How to Make Your Gmail Account More Secure

Surprise, surprise. You thought Gmail was on top of things, more secure, less hackable, right? You’ve been sending and receiving emails, synchronizing all of your work and personal information on Google’s tools because it’s less likely to crash on you and make you lose everything, right? Well, as useful as Google’s online tools are, your information is not as secure as you think.

We’ve all learned to be more careful about what we put online for Big Brothers Facebook and Twitter to see, and do our homework with most social media platforms. We know it’s important to be careful with what we share, what we allow these platforms to know about us. But Google requires the same level of care; it isn’t much different. When it comes to your emails, you may be shocked to learn that Google has been known to monitor emails and breach privacy. If you haven’t been keeping tabs on your Gmail security, here’s what you need to know to stay safe.

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Your Gmail is Like Google’s Creepy Newspaper

You, like most people, probably assumed that your private email were just that–private, seen solely by your eyes and your recipient’s eyes. However, it turns out Google has been sneaking peeks at everything you send via Gmail. Basically, Google admitted they’ve been reading people’s emails and taking valuable information from it. Eric Schmidt, the company’s executive chairman, even admitted that this habit is creepy!

Now that you’re aware of just how invasive Google has been with your emails, you’re going to do something about your email security and privacy, right? Of course you are. You have to protect your business and personal communications.

How to Make Your Emails More Secure

Your first step to Gmail security is to review the basics. Run through this checklist and activate or secure as necessary:

Is your password secure? Don’t use something obvious. Choose something with letters in both upper and lower case, a few digits and special symbols. The same applies to your reset and recovery details.

  • Activate two-step verification—there are some options here, but the goal is to use a second code sent to your phone in order to log in to your account.
  • Never let an unsafe device (or a device used by others) remember your codes.
  • Regularly look at the “last account activity” section, which lists the latest logins from your account, the originating IP address, country, and even the type of device. You want to have a look at whether there have been any questionable logins.
  • Check your account permissions to see if there are any apps or websites that look unfamiliar accessing your information.

If these precautions are already in place for your Gmail and Google account, you can add another level of safety and security by taking your options to another level.

More advanced options and tools include:

  • Switch to paid services that ensure privacy by monitoring account activity and notifying you of any unusual behavior, such as Austici or RiseUp.
  • Utilize PGP, a type of open source technology that encrypts your email, which can help protect message content (although most of your recipients won’t be using this, so there are limitations).
  • Use an encrypted messaging app like Signal instead of Gmail, because browser-based encryption is never going to match up to it.
  • Use an end-to-end privacy webmail service such as ProtonMail, Tutanota, Posteo (available for a fee).
  • Use a non-end-to-end privacy webmail service (with a different type of encryption) such as Runbox, NeomailBox, or Countermail.

If you’re set on choosing the best possible solution, you can even go all the way and self-host your email with your own server, but it’s complicated to make sure your own server is completely secure.

Bottom line? Be careful what you email and to whom. Email is still a very practical tool, but it’s simply less private than you thought. Go old-school and communicate in person if you need to discuss something very private, sensitive or personal—it’s still the best method.

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