Gmail can warn you if your account is being trafficked on the dark web


Image: Artem Oleshko, Shutterstock

Set a reminder: In just a few weeks, you’ll be able to ask Google if your email address is being used as currency on what’s known as the “dark web.”

It’s a service that the company previously made available to Google One subscribers as a paid security method. Now, it’s being rolled out to Gmail users as a whole.

The “dark web” is usually referred to as a series of servers that don’t publicly register with search engines — quite the opposite, as they want to stay hidden from the eyes of the law for whatever reason. The dark web or Darknet surfaced a few years ago, when researchers started delving into the reaches of the “dark” web. There are plenty of vital, positive aspects of the dark web; it can be used to freely express yourself in repressive regimes, for example. But illegal commerce can be carried out there as well: drugs, weapon sales, and worse. Hackers and criminals also buy and sell personal information stolen in security breaches, which is where Google’s privacy feature comes in.

Google maintains its own eyes on the dark web, which it uses to try and protect its users. It’s not perfect, but if Google detects that your email address (which could be used as your login information on sites you’ve signed up for) has been detected, it’s a good sign that either your email, Google account, or one of your signed-in sites has been compromised. In this case, Google will flag your email and send you a notification.

While we don’t know exactly how this will work, we’d imaging that it will work similarly to the privacy checkups offered by Google and Microsoft, where the services will periodically ask you to review your personal information, including any passwords that have been compromised in privacy breaches. It’s just one way to tell if your password has been stolen.

Google also announced a few other privacy initiatives at Google I/O, its developer conference:

New spam protections in Google Drive, to help determine if files you saved are actually unwanted.Location alerts on your phone, if an app wants to share your location.A new data deletion option within Google Play.

Author: Mark Hachman, Senior Editor

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.


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