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Posted at 09:12 AM ET, 06/02/2011

Using Gmail’s security features


A Chinese flag blows in the wind in front of Google Inc.'s offices in Beijing Thursday. (Keith Bedford - BLOOMBERG)
Google announced Wednesday that hundreds of e-mail accounts had been hacked by a group based in China, including the account of at least one Cabinet-level official, The Washington Post reported .The attack stands as a reminder that Gmail is not a lockbox and determined hackers can get their hands on your information.

But Gmail users do have some options to make their accounts a little bit more resistant to hacking:

2-step verification: Google has a feature that will have the site send you a code on a cell phone or landline after you enter your log-in information. With this verification process turned on, you’ll have to enter the code to finish your log-in. Users can decide to have a code sent to them every time they log in, or once every 30 days per device.

Note that if you use 2-step verification, other applications and gadgets you use to access Gmail — mail clients, etc. — will be locked out of your Gmail account. You have to generate a one-time special username and password for each of those applications.

Strong passwords: Don’t use your spouse’s name, don’t reuse passwords and don’t use a dictionary word. Mix capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols into your passwords — the more variety you have, the less likely it is that someone will be able to guess your password.

Check your settings: Google said that users should also check their settings for suspicious forwarding addresses or other e-mail addresses that have been granted access to your account. You can see if anyone’s piggy-backing on your account by looking at the “Accounts” and “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” tab in your settings.

As always, basic common sense can shield you from many of the most prevalent scams.

For one, don’t give information to people you don’t know. No Web site or service will ever ask you for your password outside of the log-in screen, so if you get an e-mail from Gmail, eBay, LinkedIn or any other network asking for that information, delete it immediately.

Don’t click on links from people you don’t know, and always be suspicious of e-mails that don’t sound like they’re from the person they say they are.

No one is completely safe from hacking, but following these tips can lower the chances that your account will be cracked.

Related stories:

Google says hackers based in China accessed U.S. officials’ Gmail accounts

Sony got hacked; what should I do?

By  |  09:12 AM ET, 06/02/2011

Tags:  Google, E-mail, Security

 
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