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You can never be too conscious about email security. After all, scams are still commonplace 5 Worst Email Scams Of 2014 You Should Be Aware Of 5 Worst Email Scams Of 2014 You Should Be Aware Of Read More and there are so many ways that email accounts can be exploited 5 Ways Your Email Address Can Be Exploited By Scammers 5 Ways Your Email Address Can Be Exploited By Scammers Read More . Vulnerabilities are everywhere.

And while you may feel safe right now, just know this: everyone is always one mistake away from being hacked. Security is a game of probabilities and the end goal is to reduce the number of potential mistakes you can make.

So if you use Gmail, here are some important tips that you should put into practice as soon as possible. They’ll inevitably save you a lot of headaches and grief down the road.

1. Encrypt Your Emails

Whenever you want improved security, encryption is always the first thing you should consider. Encryption makes it so that even if your connection is eavesdropped, the eavesdropper won’t be able to make sense of the data.

On the web, regular connections take place over HTTP while encrypted connections take place over HTTPS. Not all websites offer HTTPS connections, but fortunately Gmail does — and Google considers encryption to be so important that HTTPS is forced on.

In addition, Google recently announced that they’ll be implementing a Gmail warning that alerts users whenever an email arrives via an unencrypted connection. Such emails could easily be hijacked and/or altered.

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Pro Tip: Learn more about encrypted connections with our explanation of HTTPS and why it’s so important What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default Security concerns are spreading far and wide and have reached the forefront of most everybody's mind. Terms like antivirus or firewall are no longer strange vocabulary and are not only understood, but also used by... Read More .

However, HTTPS is more of a baseline for proper email security so you should take extra steps take to really protect your information. For example, instead of just encrypting the connection, you might also want to encrypt the actual email messages Encrypt Your Gmail, Hotmail, And Other Webmail: Here's How Encrypt Your Gmail, Hotmail, And Other Webmail: Here's How Edward Snowden's NSA revelations brought shock and awe into American households, as individuals and families started to realize that their communications were not quite as private as they had originally thought. To partially calm some... Read More .

Mailvelope is one popular tool that can do this for you. This Chrome extension integrates right into Gmail (as well as GMX, Outlook, Yahoo, and others) and simplifies the process of encrypting and decrypting emails.

2. Enable Two-Step Verification

Another big non-negotiable feature is two-step verification, which is also known by its more technical name, two-factor authentication What Is Two-Factor Authentication, And Why You Should Use It What Is Two-Factor Authentication, And Why You Should Use It Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security method that requires two different ways of proving your identity. It is commonly used in everyday life. For example paying with a credit card not only requires the card,... Read More . This simple feature — which requires very little effort on your part — can instantly double or triple the security of your email account.

Two-step verification just means that you need to have two forms of verification in order to log into your account: the first is your regular account password and the second is a verification code that’s sent to your mobile phone.

In other words, in order for someone to hack into your account, they’ll need to have your password and your mobile phone — an incredibly unlikely scenario. And while two-factor authentication isn’t flawless Two-Factor Authentication Hacked: Why You Shouldn't Panic Two-Factor Authentication Hacked: Why You Shouldn't Panic Read More , it’s still strong enough that you shouldn’t overlook it.

To enable two-step verification:

  • Open your profile icon at the top right of Gmail and click My Account.
  • Under Sign-In & Security, select Signing Into Google.
  • Under Password & Sign-In Method, select 2-Step Verification.
  • Enter your phone number and select a verification method.

3. Sign In Using Incognito Mode

Nowadays it’s more common to check on-the-go email with a mobile device rather than a shared computer, but shared computers are still used regularly (e.g. libraries, Internet cafes, or even just hopping onto your friend’s laptop).

But if you aren’t diligent, you might accidentally stay logged into your Gmail account on said shared computer, and now you’ve left yourself vulnerable to potentially malicious people. Your friends might cut you some slack, but strangers at the library could really wreak havoc.

That’s why whenever you log into Gmail on a shared computer, you should always use Incognito Mode. On non-Chrome browsers, this is also known as private browsing mode.

There are several reasons to using private mode Not Just for Porn: Other Uses For Private Browsing Not Just for Porn: Other Uses For Private Browsing Private-browsing mode has many other names, including "incognito mode" in Chrome and "InPrivate Browsing" in Internet Explorer. Some people refer to private-browsing mode as "porn mode", but it isn't just for porn addicts. It can... Read More , but the most important is that it automatically logs you out of everything whenever the private window is closed. Just be aware that your account could still be compromised by keyloggers Don't Fall Victim to Keyloggers: Use These Important Anti-Keylogger Tools Don't Fall Victim to Keyloggers: Use These Important Anti-Keylogger Tools In cases of online identity theft, keyloggers play one of the most important roles in the actual act of stealing. If you’ve ever had an online account stolen from you - whether it was for... Read More if you aren’t careful.

