Gmail is a web mail service provider run by the internet search engine giant Google inc. As of June 2012, it is the most widely used web-based email provider with over 425 million active users worldwide. Gmail is used by a wide variety of people starting from children to business officials, for both personal and formal purposes. We use mail services for online transactions, purchases and much more. So, mails in and out of our account could carry sensitive and private information such as our address, contact no, Bank account details & etc. If the security of our account is compromised by a third party, we could lose all our important information and would face serious consequences. To avoid this, one must ensure the security of his/her accounts thoroughly for not leaving any chance for hackers.
Hacking / Hacker ?
Internet can give you hundreds of definition for these terms. Let me give you the simplest version!
Hacking is breaking into someone else’s system/network or anything, without the knowledge of the actual owners. In most cases, it is done out of curiosity for pure fun, while in other cases it is to show the victim how pathetic his protection is!
A hacker can be anybody. You don’t need to know all about coding for being a hacker. A simple knowledge on how things work and some common sense is well enough.
In this article, let’s see the most common mistakes we make, that would give a hacker an easy access to our Mail Account. Once you follow all my points here, I can guarantee the safety of your Gmail Account from hackers. Here we go!
1. Stronger the password, Better the protection!
The image speaks for itself. Of course, choosing a strong password is the very first step in protecting your account from hackers. For best results, use a combination of numbers, special characters, uppercase and lowercase letters that would be really hard to guess! Also avoid using the same password for all your online accounts because if one of your account gets hacked, you might lose all your other accounts that uses the same password. So try having an unique password for every online account you maintain!
2. A weak Security Question is nothing but an open invitation to hackers!
Most of us don’t take this step seriously. We don’t realize that a weak security question can be a possible loophole which could be used by a hacker to gain access to your account. Let me explain this in depth. Believe it or not, but in most cases the account is hacked by someone you know. It can be your friend, colleague or even your neighbor who know about you to some extent. So consider the following possibilities.
- If he went to the same school as you, he could probably answer questions 2 & 4 with a little research of course.
- If he is your friend, he could probably answer all the four questions.
Now i think you understand the point i’m trying to make here. Yes, choosing an unique security question is as important as choosing a strong password. For this, I would recommend you to write your own question. It can be something highly personal to you which no others would know by any chance. A strong password and a tough security question can reduce the chances of your account getting hacked to a great extent!
3. Stay alert and Stay safe from phishers!
Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Read more about it in Wiki. Phishing is said to be the most successful type of online attacks. Major websites, high profile emails and many others have fallen victim to phishing. So, let’s learn some ways by which a phishing attack can be identified and avoided.
- Whenever you receive an email from an unknown entity or a friend, asking you to sign in to your Social Network, email or any other online account you maintain, stay alert because there is a good chance that it might be a phishing attack .
- The picture above is a sample phishing page where once you enter your log in credentials, an email will be sent containing your username & password straight away to the attacker. So, check the url of the page before signing in. At first, it may appear to be a legit url. But at the end, you will find some unknown website which is not related to the original website. For eg, in this picture, you can find the url to be http://googleverification.110mb.com/verifymyaccount/try where 110mb.com is the site where this phishing script is hosted. So never give in your credentials before confirming the authenticity of the source.
- You may also receive emails claiming to be from reputed organisations such as coca cola, informing you that your email has been selected for some prize money and you need to enter your personal information in order to claim your award. Never fall for that! Its 100% phishing.
The above said points are the most common types of phishing attacks. So, stay alert and stay safe!
4. Beware of Key loggers!
key loggers are programs that are capable of logging every keystroke and even screenshots of your desktop activities. They can be installed remotely as well as through physical access to your computer. They can act in total stealth mode which makes it impossible for detecting them manually. For this purpose, I would recommend to use a good antivirus for your computer. Kaspersky offers good security and is really good at detecting and removing key loggers. It is also affordable and easy to use. You can order it from http://www.kaspersky.com
5. Last but not the least, 2-step verification by Google.
If you are still not convinced with the security of your account, you can go for the 2-step verification process offered by Google itself. Once setting it up, every time you try to log into your Gmail, a verification code will be sent to your mobile which you need to enter back in your Gmail for verification. Once verified, you can log into your account and access your emails. This way, your account is protected by a password as well as the verification number which cannot be stolen unless the attacker has access to your mobile. To set the 2-step verification for your account right now, follow the link here - Set up 2-step verification.
Once you follow all my points here, I can assure you that your account is now safe and secured from hackers.
Note :- The article here is specifically crafted for Gmail. However, the same can be applied to other email providers and online accounts as well since the methodology is same for all. If you have any other tips or suggestions, feel free to share it in the comments section below!