Take the Free Google Security Checkup

Category: Security

As part of “Safer Internet Day 2015” Google is offering a free boost of 2 GB in your Google Drive storage allotment. Even if you don't care about the extra storage, I do strongly recommend that you take the two-minute Security Checkup. And when you're done with the Google checkup, I have an extra credit assignment for you...

What is the Google Security Checkup?

It's becoming a more dangerous world every day, both offline and online. So it makes sense to take a good look at your security practices, and ensure that everything is in order. The steps below will help you secure your accounts from unauthorized access, and recover them if they are ever compromised. Below is a guide to what you'll see in the five-step Security Checkup. Just keep in mind that you must do it by February 17th, 2015 to get the free storage bonus...

Step One is to add or double-check your account-recovery information, which includes the alternate email address and/or phone number that Google can use to contact you and verify your identity in the event your account is compromised. It also includes the answer to a secret question that confirms you are who you claim to be.

Google Security Checkup

Next, review your recent Google account activity to see if anything suspicious has been logged. For instance, does the log show that you logged in from somewhere in Texas when you know you were in Colorado? If you suspect someone has been tampering with your Google account, change its password immediately.

In the third step, you have to decide whether to let Google block applications that “do not use modern security standards” when they attempt to log into your Google account. This is a tough call because Google does not specify what “modern security standards” are required in an app to avoid blocking. Among examples of apps that will be blocked are the iOS Mail app in versions 6.0 or below; all Windows Phone Mail apps prior to version 8.1; and “some” desktop mail clients like Outlook and Thunderbird. If you’re not happy with the result of allowing this block you can always disable it

Fourth, review all of the apps, Web sites, and devices that have permission to access your Google account. There may be more such permissions than you think; remove those that you no longer need or recognize.

Fifth, review your account settings. (Don’t click on “Security checkup” at the top of that page or you’ll be taken all the way back to Step One above.) Many of the account settings will look familiar because you just reviewed them in the first four steps. But in the “Signing in” section is a choice that should be Step One in any security checkup; I’m really baffled to find it buried in the obscure account settings.

Do the Two-Step

“2-step verification” is one of the easiest and best protections against account hijacking available. (See also: SECURITY TIP: Two Factor Authentication) Any log-in attempt requires both your password and your mobile phone. You type in the password and Google sends a one-time code to your phone via SMS message or automated voice call. Even if hackers obtain or guess your password they can’t access your Google account without the access code. (You do have a screen lock on your mobile phone, right?) You can also get a printable list of two-factor authentication codes, to use in the event that you don't have access to a phone.

After 2-step verification is used at least once on a given computer, you can tell Google not to require it again on that particular computer. I’d recommend this time-saving option only for computers that are secured in your home or office, not for laptops that are more likely to go missing.

You can access and change all of the Google Security Checkup settings from your Google Account Settings page at any time. Your extra storage will be added by the end of February, at which time Google will email you to confirm.

For Extra Credit (and Protection)

Once you've finished the Google security checkup, I encourage you to read (or re-read) these articles to make sure you've got all the other computer and Internet security bases covered:

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Take the Free Google Security Checkup "

Posted by:

James Osgood
16 Feb 2015

Thanks for the heads up. I found a couple of webmaster tools permissions I needed to remove for vendors I gave permission to years ago.

Posted by:

16 Feb 2015

Hi Bob. I followed the above steps. It's a good idea to do in any case but I had hoped that I would get 2 more GB and that doesn't seem to have happened. Did I do something wrong?

EDITOR'S NOTE:Forgot to mention, your extra storage will be added by the end of February, at which time Google will email you to confirm.

Posted by:

16 Feb 2015

I followed your link to the security checkup and the second step took me to the account settings with no visible way to navigate to the third step?? What am I missing?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Did you click the "Looks good" button?

Posted by:

16 Feb 2015

I am doing the check, but I did not get any acknowledgement or message telling me I am getting 2 GB more. Do I HAVE to give them a cell phone? I don't want to. Thanks.

EDITOR'S NOTE: your extra storage will be added by the end of February, at which time Google will email you to confirm.

You do not have to provide your cell phone number. It can be used to recover your account in the event that it is ever compromised, but it's completely optional.

Posted by:

16 Feb 2015

The only problem with this google wants you screw with my gmail passwords, which I access from a lot of different places.

And now when I login, I get the message "We strongly recommend that you add at least one backup phone. We suggest that you print or download backup codes, especially if you travel or have problems receiving codes on your phone".

Why would I have two phones and incur two phone charges? And how do I print the backup codes? There is no option to this. It messed up my e-mail on my phone. I wished I had not done this.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You don't need two phones. Only add a backup phone to increase your ability to recover from a compromised hack. Again, Google doesn't want or need your cell phone number. HOWEVER, if YOU want to provide it to them, it can be used to recover your account in the event that it is ever compromised.

