December 14, 2010

Priceless: Protecting Your Accounts

I am a big time user of Google products. I use Gmail, Google Reader, Google Docs, YouTube, and (of course!) Blogger. These Google services are all tied together with the same user name and password. So over Thanksgiving weekend when I got an alert on my email account that said someone in China had accessed my account, I hurried to change my password and make sure my account was secure.

Thankfully, nothing came of this and I have not had any further suspicious activity (that I'm aware of anyway). A friend of mine was not so lucky this week. Her Google account was hacked, spam was sent from her email account, and worst of all her blogs (personal and business) were deleted. I have two blogs, this one and my personal blog, that I love dearly and can only imagine the panic she must have felt. While Google is an awesome company, they are not known for their speedy service in matters like this.

So I wanted to take a minute to remind everyone to make sure all your IMPORTANT accounts are secure and have proper passwords. Don't worry too much about your junk email (which you should have if you're signing up for freebies) or passwords for sites like and the like. I'm talking about your REAL email and accounts like Facebook, Google, or online banking.

You know the old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is REALLY true in this case! There are some things that you just can't put a price on... so take a few minutes and make sure your accounts are as secure as they can be. The links below are for Gmail and Google accounts, but if you use a different program you can search for similar tips and tricks for the email program/provider you use.If someone ever accesses your account, change your password and security question IMMEDIATELY. If that doesn't work or you can't log in, you can begin the process to recover your account here. If you can't answer your security question be prepared to fill out a longer recovery form that might include questions about your account. Some of the recovery form questions you may not know the answer to, I've heard conflicting comments on whether it is better to leave an answer blank if you don't know it or just take your best guess.

If you happen to have a blog, there are a few additional things you can do to protect yourself as well:
  • Make sure your password is extra strong.
  • Regularly back up both your template (under the "Design" tab choose "Edit HTML" and then "Download Full Template") and, more importantly, your blog content (go to the "Settings-Basic" tab and click "Export Blog"). Name the exported blog file and then keep it in a safe place. Use Google's calendar to set up a reminder for yourself to do this as often as you would like. I would suggest at least monthly.
If you have a personal blog you might want to do this as well... email each post to yourself (under the "Settings"tab choose "Email & Mobile"). Then just set your email account to archive the emails immediately and they will never clutter up your inbox, but if you ever need them they will be there (photos and all). This will only cover future posts, past posts won't be emailed to you. You might also want to consider turning your blog into a book with a site like Blurb or Blog2Print.

These are just a few tips to get you started. There really isn't any way to completely protect yourself from computer criminals but at least try not to make their job easy! And just in case you were wondering about my friend, after a few days Google did investigate and re-open her account and blogs.

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