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Google just made this vital Gmail security tool completely free

Hackers are constantly trying to break into large websites to steal user databases, and it’s not entirely unlikely that your own login details have been leaked at some point in the past. In cases like that, upgrading your password is vital, but how can you do that if you don’t even know your data has been hacked?

Well, Google thinks it has the answer because it has just announced that it will roll out dark web monitoring reports to every Gmail user in the U.S. This handy feature was previously limited to paid Google One subscribers, but the company revealed at its Google I/O event that it will now be available to everyone, free of charge.

The top-left corner of a laptop showing an inbox in Google's Gmail email service.
Stephen Phillips / Unsplash

According to a blog post written by Google Core Systems & Experiences SVP Jen Fitzpatrick, “Anyone with a Gmail account in the U.S. will be able to run scans to see if your Gmail address appears on the dark web and receive guidance on what actions to take to protect yourself.” Although Fitzpatrick didn’t share specifics, some of that guidance could include changing your password and adding two-factor authentication to your account. It’s also a good idea to use one of the best password managers to keep things safe.

Google says these dark web reports will be available to American Gmail users “in the next few weeks,” while they will roll out to “select international markets” at a later date. We’ll have to wait to find out what those other countries will be.

Expanding account security

A MacBook with Google Chrome loaded.

The news follows the introduction of dark web reports to Google One customers in March 2023. It’s unclear why Google made the feature free so soon after launching it, but perhaps the company felt it was too important to lock behind a subscription.

Google is not the first company to alert users when their credentials have been included in hacks and data breaches. The Have I Been Pwned and Firefox Monitor websites have been tracking breaches for years, with the latter being an integral feature of Mozilla’s web browser.

But adding dark web monitoring to Gmail brings this important security tool to a much larger audience. There are estimated to be close to 2 billion Gmail user accounts, meaning a potentially huge number of people could take steps to secure their accounts once the feature rolls out globally. Even if Google limits the number of countries that have access to it, it could still help introduce more stringent account security to millions of users.

Whatever the case, it seems that intent on helping Gmail users better protect their accounts. That can only be a good thing.

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