally locking you out of your account. You can buy a key from this page or hit Add key later to skip this step.
- Now the enrolment is complete and you’re taken to a Security Check-up page.
Enroll in APP Using an iPhone
To use your iPhone as a security key, you first need to install an app called Google Smart Lock. This app is available for free from the App Store. It allows your phone to act as a security key via Bluetooth.
Once this app is installed and set up, you follow the same instructions as for the Android device above. Head to g.co/advancedprotection in your phone browser and follow the instructions from there.
How to sign it to Google using APP
Sign-in with APP works only with the Google Chrome browser. When you use Chrome to navigate to a Google site like gmail.com, it will direct you to log in with your username and password as normal.
Once you have entered your password, you will see an extra step. It will say 2-step Verification and your browser will connect to your phone via Bluetooth to confirm that it’s you.
Note that, for this to work, the device on which you’re browsing and your phone both need to have Bluetooth enabled. This means the devices can contact each other and can confirm your identity.
Once the devices connect, they confirm your login. Now you can access your Google mail, calendar, and other apps as usual.
How to Remove Your Device as a Security Key
You may need to remove your account from the APP. For example, your phone might get damaged and you have to send it off for repair. Or if you are going away and will be without your phone for some time. In these cases, you should remember to cancel APP before you are away from your device. This will prevent APP from locking you out of your account.
To remove APP from your account, go to https://myaccount.google.com/signinoptions/two-step-verification. Look in the Your second step section. You should see APP with your device as the key listed here. To remove it, click on the dustbin icon.
Remember to set another method of two-factor authentication instead, such as an authenticator app or SMS.
Protect Your Google Account Using Your Phone as a Security Key
The APP is a great option for users who need a higher level of security, especially those who are concerned about phishing.
To learn more about changes you can make to your online behavior to improve your security, don’t forget to check out our list of essential Google account settings to change for better security .