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Tips for a More Secure Gmail Account

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Gmail is a feature rich, free email service from Google. Launched in 2004, the service boasts of more than 425 million users around the world. Although Gmail is one of the most secure email providers out there, it is not totally immune from security attacks. This article will list down some tips on how you can help keep your Gmail account safe from security threats and hackers.

1) Use a Strong Password – This may sound preachy but you really need to choose an extra strong password for your Gmail account (as well as other services). In other words, don’t use “Password123″…. Since your primary email account is tied to social networks, banking portals and other important websites, losing your Gmail account could mean losing access to vital personal or financial data or even worse, losing your identity. Choose a password having a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers as well as special characters. Also, remember not to include your personal information (date of birth, city, zip code, name of spouse) within your password since this information may be available elsewhere (for instance, your Facebook profile). You should also use a difficult to guess password recovery question (or create your own question) and specify an alternative email address/phone number to get back access to your account in case it gets compromised.

2) Track Account Activity – Gmail makes it extremely easy to track important changes happening within an account. The information is available right at the bottom of the screen under the heading “Last account activity”. Click on the Details link next to it to check whether your account has been compromised. By default, Gmail shows browser (or device), location and timestamp of last 10 login attempts as well as changes happening to security settings (change of password or password recovery options). If you notice any unusual activity (change of password or login from a new country or an unknown device), you should change your password and account recovery options immediately.

3) Check for Unusual Filters and Forwarding Rules – Gmail allows you to create sophisticated email filters and forwarding rules but this feature is often abused by hackers and criminals to receive important emails without account owner’s knowledge. Check the “Filters” and “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” options under email settings regularly to verify that your emails are not getting forwarded to someone else automatically. If you happen to notice any such activity, delete the filter and disable the forwarding options immediately.

4) Revoke Access to Unknown Apps and Websites – A Google account can not only be used to log into Gmail, YouTube etc. but it can also be used to sign into apps and websites. However, you need to be extra careful of proving access to unknown apps or websites. Remember to go through the list of approved apps and websites from time to time and be sure to revoke access for apps and websites that you no longer use/visit.

5) Use 2-Step Verification – For total Gmail security, you should sign up for 2-step verification process. Once you enable the option, you would need to enter an extra security code (which Google will send you though SMS) every time you want to log into your account. While this process seems cumbersome and time consuming, it will protect your account in the long run. Gmail also allows you to create printable backup codes and specify a backup phone number so that you do not lose access to your account in case you are not able to receive security codes on your phone.

Apart from the above security measures, you should keep your system (OS, browser, antivirus and firewall tools) up-to-date to remain protected from viruses, spywares, malwares and keyloggers. Also, you should remember to sign out of your Gmail account and delete cookies (especially on shared computers) as soon as your work is done so that your account doesn’t get compromised.

May 30, 2014

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