Google account security tips

About a month ago I received an email from Blizzard Entertainment stating that a new World of Warcraft account had been started using my personal Gmail address. Someone with the user name of “Zhang” was hoping to do a little night elf adventuring using my data. I got on the phone with Blizzard right away, and they canceled the account faster than you can say Ogrimmar.

“Oh yeah,” the Blizzard rep added, “you might want to change your Gmail password.” I realized at that point that I’d been hacked, just like high-ranking U.S. officials were in June and just now, as Iranian citizens have been.
There was a moment of horror as I realized what kind of private data someone with access to my account could find about me.

For many of us, a Gmail password is not just a Gmail password. It’s a passport to our Google Docs account, our AdWords campaigns, our personal Google calendars, Google Docs, and more. That’s not to mention access to Gmail itself, through which someone can find tax returns, private email conversations, and other data to pull off identity or credit card theft. If you are using Google business apps, you risk damage to your company if staff members’ accounts are insecure.

Luckily, Google has a vested interest in keeping your information as secure as possible. Follow Google’s own Security Checklist for concrete steps to put your Google Account on lockdown, and pay special attention to the advice below.

1. Check for Third-Party and Updated Browser Extensions

Checking your browser for plug-ins, extensions, and applications that may have access to your Google account is a step that merits special attention, particularly because Google doesn’t tell you how to do this.

Internet Explorer
This support page tells you how to disable browser helper objects in IE. If you want to disable third party extensions entirely, click Tools, Internet Options, Advanced, and uncheck the “Enable third party browser extensions” box under “Browsing”. You will need to restart the browser for the setting to take effect.

This page automatically detects your Firefox plugins and ensures that they are up to date.