How to Secure Your Google Account

Google on a mobile phone and a mac with coffee next to the comptuer

Your Google account is used across several online services. It’s necessary for Gmail, YouTube, and cloud productivity software like Drive and Docs. With so many different services requiring a Google account, you must keep your account safe. What can you do to protect yourself from hackers and scammers? Below are the steps you need to follow to secure your account.

Turn on Google 2FA

Google - 2FA
Google gives you a large number of options for your 2FA security. | Source: Hacked/W.S.Worrall

Two-factor authentication is a basic line of defense against attack from hackers. It requires the user to access a specific phone number or app whenever they log in. While it may be less convenient, 2FA makes your account a lot more secure and should always be turned on.

Log into your Google account dashboard, and click on ‘Security’ on the left. Under the ‘Signing into Google’ heading, click 2-Step Verification. You have a variety of different 2FA options spread across phone numbers and authentication apps on this page. Choose your preferred method of 2FA and follow the simple instructions to protect your account.

Be advised: If you are going to use an app instead of your phone number as the 2FA option, then you must ensure you keep backup codes or that you use Authy, the authenticator app, with a cloud backup. If you lose your phone without a backup of your 2FA-codes to log in, you’ll lose access to your account.

Google Security Check-up

Google - Security Checker
Google’s security checker is an excellent tool to help keep your account secure. | Source: Hacked/W.S.Worrall

An excellent feature offered by Google is the account ‘Security Check-up’. When you log into your account, you should see four sections on your home page. The top-right section is your security checker. Click either ‘Secure account’ or ‘Take action,’ depending on how insecure your account is.

The security checker gives you a comprehensive list of both minor and major security issues currently troubling your account. Follow the steps in the checker to ensure all of your security flaws have been fixed. You’ll have to change passwords that have become compromised or are shared by multiple accounts.

Google Privacy Check-up

Google - Privacy
Google’s Privacy checker is a great tool to ensure your account is safe from hackers and scammers. | Source: Google

Google offers a ‘Privacy Check-up’ similar to the ‘Security Check-up,’ but it helps you manage your privacy options across multiple services. Follow through the checklist and make sure your privacy settings are correct. The more restrictive settings will limit the information people get about you on places like YouTube.

Use a Strong and Unique Password

XKCD - Password Strength
This comic explains how to pick a strong password you can remember to use for your password manager. | Source: XKCD

You should be sure to use a strong and unique password for your Google account. If you’re using your Google account to store passwords, you should take extra care with your password. Use a password generator, or follow advice to produce a strong password you can remember easily. Make sure you’re not using this password anywhere else. If another account becomes compromised, your Google account will be vulnerable.

If you’re not using your account as a free password manager, you can use a service like DashLane or 1Password to store a strong, generated password. The four common words method mentioned above is perfect if you plan to use Google as a free password manager.

For more advice when creating your password, check our guide to common password mistakes.

Don’t Share Your Account Information

Google - Fake Email
Fake emails like this are methods hackers and scammers use to get into your account or personal information. | Source: Google

You must not share your Google account information with another person. Even if you’re sharing with someone you trust, you can’t be sure they’ll be as careful with your account as you are. You should be especially wary if someone asks to share your account via an online message. If someone’s account has been hacked, the hacker may attempt to get into your account by pretending to be your friend.

If someone asks for your Google account to share a file, you should refuse. There are built-in functions via Google Drive and Docs to share files and documents safely. You should be on the lookout for fake emails claiming to be from Google and ask for your login information or personal details.

If you’re worried about your Google Account’s security, you can order a security audit here. If you need to recover a Google Account, please read our tutorial here.

Featured image by PK Studio from Shutterstock.com

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A gaming and technology writer who has been building computers and tinkering with software since he was a teenager. Previously involved with various prestigious websites, including TechRaptor.net and CCN.COM