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‘I think someone has been reading my emails and using my Gmail account. How do I find out and what can I do?’ This was the question I was asked the other day and not for the first time. Using the biggest name around for web services is great, but it makes you a target. This tutorial will show you how to check if someone else is using your Gmail account and what to do if your account has been compromised.
Gmail is everywhere. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a Gmail account. Google provides a popular email service, but it’s also great for Google Docs, Google Drive, and other useful software.
Having a single sign-in for all these apps is very convenient but it also provides a single point of failure. If someone can log into your Gmail, they can log into everything.
Let’s find out how to see if someone else is using your Gmail account.
There are often signs that your Gmail account has been hacked. Emails that you didn’t send, complaints from contacts that you sent them spam or malware, emails from organizations you never heard of confirming account creation, or something else entirely.
While indicative of something going on, they are far from definite. Fortunately, Google is way ahead of us and has provided a tool with which to check your account’s activity.
Open Gmail and log in.
Scroll to the bottom of your Inbox page and find the Details link in the bottom right.
A page will now appear with your recent security events, including logins.
In recent security events, you will see all your logins. The page will show what browser was used, the IP address, and the date and time. Check through this to see if you notice anything suspicious. This data is collected and stored by Google on every login meaning that even a seasoned hacker wouldn’t be able to fake it.
You can also check the Google Security page, scroll to Your Devices, and see what has logged in and where.
If you don’t see the Details link at the bottom of your Gmail inbox, use this link instead. Some Gmail users don’t seem to have the Details link while others do.
Note: You can sign out of all active sessions from the Details page. If it makes you feel more secure, or you see an unauthorized login, don’t hesitate to flip the switch and change your password immediately.
If you’re still not convinced that your account isn’t jeopardized, there are a few more things to look out for:
Lastly, visit your Account Security page and look for any Security Alerts. Google has its own way of telling you whether or not someone is logged into your account.
Navigate through your devices and remove any older ones that you no longer use or any that you don’t recognize. Next, check for any security events. Most of these are simply logins that you will recognize.
If you find anything obviously wrong within the Security check and someone else is using your Gmail account, you need to act quickly. The longer you wait, the more spam or malware they could be sending and the more photos or files they may be downloaded from your Google Drive.
There are a couple of simple things you can do to lock your Gmail account down.
The first step is obviously to change your login password for Gmail. This will stop any hackers from being able to log back into your Gmail account to continue their nefarious work.
Aside from your Gmail password, it may be a good idea to change the passwords of any related accounts. For example; if you use this Gmail to login to your bank account, update that password as well.
Once you have control of your Gmail account; it’s time to increase security to prevent it from happening again. Gmail, like many cloud services, offers two-factor authentication (2FA) which can seriously enhance your security.
It requires you to enter a password and then receive an email or SMS code to verify. The email gets sent to a different address, or you could use your phone.
You have the option to select an SMS or call, use a hardware security key, or simply enter your phone number. I would suggest the SMS option. You’re never without your phone and it means you can log into Gmail from anywhere, at any time as long as you have your phone with you.
Ensure that you have a recovery email for any login alerts. If someone tries to access your Gmail account again it should trigger a login email. It is a good idea to contact your local authorities if any of your banking or financial information has been compromised.
If someone does gain access to your Gmail account, you won’t necessarily know how they did it. They could have used brute force on the Gmail server or hacked your device. It’s too much of a risk to not check so next you should perform a full antivirus scan of all your devices.
Then run a malware scan as a secondary measure. Most antivirus isn’t as thorough at checking for malware as Malwarebytes so run your existing virus scanner and then run a Malwarebytes scan.
Now that you have regained control and further secured your Gmail account, it is a good time to let everyone know your email was hacked. Tell them they can safely ignore and delete any suspicious-looking email that was sent from your account and that everything is fine now.
That’s how to check if someone else is using your Gmail account and what to do about it if they have been using it. Two-factor authentication should go a long way to stop it from happening again so you should now be able to rest easy.
If the hacker has taken over your account you might not be able to log in. Google does offer support so that you can take your account back. Visit the Google Account Recovery Page.
Once you’ve typed in your Gmail address (be sure it’s the right one for the account you’re trying to get back), you will be prompted to enter the last password that you remember. Follow the steps, including verifying necessary information to regain access to your Gmail account.
When setting up your Gmail, it’s important that you add a recovery email and phone number. It’s also a good idea to remember which month and year you set the account up. Google may ask when you originally set the account up as a security verification question.
One of the keys to account security is understanding what makes your account vulnerable. You may have 2FA, a password comprised of hieroglyphics, and the best anti-virus software on the market, but it won’t do you any good if you’re unaware of other security risks.
Here is a list of how unauthorized users can gain access to your Gmail account:
If you’re curious how this helps you protect your account, there’s one very common theme; you’re not updating your account. Whether it’s clearing your backup codes or updating your contact information regularly, these are things that hackers rely on.
My complaint is that Google only shows “recent activity” and that is limited. Nowhere could I find login activity that was useful. My husband doesn’t even use an antivirus and stay logged in. But never gets hacked because he’s a computer genius and knows to be secure. He tells me that Google security is easier to break than is realized. ANd in no way should ANYONE use Google to secure Google. Always use third party tools to do full localized backups. I shouldve known better than to trust Google.
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Apr 20, 2021
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