Here's how to print the codes: https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/1187538?hl=en

Posted by:

bob price
16 Feb 2015

Got to account settings and no button to continue or save or end. Click Looks Good and it starts over. It loops.

Posted by:

jim (James E. Goss)
16 Feb 2015

Apparently this does not apply to desktop computers, but only to the "modern hardware," such as I-phones and such. Is that correct? (I am abysmally ignorant of almost anything digital. I can barely handle my cell phone!)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Not correct. You should follow these best practices (especially 2-factor authentication) on your desktop.

Posted by:

16 Feb 2015

Google wants to ensure that have exclusive access to your private info to sell to advertisers. I've heard they're even asking members for their cell phone numbers. If you want more security, don't have any Google account. I use DuckDuckGo and Ixquick as search engines, and the only Google site I use is Youtube, with an anonymous email account at Guerrilla Mail. And I am not a Luddite, in fact I do some computer repair in addition to my day job.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Amazing how these rumors spread... Google doesn't want your cell phone number. HOWEVER, if YOU want to provide it to them, it can be used to recover your account in the event that it is ever compromised.

Posted by:

16 Feb 2015

Get 1Tb free, no! Google is a search engine wanting my data for free, NO! Has google got a SDL, no! is two factor authentication safe, no! Are apps safe, no! Remove everything google and all apps, use a business not a consumer grade product, YES!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Wow. I don't even know what you mean by SDL... Can you provide something to backup your assertion that two factor authentication is not safe?

Posted by:

16 Feb 2015

Bob--There are other ways to recover an account. Google's history in regard to their members' privacy is abominable.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Okay... can you provide some sort of documentation showing how Google has abused their members' privacy? A link or two from an authoritative source?

Posted by:

16 Feb 2015

According to the Google security help document https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/183723?hl=en "We no longer support security questions as a way to access your account."

EDITOR'S NOTE: That's a good thing, right? And it's why I recommend 2-factor auth, which is quite a different thing.

Posted by:

17 Feb 2015

Thanks for the info on doing this checkup.

Posted by:

17 Feb 2015

There doesn't seem to be a place to mark when you're finished at Step 5 (like the 'Done' or 'Looks good' is the earlier steps); so how does one go about that?

Posted by:

17 Feb 2015

Sorry, Bob. Most all the time I agree with your stands and opinions. On letting Google take care of my cloud backups, can't do. Not for the reason you may think. If the government decides they want to see my information, Google would have no choice but to let them - with a search warrant. The fact I have nothing to hide is irrelevant. I'll do my backups on a removable hard drive and store that in a safe place, thank you very much.

Posted by:

17 Feb 2015

My wife and I set up ours without issue. It’s not difficult, but there are a lot of tedious steps (including making sure everything is working afterward). Been wanting to get it done for some time now, as we've both got a fair amount of Google-related stuff.

We decided to use the Google Authenticator on our iPad Minis as our primary codes-source. It might be a good choice too for those who have mentioned that they don't want to give out their mobile phone numbers. (We don't care much about that, as ours are both Google numbers anyway.) We mainly like the Authenticator because unlike a phone number, it does not require internet or data network access, to generate access codes. (The code that appears, is only good for a short time, before being replaced by another one.)

Also, to insure that people don’t get permanently locked out of anything, the Google site allows you to generate a set of single-use emergency codes, which they (surprisingly) say you should write down and put in a secure place. HA! Sorta defeats the whole purpose of any code, don’t ya’ think? We put ours into our encrypted password-manager file, which is backed up on our computers and tablets. Those secure backups have become critical, now that we have been changing many of our site passwords to 20-character, nonsense ones and we don't even know what they are anymore. It’s really a shame that we have to take all of these time-wasting steps to try to stay ahead of crooks.

Posted by:

18 Feb 2015

You gotta love this. Yahoo started months ago with me. Change your password, change your password. Well the first week I changed it. Every time I had to log in for 3/4 months. No auto login. Change your password. Tried changing to something similar. Rejected. Switched a couple numbers. Accepted.
Google? Someone tried to access your account. 3 different notifications in the last 2 months. Check your logins to determine if there are any bogus entries.
Only problem is I was logging on a new phone and tablet. Messed up logging on the phone. Tablet doesn't have GPS. Google's logs showed local access from which I couldn't determine if someone else tried to hack my account or not. Google no longer allows auto login here. GGAAAAHHH! Smash the bug!

Posted by:

18 Feb 2015

The best way to not get spied on? Don't use goggle!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Or Google? I think it's interesting that some people believe Google is "spying" on them. This implies some sort of secret and nefarious activity that identifies you on a personal level. What do you imagine might be happening, other than the activities publicly outlined in the Google privacy policy?

And why do you think the problem would be solved by not using Google services? We know for SURE that the NSA is poking into voice, text and web traffic. Will you also be giving up your landline, cell phone and Internet service?

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