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Updated: March 14, 2019
If you’re using Google Workspace or considering Google Workspace for your organization, there may be questions about Google Workspace security in your mind.
After all company email and business documents (if you are leveraging Google Drive for cloud backup of local files) are stored in Google’s data centers.
Google Workspace, as you’d expect, has multiple levels of built-in security.
Google’s data center security is superior to that of most corporate networks. Google has hundreds of full-time security engineers. Some of them are leading experts in the security field.
Data moving within Google’s data centers and to and from its data centers is encrypted using perfect forward secrecy. With perfect forward secrecy, breaking an encryption key would not do a hacker any good.
You can find Google Workspace security FAQs here.
As with many web applications that have hardened data center security, the easiest access point for an intruder may well be via user login access.
Google provides multiple levels of native protection to prevent a dictionary attack.
What can users of Google Workspace do to make the account access even more secure?
By default, a Google Workspace password can be up to 100 characters long. Spaces within passwords are permitted, which means that password phrases can be used. A Google Workspace admin can increase the minimum required password length and the maximum possible password length.
A randomly generated password phrase or “passphrase” is more secure and is easier to remember than a password such as T%e3$&1#.
You can use a site such as Use a Passphrase to generate passphrases. An example passphrase we generated is “swedish wide finish spectra”. The approximate crack time reported by Use a Passphrase is 57,384 centuries.
In other words, users should avoid storing passwords in a spreadsheet, a document or on paper.
Google 2-Step Verification (2SV) can be enabled by a Google Workspace administrator.
Once 2-Step Verification has been enabled by a Google Workspace administrator, users can enable one or more options for their account by going into My Account > Signing Into Google > 2-Step Verification.
When a user logs in from an unfamiliar device or location, there are several different verification options. These are not mutually exclusive.
1. The user can enter a Google Verification Code that’s texted to them.
According to Google, “as awareness of the potential vulnerabilities associated with SMS and voice codes has increased, some admins asked us for more control over the ability to use phone-based 2-Step Verification methods within organizations.” Because of this, admins can now disable SMS or voice codes as a 2SV option.
It has also been reported that Google Workspace accounts with 2SV legacy were breached with brute force attacks on legacy IMAP protocol.
In other words, using a passphrase makes sense even if 2SV is enabled.
3. A user can generate and print out a list of one-time use backup codes. These can be kept in a wallet or digitally stored in a cloud location that’s separate from Google Workspace and Google Drive.
This is a physical key that can be kept on a key chain. It plugs into a computer’s USB port. This is the best defense against phishing attacks.
In fact, starting in 2017, Google required all 35,000 of its employees to use a security key. Since then, not one employee account has been compromised.
Using a security key does not supersede the ability to use a verification code. It’s just that using a security key in place of a verification code provides an additional layer of security.
With some basic actions, admins and users can strengthen Google Workspace security.
MORE: Why businesses make the move from free Gmail to Google Workspace