4. Keep Good Password Habits

Do you know the most common password-breaking methods The 5 Most Common Tactics Used To Hack Passwords The 5 Most Common Tactics Used To Hack Passwords When you think of a serious security threat, you may think of some clever malicious program that steals your data or takes over computer. In reality, you’re just as (if not more) likely to be... Read More used by hackers today? The truth is, most of the passwords used by regular folks are surprisingly easy to break, and there’s a good chance that your own password is much weaker than you think it is.

An unbreakable password 6 Tips For Creating An Unbreakable Password That You Can Remember 6 Tips For Creating An Unbreakable Password That You Can Remember If your passwords are not unique and unbreakable, you might as well open the front door and invite the robbers in for lunch. Read More  has many elements, but here are the key points that you need to follow:

  • Longer is better. At 1,200 password attempts per second, an eight-character password takes about 5.5 years to break while a nine-character password takes about 363,500 years to break. Every additional character offers exponential protection.
  • Use special characters. Letters are the most commonly used characters. Numbers are popular too, but not as popular. Hackers know this, and alphanumeric passwords are easier to break because of it. All other factors being equal, a password with special characters is more secure.
  • Be unique and change frequently. If you use the same password on all of your accounts, one compromised account can destroy all of your accounts. Always use a unique password for important accounts, and change the password at least once every six months.

Managing such complex passwords can be a headache, especially when you have to juggle dozens of different accounts, which is why we highly recommend using a password management tool 5 Password Management Tools Compared: Find the One That's Perfect for You 5 Password Management Tools Compared: Find the One That's Perfect for You Choosing some sort of password management strategy to deal with the huge amount of passwords we need is crucial. If you're like most people, you probably store your passwords in your brain. To remember them... Read More . It’ll keep you safe and relieve much of your stress.

It can be tempting to shrug and skip all of this, but good security habits Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Read More are the difference between those who get hacked and those who don’t.

5. Check Account Activity History

At the very bottom of Gmail’s web interface, there’s a small bit of inconspicuous text that says “Last Account Activity”, which tells you the last time there was activity on your account. Intersting but not very useful, is it?

Go ahead and click on the “Details” link and a new popup window appears, complete with a list of the last 10 IP addresses that accessed your account.

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If you check this session history once every week or so, you can keep an eye out for potentially suspicious activity. Most of the records will be from your own IP address, and every once in a while you’ll see the IP address of an authorized third-party app, but if you see something else altogether, then you may have been breached.

At the bottom, you can enable an alert preference that will show alerts whenever Google determines a particular activity to be unusual. Also, at the top, you can force all sessions on your Gmail account to log out by clicking “Sign out all other web sessions”.

Got Any Other Gmail Tips to Share?

Other email security tips 7 Important Email Security Tips You Should Know About 7 Important Email Security Tips You Should Know About Internet security is a topic that we all know to be important, but it often sits way back in the recesses of our minds, fooling ourselves into believing that "it won’t happen to me". Whether... Read More  should be heeded if you want maximum security, but the tips outlined above should be more than enough for casual Gmail users. At the very least, enable two-step verification and use a unique password, and be wary of email attachments How To Spot A Dangerous Email Attachment How To Spot A Dangerous Email Attachment Emails can be dangerous. Reading the contents of an email should be safe if you have the latest security patches, but email attachments can be harmful. Look for the common warning signs. Read More .

If you really need a super safe email, however, Gmail might not be the best choice. Rather, you should look into truly secure and encrypted email providers The 3 Most Secure & Encrypted Email Providers Online The 3 Most Secure & Encrypted Email Providers Online We use email to send close personal secrets, negotiate business transactions and do everything else in between. But most email is sent in plain text and stored in an easily readable format. Encrypted email providers... Read More instead.

What steps have you taken to ensure Gmail security? Are there any that we missed? Share them with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Encrypted Email by xtock via Shutterstock

  1. fcd76218
    November 24, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    "an eight-character password takes about 5.5 years to break while a nine-character password takes about 363,500 years to break"
    Only if the password contains ALL of the following in random order: upper and lower case letters AND numbers AND special characters. A password of 9 consecutive letters or number can be cracked in no time flat.

    • Joel Lee
      December 1, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      Yeah, you're right. That was explained in the linked article but I should've made that clear in the post. Thanks fcd!

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