Take precautions when using Gmail—or any email service

Q: IS GMAIL entirely safe and secure to use? If it isn’t, how can I make it safer for myself?

A: That’s a very broad question, so I’m offering a very broad answer.

• Nothing in this world—especially if it’s stored in the cloud—is ever entirely safe. If you use Gmail, someone other than the intended recipient could read your mail, or your account might get hijacked.

And that’s the case with every email service. Whether you use Gmail, Outlook, or your ISP’s email service, you need to protect yourself.

Email is an open book by its nature. Your messages pass through multiple servers between your computer and your recipients’. Most likely no one will read them—but you have to assume that someone might.

Gmail encrypts your mail with SSL between your computer and Google’s network. But if the recipient isn’t using Gmail, that leaves the message’s journey from Google to the recipient unprotected. Google is building a Chrome extension to address this issue (ao.pcworld.com/ encryptchrome),

Potential leaks lurk in the email security formula as well. Google has its own financial reasons for reading your mail. Every company has disgruntled and dishonest employees. And, as Heartbleed proved, SSL isn’t perfect fgo.pcworld.com/heartbleed).

I’ve discussed Gmail privacy issues previously fao.pcworld.com/ gmailpriv). so let’s talk about protecting your account from hackers.

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First, use a strong password. It should be long, complex, and impossible to guess but easy to remember, and you shouldn’t use it for anything except your email service. If you don’t have a password manager already, get one (go.pcworld.com/pwmanagerl.

Second, set up two-step verification. With this feature on, if someone logs in to your account on a PC you haven’t personally authorized, Google will send a code to your cellphone via text message. You—or whoever is masquerading as you—must enter that code to access the account.

Here’s how to set up Gmail’s two-step verification:

1. Click the Tool icon (it looks like a gear) near the upper-right corner of the window and select Settings.

2. Click the Accounts and Import tab, and then the Other Google Account settings link.

3. On the Settings page, click the Security tab Then, in the Password box, click Setup next to 2-Step Verification.

ft. Follow the prompts. Click the Send code button and wait for a text from Google.

5. When the text arrives, enter the code in the appropriate field. If you’re doing this on your own computer, you can leave Trust this computer checked. Obviously, you should uncheck that option on a public computer at a library or on campus.

That brings up another important point: When you access email on someone else’s computer, always log off when you’re done. You never know who will sit down after you leave.

7Review earns Amazon affiliate commissions from qualifying purchases. You can support the site directly via Paypal donations ☕. Thank you!
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