Fresh Look For Gmail Users Has Been Released

If you’re a Gmail user and you haven’t seen the change already, be aware that Google has freshened up their email interface.  Don’t expect a radical change, however.  This update is more of an evolution than a revolution.

Chiefly, you’ll notice that the Chat, Spaces, and Meet buttons have all been drawn closer together. This makes the left-hand sidebar of the email display look more cohesive.

At this point, it looks pretty much the same. However, Google has promised additional refinements in the months ahead, including better support for Gmail on tablets, more accessibility features, and better emoji support to name a few.

If the change has already been rolled out to you and you’re not a fan, you do have the option to switch back to the old view for now. That’s not a permanent situation.  Eventually, you’ll have to make peace with the new look.

If you want your old view back, the process is both simple and straightforward.  At the top right of your screen, click “Settings.”  Under “Quick Settings” you’ll see an option that says: “Go back to the original Gmail view.” Click that and then reload and you’ll be all set.

Also be aware that if you don’t use some of the apps listed on the sidebar, you can selectively disable the ones you don’t need, causing them to vanish from that view.

Change is hard and it is harder for some folks than others, but we like the approach Google is taking here.  Overall, we find these changes to be quite modest but we do agree that they make for a cleaner interface that offers a marginally improved user experience.

Kudos to Google for continuing to refine all their products.  We look forward to seeing what additional changes lie ahead.

Most Bait Phishing Attacks Target Gmail Accounts

A new report by Barracuda was recently published. It revealed that the vast majority of baiting email attacks conducted this year were done via G-mail accounts.

The firm surveyed 10,500 different organizations and found that more than a third (35 percent) of them received at least one bait attack email in September 2021 alone.

That’s disturbing but perhaps it would be of benefit to back up a step. The term “Bait Attack” signifies a sub-class of phishing where hackers and scammers attempt to glean basic information about a particular person or organization. They then use that information for a more targeted attack in the future.

Essentially it’s a simple attack where if it is successful it will lead to a more complex attack in the future. That would be an attack that’s more likely to succeed given the earlier success.

Of significance is that these emails don’t contain links that point to the outside world. They don’t have attachments so there’s nothing in the email that would raise any red flags. These messages sail right through even the most robust security systems because they’re not harmful in any way. In fact sometimes they don’t contain any text in the body at all.

The goal here is to illicit a response. So if there is text it will likely be simple, clear, and to the point. It could perhaps be even as simple as “Please confirm that this is indeed your email address.”

If the recipient responds the sender learns a number of important details. These details include the fact that the email account is correct and active, that the recipient is at least somewhat likely to open unsolicited emails from unknown senders, and that the company’s spam filter didn’t block the email that was sent. From the perspective of a hacker that’s a treasure trove of information.

As to why they have a preference for Gmail over other email providers that ultimately comes down to legitimacy. Google is a respected name. Hackers can leverage that respectability by using a Gmail account and often fly under the radar.

There’s nothing specific to be done with this information beyond warning your employees to stay vigilant and resist the temptation to respond to unsolicited emails from unknown senders.

Gmail Adding Email Authenticator Feature Called BIMI

Change is coming to Gmail. Recently as a courtesy of a new agreement between Google and the AuthIndicators Working Group you’ll soon begin seeing BIMIs (Brand Indicators for Message Identification). The brains behind BIMI describe their product as an email specification that allows the use of brand-controlled logos within supported email clients.

AuthIndicators is steered by a committee of representatives from a variety of companies including Google, Fastmail, Proofpoint, Twillio, Mailchip, Verizon Media, Vaililmail, Validity, and SendGuard.

Valilmail’s Chief Product Officer and chairman of the AuthIndicators Working Group had this to say about the new standard:

“We’ve been an avid supporter of BIMI since Valilmail’s founding in 2015. With a goal to improve the ecosystem for everyone, BIMI enables brands to deliver their logos alongside email messages to billions of inboxes worldwide, increasing customer engagement with those messages and boosting brand trust.

For the brand’s logo to be displayed, the email must pass DMARC authentication checks, ensuring that the organization’s domain has not been impersonated. By displaying the sending company’s logo next to an email, BIMI provides a visual cue to the recipient that the email has been authenticated and the sender is not spoofed.”

Google’s Wei Chuang and Neil Kumaran added:

“BIMMI provides email recipients and email security systems increased confidence in the source of emails, and enables senders to provide their audience with a more immersive experience.

This is just the start for BIMI. The standard expects to expand support across logo types and validators. For logo validation, BIMI is starting by supporting the validation of trademarked logos, since they are a common target of impersonation.”

This is a superb change that is now or soon to be available to billions of inboxes worldwide with Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, and Fastmail fully onboard. If you’re not seeing the branded logos yet you will soon.

Data Breach Victims Get More Spam And Phishing Emails

Do you feel as though you get a lot of spam mail? If so, you should know that you actually get almost a hundred times more than what you think you’re getting.

However, most modern email systems (including Google’s G-mail) do a spectacular job of filtering, which keeps the vast majority of it from ever reaching your inbox in the first place.

Even so, you probably get an annoying amount of spam, and one of the natural questions that arises from that is some variation of ‘why am I getting so much of this junk?’ Believe it or not, researchers now have an answer to that very question!

A research team from Stanford University recently partnered with Google to study more than a billion emails filtered by Gmail between April and August of 2020. They found one striking common thread: You are much more likely to receive spam emails if your email address was captured as part of a data breach. In fact, that fact alone makes you five times more likely to be targeted by spam email.

In some ways, that fact isn’t terribly surprising. After all, spammers and scammers operate mostly from email lists and those lists have to be generated and compiled from somewhere. It turns out that the ‘somewhere’ is almost always a database captured during a data breach.

This, though, points to a simple defense. If you change your email address at about the same frequency you buy a new pair of shoes, you’ll periodically give yourself a chance to start fresh.

Sure, there are some challenges involved with that, not the least of which is updating your contacts with your latest email address. Also, of course, if you have hundreds of contacts that might be impractical, but if you keep a relatively low profile on the web anyway, then occasional shedding one email skin for another is a very good way to keep spam to a minimum. At the very least, it’s something to consider.

Google Meet Now Available On Gmail Using Mobile Devices

Google recently published a blog post that didn’t get much attention, but that outlines a major change to the way the company’s video collaboration tool “Meet” works.

The blog post reads in part, as follows:

In the coming weeks, you’ll soon notice a new Meet tab on your phone’s Gmail app where you can see upcoming meetings scheduled in Google Calendar, and easily join them with a single tap….If you don’t want Meet to appear as a tab in the Gmail app, access the Settings from the hamburger menu in the top left corner of your inbox, tap on your account, scroll down and uncheck Meet.”

This is a small change, but it represents a huge improvement in the way Meet works. The change makes it much more streamlined and efficient, which dramatically improves the quality of the user experience.

The change builds on Google’s decision earlier this year to make Google Meet free for all users, which arose from the changes the global pandemic wrought in how the world works. Demand is spiking for video conferencing services due to worldwide lockdowns. Popular video conferencing service Zoom is stumbling over security concerns. Google and other tech giants moved quickly to take advantage of the surge in demand. This represents the latest manifestation of those changes.

Google has made a number of tweaks and improvements to Meet since the surge in demand began. Although they’re playing it close to the vest in terms of the future changes they have planned, one thing that seems clear is the fact that more changes and improvements are coming.

Kudos to Google for rising to the challenge and making their video conferencing service more accessible and more user friendly. It is rapidly becoming the default choice for a growing number of organizations. If you’re not currently using it and you’re not 100 percent satisfied with the video conferencing service you are using, it’s well worth checking out.