Google Leverages Machine Learning to Improve Document Detection Capabilities

by March 2, 2020


With the rise in technology and enhanced connectivity, we are unintentionally moving toward a more insecure world of malicious activities. Businesses today, while deploying technology, fear the loss they would face if security gets compromised. As most of them operate through e-mails, it turns into a major source for malware attacks. Moreover, lots of emails are sent with malicious intent, putting a heavy burden on Gmail to protect users. As it turns out, a lot of malicious attachments come from documents, but through innovation brought in by Google, Gmail is getting better at detecting them.

Unfortunately, there are many naive users who find it hard to detect what’s genuine and not; they trust everything they receive in the email and this is being misused by cyber-criminals. Hackers are coming up with mischievous techniques such as malware-laced documents attached in the mail, warning notice about impending bank account closure, debit/credit card renewal to fool people to their reveal financial credentials. Taking cognizance of the issue, Google, over the past few years, has steadily scaled up the security for Gmail against phishing scams and curb the spread of malware.

In a post on its Security Blog, Google explains how Gmail blocks 99.9% of threats from ever reaching the inbox, and how it’s getting even better at that task. Gmail’s malware scanner processes over 300 billion attachments weekly, and 63% of that content changes on a daily basis.

To stay ahead of that, Google has been employing a new scanner that uses machine learning to improve detection. Since the scanner launched, Google has boosted the detection of Office documents by 10%. Impressively, Google’s new scanner is getting better at detecting “adversarial, bursty attacks” with the detection rate jumping by 150%.
Interestingly, Google says that 58% of all malware targeting Gmail users comes from malicious documents, the vast majority of that coming from Office documents alone.

As claimed by the company, “Strengthening our document detection capabilities is one of our key focus areas, as malicious documents represent 58% of the malware targeting Gmail users. We are still actively developing this technology, and right now, we only use it to scan Office documents.”

The blog further added, “Our new scanner runs in parallel with existing detection capabilities, all of which contribute to the final verdict of our decision engine to block a malicious document.”

“Combining different scanners is one of the cornerstones of our defense-in-depth approach to help protect users and ensure our detection system is resilient to adversarial attacks. We will continue to actively expand the use of artificial intelligence to protect our users’ inboxes, and to stay ahead of attacks,” Gmail security team said.

For now, the new AI-powered malicious document scanner will forward any flagged emails to your spam folder. All other blocked emails with the malicious attachments are immediately purged, preventing them from ever ending up in your email inbox.