The internet, as we know it today, is, unfortunately, crawling with dark forces –fraudsters and hackers – that would stop at nothing until they have hacked into your online accounts including your Gmail – Google – account.
It’s obvious then that with the increasing spate of cybersecurity breaches these guys are succeeding.
However, it’s your duty as a netizen – internet citizen – to ensure that your personal information, online accounts, and assets are well protected.
One online asset to keep a close eye on though is your email account. If you are like most people, you are among the more than a billion people that use Gmail – Google’s free webmail service.
Now, imagine if someone got access to your Gmail or Google account – they would be able to see your personal files on Google drive, your bank statements, chats, photos, and several of your personal details you’d rather not have a second pair of eyes see. It also means they can reset the passwords of all your social media accounts if connected to this Gmail address.
That is a scary thought, isn’t it?
Alright, come on let’s talk about how to make your Gmail account as secure as possible.
Start with a Regular Security Checkup
First, it is essential to note that Gmail is fairly secure; however, it doesn’t hurt to make sure that every nut and bolt is tightened.
Thankfully, Google has made it a lot easier to check your account’s security. To do that, visit your account’s sign in and security page; then, use the built-in Security Checkup feature to run the security check.
Once you are in the security page; click the Security Checkup option, you will be taken to a multi-section form where you would be requested to review and confirm your information.
Review your Recovery Phone Number and Email
The first section basically requires you to review your recovery phone and email. If for whatever reason you are locked out of your primary account, Google will send login details to these secondary email and number you can use to log in.
Also, you would receive emails on your recovery email whenever your primary email is accessed from a different location.
Go through your Recent Security Events
After confirming your recovery email and phone, click done and you would be taken to a new section to review recent security events.
Take your time to go through the entries to ensure that every security-related change on the page is familiar; if however, you notice some changes you don’t remember making, you may want to take a closer look, as this may indicate some sort of suspicious activity.
Drill down on each entry to check what the changes on the security page are about; you can also see the date and time for the changes.
If you are not sure of what some of the changes mean, click the “something looks wrong” button to make your complaints; however, if everything is looking just fine, use the “looks fine” button to get to the next section.
Review the list of other devices logged into your account
This section may or not take a lot of time to get through depending on the number of devices you have granted access to your account.
You definitely want to pay close attention here, as this section is crucial to know which device someone can access your Gmail account from.
As you go through the list, take note of every logged device – do you recognize all of them?
Also, if you happen to see a device you no longer have or use; then, it’s time to revoke their access to your account.
For devices that have been used recently – the time, date, and location of use would show up next to them. Click on the downward point arrow beside each device to get more information about it.
If there are new devices logged into your account, they would be highlighted with a green font word ‘NEW’ and a warning that if you don’t recognize them, then someone may have hacked into your account.
Hit the next button to go to the account permission section – that is after you have confirmed that everything is looking good on this page.
Review and clean up Apps you granted permission to access your account
This is another crucial step in the security checkup process – this page basically allows you to see every app, device or anything you have given permission in the past to access your Google account.
You can also see exactly what permissions are granted to each app; so, if you don’t recognize any app or remember allowing it access to your account, click the revoke button beside it to remove it.
Note, however, if you mistakenly remove any account you still use, you would have to re-grant it access the next time you want to use it.
That’s it for your Gmail or Google account Security checkup; however, there are other security steps to ensure a top-notch secured account – let’s go over those too.
Review your 2-Step authentication details
The last lap of the security checkup is reviewing your 2-step verification details – that is, for those that already have it set up.
Go through and confirm that your phone number or other verification method is correct and up to date.
If you use a backup code, confirm that you still have the right amount. For instance, the backup code for someone that hasn’t done any backup previously is usually 10; hence, if you see anything fewer than 10, it could mean something isn’t right.
Set a strong password
You honestly do not want to use an easy to guess, simple password for your account. Most Gmail users make the mistake of using either their birthday, name of spouse or child, or other obvious identifiers as their password – that wouldn’t be you right?
A secure password is usually long; contains alphanumeric characters – that is letters A-Z, and numbers 0-9; in addition to special characters like @#$%.
It is also recommended to use password generators when possible for the most robust passwords. Remember, however, to NOT use one password for all your online accounts – that’s a recipe to getting hacked. Password managers can save complex passwords or you can opt to keep them offline on a military grade flash drive.
Finally, enable 2-factor verification
A 2-step authentication is an additional layer of security to your account when logging in. Once activated, you would be required to provide another identifier in addition to your password to access your Gmail account.
How 2-factor authentication works, you would receive a text with a code, or you need an authentication app on your smartphone or even Google’s new codeless 2-factor authentication system.
Type in the code you received or click yes on your mobile phone when prompted and you would be logged in.
This extra security means your Gmail account is secured with your password – what you know – and what you have access to – your phone.