Email accounts contain a treasure trove of sensitive information, from personal conversations to bank statements and beyond.
This makes them an attractive target for hackers and cybercriminals.
Gmail is one of the most popular email services, used by over 1.5 billion people globally, so it’s especially important for Gmail users to take steps to secure their accounts.
Follow this guide to help protect your Gmail from being hacked or compromised.
Use a Strong, Unique Password
The first line of defense for your email account is a strong, unique password. Avoid common passwords like “123456” or “password” that are easy for hackers to guess.
Instead, create a long passphrase with a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Experts recommend at least 15 characters if possible. You might use a favorite phrase plus numbers and special characters, like “C@tsandD0gs4Ever!” for example.
Also avoid reusing your Gmail password on other accounts. If hackers obtain it from another breached site, they can access your email as well.
Use a password manager like LastPass or 1Password to generate and store unique, complex passwords for all your accounts. Make sure to enable two-factor authentication as well for an added layer of security.
Be Wary of Phishing Attempts
Phishing is when cybercriminals attempt to trick you into sharing login credentials or sensitive information via deceptive emails.
Gmail phishing scams can look quite convincing, often including the Google logo and fonts. Look closely, however, as the “from” address is usually incorrect. Other red flags are poor grammar, generic greetings like “Hello user”, and suspicious links.
Never enter your Gmail username or password after clicking a link in an email. Instead, open a new browser and go directly to accounts.google.com.
Also don’t open attachments from unknown senders, which may contain malware. When in doubt, delete any messages that seem suspicious. You can report phishing emails in Gmail by clicking the three dot menu > Report phishing.
Manage Gmail Account Settings
Take advantage of Gmail’s security settings to add another layer of protection from hackers. Under account settings, enable two-step verification, which requires both your password and a secondary code to sign in.
This code can be sent via text, call, or generated in the Google Authenticator app. Two-step verification prevents hackers from accessing your account even if they have your password.
Also check the security tab for authorized apps connected to your account. Revoke access from any you don’t recognize.
Adjust your spam filter sensitivity level if needed to better detect shady emails. Under forwarding, make sure your messages aren’t being forwarded somewhere without your knowledge as well.
Monitor Account Activity
Keep an eye out for any unusual activity that could indicate an attempted or successful hack:
- Login locations: Check your account’s recent security activity page for unfamiliar IP addresses or geographic locations. Hackers from another country accessing your account is a red flag.
- Notifications: Set up alerts for important security events like password changes or new device sign-ins. Get notified immediately if suspicious changes occur.
- Account details: Periodically review your forwarding addresses, saved emails delegates, mail filters, and other account details. Make sure only authorized changes have been made.
Detecting a breach quickly lets you secure your account faster. If you see definite signs of unauthorized access, change your password immediately and review steps for recovering from a hack.
Practice General Email Security
Beyond your Gmail settings, practicing smart email security habits enhances protection:
- Verify sender addresses before opening emails, and never click links or attachments from unknown senders. Hover over rather than clicking links to check destinations.
- Be cautious of any emails asking for personal or financial information like passwords, Social Security numbers, or bank details. Legitimate companies won’t request sensitive data by email.
- Keep all your software up-to-date, including your operating system, browser, plugins, and antivirus software. Update as soon as you’re notified of available patches.
- Run full antivirus scans periodically to check for any malware that may have made it onto your devices. Malware could capture passwords or other data from your device.
Following basic email best practices like these makes you less likely to fall for phishing tricks or be infected with keylogging malware.
Recover from a Hack
Even with precautions, hackers may still gain access to your account. If you have confirmed signs of a Gmail breach, take these steps to secure it:
- Reset your password: Change your password immediately and make sure it’s strong and unique. Don’t reuse an old password. Also update passwords on any other accounts that used the hacked password.
- Recover the account: Use Google’s account recovery process to regain access if hackers changed login details. You’ll need to provide verification like recovery phone numbers and backup email addresses.
- Review settings: Once you recover access, check all account settings closely for any unauthorized changes. Remove anything suspicious like unknown forwarding addresses.
- Enhance security: Turn on two-factor authentication if you haven’t yet for stronger future protection. Consider changing your recovery contact info as well in case it was compromised.
- Scan devices: Run malware scans on your devices in case they were infected by the hackers and could expose new passwords. Resetting devices may be warranted in some cases.
Staying aware of potential hacking activity allows you to respond quickly to keep your account secure, even if a breach does occur.
Hackers have many clever techniques for compromising Gmail accounts, from phishing to malware.
But you can thwart most attacks by taking proactive security measures. Use strong passwords, enable two-factor authentication, monitor account activity, and be cautious when opening emails. Practicing good email hygiene keeps hackers at bay.
Stay vigilant in protecting your account, but also prepare steps to recover from potential hacks.
Keeping your Gmail secure takes vigilance, but is well worth the effort to safeguard your sensitive messages and data.