Chances are you have a Google account, whether it’s for business or personal use. It’s more accessible today than ever before and provides a solid way to gain access to several important features and accounts. Considering how much can be done with a Google account, users forget that they can put their security and personal data at risk. Here are some ways that your Google account is at risk, as well as what you can do to fix it.
Why Is Your Google Account so Valuable?
The Internet has always been a tool to keep those who use it connected, and data stored on it shared and accessible. However, like any tool that evolves and changes over time, its purposes and uses change with it. The idea for what would become the Internet came from J.C.R. Licklider of MIT in 1962, who intended it to be a system of interconnected computers used to share information and programs across the entire world. This idea would become the World Wide Web with the help of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who had this to say:
“Had the technology been proprietary, and in my total control, it would probably not have taken off. You can’t propose that something be a universal space and at the same time keep control of it.”
These ideals are still retained by today’s Internet; if anything, you might say it’s reached its peak. Social media use and network collaboration is at an all-time high, generally free of control by any central entity. These ideals have led to a demand for the preservation of net neutrality and open-access information, and while these are largely upheld, there are always exceptions to the rule.
While the Internet grew in capability, it also grew in utility. These utilities depend on security and privacy. Since so many people began to use the Internet to deal with confidential information, this increased the importance of security from both the perspective of an everyday user and a business. One of the companies that has helped shape this perspective is Google, a company that offers a plethora of services on both a user level and a business level.
You can’t discredit the importance of Google services for business, such as its G Suite applications and Gmail. Even on a general consumer level, many users find Google services helpful and important to their daily routine, to say the least. With Google security so important, take a moment to ask yourself how many online accounts have access to your Google account. What are you risking if your Google password is stolen by hackers looking to make a quick buck?
What You Risk
You can use your Google account to create other accounts, either by using your associated Gmail address or linking it directly, but what does that mean for security standards? It’s important to remember that this convenience comes at a price; linking an account to your Google account inevitably ties that account’s security to your Google account. This means that if your Google account is compromised, any accounts associated with it could also be at risk.
How Devastating Can It Be?
If you’re reading this on your desktop, you can click here to access your Google account. Under the Security section, you can review all devices that your Google account has been active on, as well as all third-party applications that access your account. You can even see all the websites that are using Google Smart Lock. Take a moment to review this list. Does it contain anything particularly sensitive? How about your bank account? If this is the case, it’s easy for anyone who has access to your Google account to access any accounts associated with your Google account from the simple virtue of being able to recover passwords and usernames for the account.
This creates a conflict between two of any technology user’s priorities: convenience and security. Some might even be willing to sacrifice security if it means a little convenience (think using the same password for multiple accounts), but in the professional world, this can be dangerous if mishandled. There isn’t a magical button that will make your Google account secure, so you’ll have to use a collection of best practices and preventative measures to make sure your credentials are properly secured. Be sure to keep an eye out for data breaches and change passwords accordingly, as well as taking into account the following practices:
Passwords and Account Security
The Google account is basically a container of credentials for any account connected to it. This means that you need a strong password or passphrase to protect it. Make sure that your password is long, complex, and doesn’t include any identifiable words that might give it away to someone just guessing at it. Also, be sure to only access your Google account on personal devices rather than public ones, as you could be putting your account at risk this way. Public Wi-Fi is in a similar risk category; only access your account through a private or secured connection.
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
One of the better ways you can keep your Google account secure is by making it more difficult to access. A secondary code sent to your mobile device in the form of a text message, generated via Google Authenticator, or a call made to your mobile device, make it so that anyone with your password needs to work a little harder to access your account. Enabling this kind of 2FA decreases the chances that you’ll have problems with a cybercriminal taking over your account, since it’s highly unlikely that they will also have access to your mobile device, too. Google Authenticator is by far the most secure of the options presented for 2FA for your Google account.
Your Google account can be used to access one-time authentication codes that can be printed out and kept on your person, giving you immediate access to your account on the off-chance you don’t have your phone on you at that moment. If you run out of codes or lose the list, you can generate new ones easily enough.
To set up these features, log in to your Google account.
Overall, Google offers great ways to keep your account secure, as long as you take advantage of them. To learn more about how you can keep your accounts secure, reach out to us at 301-571-5040.
Washington Works has been serving the Bethesda area since 2005, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.
Mobile? Grab this Article!