Okay, so you have your Gmail account that you have using for many years, but have you ever thought about what could happen if your account is hacked? There are many scenarios ranging from lucky to nasty.
What a hacker does with your account depends on his motives and leniency. Some hackers will simply hack your account for the fun of it and they will not tamper with your email or documents. If you encounter this type of hack, then you are a lucky dude. However, some hackers will leave you to regret for the rest of your life. A nasty hacker will hijack your account and change your settings so that you do not have access to your account again. He or she will delete your account, delete your emails and all the documents that you have online. This is not a fantasy tale, it’s a reality that happens quite often on the internet. People have lost their Gmail accounts forever and they have not been able to recover their accounts.
Are You Locked Out of Your Gmail Account?
Your Gmail account is not only email, but it is your Google account to access all the products and services offered by Google. That’s why it is important to protect your Gmail account password. If you are like some people, you will be using your Gmail account to access Google Docs, Google Drive, YouTube, Blogger and other services. Imagine if you are storing your important documents on Google Drive and a hacker breaks in to delete your documents.
If a hacker deletes your account, you will lose all the services offered by Google. You will lose your YouTube account, your Blogger account, Adwords account, your contacts and all your important emails. The fact is most people are not prepared for this scenario. They don’t even bother to backup their email.
If you lose the password for a Gmail email address that you have used to register for other websites, you might have trouble in accessing your online accounts if you can’t log into your Gmail account to activate your password resets.Anyway, if the hacker has taken over your Gmail account, he or she can do anything with it. The nasty hacker will change your account information such as password, mobile phone number, name, security questions, country including your secondary email address that can be used to recover your password.
The official solution suggested by Google in case of account hijacking or deletion is to file an Account Recovery form:
If the hacker has not changed your telephone number or mobile phone number, you will be able to recover your account. Google will send a verification code to your mobile phone, and you will be required to enter this code on the login page.
However, if the hacker has changed all your information (including your telephone / mobile number), you can kiss your account goodbye. The Account Recovery procedure will not work to get back your account because it depends on the information you provided when registering the account. Google might request you to send your identity documents for verification but if the documents don’t match the account information, it will be hard to prove that you are the owner of the account.
How to Prevent Your Account From Being Hacked or Hijacked
To ensure that you are not the victim of Account hijacking or hacking, you must exercise the following preventive measures:
1 – VERY IMPORTANT– Activate 2-Step Verification for your Gmail account. With two-step verification, no-one can log into your account unless if they got hold of your phone. The hacker might steal your password but he won’t be able to log in without the mobile phone verification code.
To activate 2-step verification, go to http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/static.py?page=guide.cs&guide=1056283&topic=1056284
You can also log in your Account, then click the small wheel under your email address at the top right hand corner. In the drop-down menu, go to [Settings > Accounts > Google Account Settings > Security]. You should see the words “2 step Verification”. Click Edit and follow the instructions. You will be prompted to log out and log into your account again. Follow the instructions to verify your mobile phone number and TURN ON 2-step verification. When two-step verification is turned ON you will see a padlock sign with the message: [2 Step Verification is ON for firstname.lastname@example.org]
2 – Check your Gmail account settings for POP/IMAP Forwarding and Filters. Simply changing your password is not enough. The hacker can set your account to forward mail to his email address, and he will always intercept your mail including password resets. Remove any email addresses that you don’t recognize under Forwarding. [Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP]
3 – Check Email Filter settings and remove any filters that you did not set.
4 – Check “Grant Access” permissions in your settings. Gmail has a tab called “Grant Access to your account” under [Settings > Accounts and Import].This section allows the account owner to add other email accounts and give them the right to send mail from your account as well as read email from your account. If a hacker has added his/her account to the grant access permission, he or she will be able to view your mail from his/her account. They can also send mail from your account.
5 – Whenever you use public computers to access your Gmail account, you are taking a big risk. You do not know how secure the Wi-Fi spots are and you expose your account to session cookie hijacking. You might also forget to log out of your account. There is also some spyware that can record your keyboard activity and crack your password in the process.
Points number 2, 3, 4 and 5 emphasize that simply changing your password is not enough to stop your account from being hacked. You can have a strong password but the hacker will have control of your account if you do not take these measures. Step 1 is a surefire way to stop a hacker from accessing your account.