If you use Chrome on one the best Android phones then there's a new security feature that not only makes your browsing more secure but that solves a hugely annoying problem: changing compromised passwords.
This problem is something I know from bitter experience: I spent most of my weekend changing passwords and talking to tech support after my youngest's Fortnite account was compromised and V-Bucks stolen. I know some of my family's passwords have appeared in data leaks, and I really did mean to get round to changing them. But quite frankly it's a huge pain in the backside, and the longer you leave it the more of a pain it is. But as I discovered, it's not as painful as trying to fix a compromised account.
The new feature isn't actually new – it was announced in 2021 – but it's only started to roll out in Chrome for Android. In addition to detecting compromised passwords, something Chrome can already do via your browser settings, the Google Assistant now goes one better: it can automatically change the passwords for you. The feature was shared on Twitter by Max Weinbach (opens in new tab), who uploaded some images of the feature in action.
Google Assistant is getting smarter
This new feature is part of Duplex, which is Google's name for technology that can handle some of the dullest life admin for you. When we first saw Duplex, Google was demonstrating its ability to handle automated restaurant booking services; it then brought the same tech to the web so you could buy cinema tickets and order food with the minimum of fuss. And now it can automatically identify the appropriate password page, take you to it and suggest a better password to replace the compromised one.
Apple has something similar on iPhone, and it's very useful: by popping up a warning when you log into a site, these systems effectively railroad you into doing the right thing rather than letting you add it to your ever-growing to-do list. That's important, because it doesn't take long for stolen passwords to be used for ill – and as I know to my cost, once the crooks get in it's extremely frustrating and time-consuming to get them back out again.
It's possible to switch off this feature if you don't want it, but I'd advise against it: no matter how careful you are with your online security, the sites you use may not be so secure – or they might just fall foul of vulnerabilities that their tech providers don't fix fast enough.
As ever with Google updates this one is rolling out to different users at different times, but it's likely to be reaching most of us in time for Google I/O 2022 next week.