Email security: Securing your Gmail account

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. I know my Gmail account automatically encrypts my emails. However, how can I be sure that someone hasn't stolen my username and password and isn't using them to access my Gmail account and read my email without my knowledge?

A. The best measure you can take to secure your Gmail is to enable two-step verification, which prevents others from accessing your email account even if they have your password. To enable two-step verification, go to google.com/landing/2step, click the Get Started button, and follow the steps to set up two-step verification. This will boost the protection on your Google account, including the Gmail app, because in addition to checking to make sure the proper password is used, this measure ensures the device used has been properly authorized to access your account.

In regard to detecting unauthorized access, you can check your recent Gmail activity in the Gmail Inbox view by scrolling the webpage down to the end and then in the bottom-right corner clicking the Details option under the Last account activity: xx minutes ago label. This will produce a summary of the last 10 IP addresses that accessed your Gmail account, including the date, time, and type of device used.

Note: The Recent activity screen (pictured below) reports your computer's IP address at the bottom, which usually makes it easier to identify unauthorized access. If you see that your Gmail account has been accessed at times other than when you accessed the account, or if you see unidentifiable devices or IP addresses accessing your Gmail account, you should investigate further and take actions including changing the password and reporting the potential breach to Google at google.com.

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About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2007 through 2016 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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