How-To Geek

3 Quick Ways to Make Sure Your Google Account is Secure

Google accounts are a treasure trove of personal data for identity thieves. We’ve already covered setting up two-step authentication to secure your Google account, but there are a few more tricks you may not know about.

These Google features provide easy ways to monitor your account’s access history, manage the websites that can access your account, and control private information that may be leaking onto the Web.

Monitor Account Activity

Buried at the bottom of your Gmail inbox, you’ll find a Last Account Activity indicator. It’ll tell you when your account was last accessed; click the Details link to see more information.

The details window shows you your account activity at a glance. You’ll find a Recent Activity List here — as I can see from the * indicators and the IP address at the bottom of the window, all account activity is coming from my current IP address.

If there was activity coming from an unusual IP address — perhaps one half way around the world — I’d get an alert because my alert preference is to prompt on unusual account activity. This is the default. If the alert is disabled, you’ll probably want to click Change and set it to alert you.

If there active sessions elsewhere — maybe you forgot to log out on a public computer? — use the Sign Out All Other Sessions button to forcibly close them.

Check Authorized Sites & Apps

Website and apps can ask for permission to access your Google account. If you’ve been trying out various web services and apps, some of them may still have access to your account, even if you no longer use them.

First, open the Account Settings page from anywhere on Google.

On the Account Settings page, click the Edit link next to Authorizing Applications & Sites.

After entering your password, you’ll see the list of sites and apps that have access to your Google account.

Each website or app can have different permissions. Ones with permission to “Sign in using your Google account” can’t do anything more than use your Google account to confirm your identity, while ones with “Full Account Access” have access to your entire account. Many apps are somewhere in between — for example, the Picnik image editor has access to my Picasa Web Albums here. Other apps could have access to your Gmail account.

If you don’t use an app or website anymore, or just don’t like how many permissions it requires, click the Revoke Access link to remove access.

Check the Dashboard

Google’s Dashboard shows you everything Google knows about you. At the bottom of the Account Settings page where you found the Authorizing Applications & Sites link, click the “Visit the previous version of the Google accounts screen” link.

On the following page, click the “View data stored with this account” link.

From here, you can see what you’re sharing with the entire Internet or other Google users. Look for the icon that looks like a group of three people to see what you’re sharing. If you don’t want to share specific data, use the links next to the service to manage your shared data.

You can also remove data you don’t want Google to have. For example, if you’re done using Chrome and don’t want Google to remember your browser data, click the “Stop sync and delete data from Google” link to the right of the Chrome sync service.

If you notice anything amiss, particularly with access to your account from other locations, changing your password is a good idea. Click the Change Password link on your Account Settings page to change it.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 02/21/12

Comments (12)

  1. Allen

    These tips are pretty cool

  2. Cam2644

    Useful tips but an increasing number of people no longer have faith in Google and their apps when it comes to security.

  3. boysha

    Thanks Chris! Love Linux too… Cheers!

  4. Rob

    @Cam2644 Is that right? hmmmm, got a suggestion? Let me guess, ahhhm

  5. nobbywebfoot

    I do wish that your article had happened a couple of years ago before my account was hijacked and not only the password was changed but the secret question was changed, and I don’t know what else. I can still use Google search engine and Google sometimes tries to intervene in the payment for an online purchase, the latter I avoid. But what annoys me is that several protests over the years have failed to elicit any answer from Google and Google still uses my email address when it wants to send to the real me. The latter is a real puzzle. Still the little people don’t count so long as the big fella still sucks in the big dollars. What I would really like to do is stop those irritating Google notices with most of the words crossed out that keep appearing on my screen when I am on line! I feel really nasty about Google sometimes, perhaps they will really wake up when things start to fail.

  6. Art€

    Great tips; all common sense really, but until you’re confronted with ‘what’ is on your profile and what’s being collected then you can just make sure everything is A. O.K.! Thanks for the tips.

  7. Chris Hoffman


    The one thing you can try is Google’s Account Recovery process. I’ve never done this, so I don’t know exactly how it works:

  8. Anon

    Too bad gmail doesn’t show the last time Google was in your account sniffing around.

    It be massive logs.

  9. Dennis

    The info that:-

    ‘Buried at the bottom of your Gmail inbox, you’ll find a Last Account Activity indicator. It’ll tell you when your account was last accessed; click the Details link to see more information.’

    I can’t do that as Google ‘helpfully’ has placed its “Try the New Look’ link on top of it and I don’t want to do that!

  10. Harshal

    nice tips…very helpful, keep it!

  11. E.W.

    A couple years ago I was wishing I could sign on just once and get to everything in my account … Blog, GMail, Forums, You Tube… etc. Instead of having to re-sign in to each feature of Google.. it just didn’t make sense to me if I was still using the very same email address to sign into everything with. It was just redundant. I even told them that in a ‘Let us know what you think” note.

    Now that I can do that for most things…. I’m wondering if it’s such a good idea! Or maybe they haven’t done it right.???

  12. 202d

    carefully scroll over the stupid ‘try new look’ and a X will appear to close it withOUT changing the look. then the ‘details’ box will be under that. awesome how they pull that crap huh? and with many complaining about Google’s data mining, no one ever seems to bitch about Apple. I am Apple certified and I remember from the Apple class my instructor telling us how Stevie believed that EVERYTHING was relevant…if a customer took a piss twice an hour and tweeted it he though that was worth data basing…never know how you can use or sell info….

    data mining online…Apple #1, Google #2 {yeah thats worldwide}

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