Google Upgrades Nest Security, Urges Users to Open Google Accounts

Google is boosting the privacy and security of its Nest smart home products. The company wants to highlight that it is working to keep user data safe while encouraging people to use Nest as a hub for all of their smart devices.

Nesting Securely

The privacy features highlighted by Google are a mix of steps required by users and under-the-hood improvements to how Google’s system works. Behind the scenes, Google is boosting Nest defenses against automatic attacks by adding Google Cloud security technology known as reCAPTCHA Enterprise to Nest. This feature spots automated attack attempts and stops them in the act. On the consumer-facing side, Nest users will now get a notification of suspicious activity, and Google will reset the account if it looks particularly bad.

Nest is also making two-factor authentication mandatory for users starting in the spring. Those already using a Google account won’t have to do it again, but people using Nest products without a Google email will have to add a verification code to sign into their Nest account. Two-factor authentication has been a part of many Google products for some time. While it will boost Nest security, it also fits into what feels like the overarching goal of the new privacy and security efforts, encouraging people to migrate their accounts to Google.

“[A]n extra layer of defense gives you more control over your home devices in the long run by making sure only trusted people and devices can use them,” Google Nest head of security and privacy Cory Scott wrote in the post announcing the features. “The best way to do this is by migrating to a Google account, which comes with lots of added benefits, including security protections like suspicious activity detection and Security Checkup.”

Under the Google Umbrella

Improving security for Nest is an obvious goal for Google. Privacy and security concerns make people reluctant to buy smart speakers and other smart home devices. Google wants people to feel comfortable using Nest. And though a laser is unlikely to hack a smart speaker, there are real problems that pop up. Google recently had to block Xiaomi smart cameras from Google Assistant after reports surfaced that they were showing other people’s homes.

On the business side, though, encouraging Nest device owners to get a Google account is part of Google’s broader smart home strategy since it bought Nest for $3.2 billion. Google recently started requiring a Google account when connecting Google Nest products to other smart home devices. Whether because of technical limits or pure profit, that change fits with Google’s more subtle urgings that Nest owners make a Google account. Painting it as a security measure is a more delicate way than flat-out requiring it, especially since it is true that it will improve user security.


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