Google Advanced Protection

Maybe you’ve heard of Google’s “Advanced Protection” program. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, we’re going to talk about what it is, who should use it, and how to enable it. Let’s go.

What is Google Advanced Protection?

Google Advanced Protection (GAP) is basically two-factor authentication (2FA) on steroids. It uses 2FA as part of the process, but it requires two security keys instead of just one—something like Google’s Titan Key bundle is perfect because one wireless key and one USB-only key is recommended for GAP.

The second key is more of a failsafe so your account is still protected should something happen to the first one. This is something that anyone can add to their Google account—you don’t need GAP to use two security keys. Again, the Titan Bundle is a perfect example of how this works in practice.

Beyond that, GAP also limits third-party access to your Google account. While you can use your Google account to sign into some sites, this type of access is limited to “Google apps and select third-party apps,” which helps protect your data from potentially fraudulent activity. It can also make things a hassle if you use your Google account to log in to a lot of third-party services. Can’t win ’em all, I guess.

Lastly, GAP enables extra security measures to safeguard your account from potential hijackers. While unlikely, the most determined of account thieves can attempt to steal your account by simply pretending to be you. With GAP enabled on your account, extra steps are put in place to help prevent this—even if you lose both of your security keys. This means Google will require additional information from you to gain access to your account, which “will take a few days for Google to verify it’s you.” So…try not to lose your keys.

Who is Advanced Protection For?

Now there’s the big question. With all these extra layers of security and, let’s be honest here, major inconveniences, it’s clear that GAP isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s probably not even for you.

Google’s intent with Advanced Protection is to safeguard “the personal Google Accounts of anyone at risk of targeted attacks—like journalists, activists, business leaders, and political campaign teams.” In other words, people who are more likely to be targeted and have something to lose when attacked. Or people who attackers have something to gain by, um, attacking.

If you’re not one of those people, the odds are you don’t need to enable GAP. It’s just overkill for most users—for most people, just using 2FA is enough. And like I said earlier, you don’t have to use GAP to add security keys to your Google account, so that’s a good idea too.

But, if you really want GAP, here’s how to do it.

But first, a list of the stuff you’ll need:

  • Two security keys. One Bluetooth, one USB is preferred—like Google’s Titan Key bundle.
  • 2-Step Verification enabled on your Google Account.
  • Your Google password and verified 2-Step Verification device.
  • A certainty that this is something you want or need. Seriously, think about it.

That’s it. It’s time.

How to Enable Advanced Protection on your Google Account

First things first: you’ll need two security keys. If you don’t have that, pick some up and have them in hand before you start this. It’s required.

With your keys ready to rock and roll, head to Google’s Advanced Protection page. You can read over the details here if you like, but at this point, you should already know that stuff (because you read it in this post 😎). Click the “Get Started” button to get the ball rolling—there’s one in the top right corner and another at the bottom.

Get Started button to enable GAP

The following page will just confirm what you already know: you need a pair of keys for this. Scroll to the very bottom and click the “I have 2 security keys” button.

Confirming that you have two security keys available

You’ll have to input your password on the next page before continuing.

Now it’s time to register your security keys. What’s interesting here is that I already had two security keys on my account before starting this process, but neither showed up here. So I re-added them, which overwrote my existing keys.

Click the box to register your key and follow the instructions. Make sure to give them unique names, so you’ll know which is which. I’m using the Titan Key bundle here, so I named them Titan BLE and Titan USB—for Bluetooth and USB, respectively.

Registering security keys

Once you’ve added both, click the “Continue” button. You’ll be presented with a final screen confirming what will change once this is enabled. If you’re cool with that, smash that “Turn On” button!

TURN. IT. ON.

Oh, there’s one more box after that. It’s just letting you know that you’ll be signed out of all devices (including the one you’re setting this up on) and you’ll have to sign back in with your password and security key. What a hassle, right? Maybe, but if you’re at risk, it’s probably worth it.

Turning on GAP

There are balloons when it’s enabled. How cute. 🎉

Balloons after you enable GAP. 🎉

How to Disable Advanced Protection

Sick of being protected in an advanced manner? No sweat, my friend—turning it off is a lot easier than turning in on. First, head over to your Google Account page, then click on “Security.”

Click on Security

Fortunately, Advanced Protection is at the very top of the list here. See that “Turn Off” button? Give that little guy the old click-a-roo and then put in your password.

Click Turn Off to disable GAP

If you’re having issues with GAP, Google offers some potential fixes here. If you’re just annoyed with it, you can still turn it off by clicking the button at the bottom.

Confirm you want to turn off GAP

With that, you’re unenrolled from GAP, but it’s worth noting that you’ll still need your security keys to log in. If that was the biggest pain point for you, you can remove those too—click the 2-Step Verification option to jump straight to that page. Well, after you put in your password again, of course—can’t be too careful!

You'll still need your security keys to log in

To remove your keys, click the little pencil icon to the right of the key’s name, then choose “Remove this Key.” Done and done.

Click the pencil to edit your key

Now your account is free of Advanced Protection and security keys. But please, for the love of all that is good, at least leave 2-Step Verification enabled. Deal?

Cameron Summerson Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson is the News Editor for How-To Geek and Review Geek. He’s been covering technology for nearly a decade and has written over 4,000 posts and hundreds of product reviews in that time. He’s been published in print magazines and quoted as a smartphone expert in the New York Times.
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