Gmail Gains Google Safe Browsing Update To Thwart Phishing Attempts

The nasty WannaCry outbreak has us all a little bit on edge. It also serves as a sobering reminder that a simple phishing scam can still create quite a bit of havoc. Sure, savvy PC users know better than to click on mysterious URLs in emails and instant messages, but for the bad guys, it's simply a numbers game—throw enough bait into the sea and you're bound to get a bite. To make things a bit more difficult for phishers, Google is implementing Safe Browsing technologies into Gmail.

This is one of the many benefits of machine learning technology. According to Google, machine learning mechanisms help Gmail block spam and phishing messages from showing up in inboxes with over 99.9 percent accuracy. That is a pretty big deal, especially when you consider that 50-70 percent of messages that Gmail receives are spam (that figure is straight from Google).

No Fishing

"Our detection models integrate with Google Safe Browsing machine learning technologies for finding and flagging phishy and suspicious URLs. These new models combine a variety of techniques such as reputation and similarity analysis on URLs, allowing us to generate new URL click-time warnings for phishing and malware links. As we find new patterns, our models adapt more quickly than manual systems ever could, and get better with time," Google explains in a blog post.

This is good news whether you use Gmail or not. Even if you do not use Gmail, if Google can protect its users from falling prey to phishing scams that lead to things like WannaCry, we all benefit. Case in point, the WannaCry outbreak forced several hospitals in the UK to turn away patients, with entire wards being shut down. Doctors were unable to access patient records on machines that had been encrypted by a malicious third-party.

Improvements to Gmail should help reduce how often these kinds of things happen. As part of that, Gmail has been updated to help prevent workers from sending out potentially harmful messages outside of their domain.

"Gmail now displays unintended external reply warnings to users to help prevent data loss. Now, if you try to respond to someone outside of your company domain, you’ll receive a quick warning to make sure you intended to send that email. And because Gmail has contextual intelligence, it knows if the recipient is an existing contact or someone you interact with regularly, to avoid displaying warnings unnecessarily," Google says.

With its new built-in defense mechanisms against ransomware and polymorphic malware, Gmail also now blocks millions of additional emails that can harm users. Granted, this will not solve the problem, but it's certainly nice to see a company like Google taking these kinds of steps.