Never Get Hacked Again – Protect Your GMail Account in 5 Minutes

What do the following people have in common?

  • Kim Kardashian
  • Mel Gibson
  • Ashton Kutcher
  • Jay-Z
  • Beyoncé
  • Paris Hilton
  • Chris Christie
  • Michelle Obama
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Al Gore
  • Joe Biden
  • Eric Holder

They’ve all been victims of a hacking spree.

You have probably seen an email or two from a friend who has been mugged in London and desperately needs $1,000 wired to them in the next 3 hours.  Or perhaps you’ve been a victim of these types of schemes.  Fortunately, your friend is probably at home and unharmed.  Unfortunately, their account has been hacked.  This could have been easily prevented if they had taken 5 minutes to protect their account.  Here’s how you can do just that.

 This could have been easily prevented if they had taken 5 minutes to protect their account.

The Risk of a Hacked GMail Account

This post is perfect for anyone who has a GMail account, but hasn’t taken the time to secure it.  If a hacker gets into your GMail account (and they probably can), they can send e-mails to all your unsuspecting friends and family asking for money.  What’s perhaps even worse, however, is that once a hacker has access to your GMail address (and, by extension, your Google account), they can install software on your Android phone to take pictures, make a voice recording, or to steal critical information.

Once a hacker has access to your GMail address, they can install software on your Android phone to take pictures, make a voice recording, or to steal critical information.

Take 5 Minutes to Protect Yourself

What 2-factor authentication does is make it much, much harder to hack your account.  It’s the difference between plastering your password on a billboard along the side of the highway, and writing it down on a small piece of paper and throwing it out the window onto the shoulder.  If someone wants your password badly enough, they’ll get it in either case.  With the billboard, they’ll just have to work much harder.

The good news is that it’s extremely easy to protect yourself.  You can enable 2-factor authentication on your account, and below, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions on how to do this.  Let’s be clear about what this does.  It doesn’t guarantee your account will never be hacked.  No one can make that guarantee.  What 2-factor authentication does is make it much, much harder to hack your account.  It’s the difference between plastering your password on a billboard along the side of the highway, and writing it down on a small piece of paper and throwing it out the window onto the shoulder.  If someone wants your password badly enough, they’ll get it in either case.  With the billboard, they’ll just have to work much harder.

What You Need to Add Protection From Hackers

  • A GMail account
  • A phone (it does not have to be an Android phone or even a smartphone).  These steps work with any phone that can get text messages.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Sign into your GMail account on a web browser.
  • Click on your name in the upper right corner.
  • Click on “Account”

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  • From your account page, click on “Security”

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  • Find the section where it says “2-step verification” and click “Settings”

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  • Read the information about 2-step authentication, then click “Start Setup”

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  • If you have set up a phone number for your GMail account, it will send an SMS or to, or place a voice call to that number.  Click one of these options, then click “Send code”.  Don’t be silly and ask for an SMS code to a landline that can’t get text messages please.

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  • Enter the code you received and click “Verify”

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  • On the next screen, you can optionally decide if you want to “trust” this computer.  That means you don’t have to go through the process of entering a code every time you log in to this computer.  If this is the library PC or any kind of shared PC, uncheck the box.  If it is a personal computer, make sure the box is checked and click “Next>”

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  • Read the confirmation note and click “Confirm” if you agree.

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If you’re happy with getting your code via text messages, you’re done.  Congrats!  If you would rather have access from an app, read on:

  • You will get a confirmation screen.  Click on “Android”, “iPhone”, or “Blackberry” if you have one of these phones.
  • You will get a pop-up window with a QR Code for your account.  Skip the QR Code for now, and click “Can’t Scan Barcode”

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  • You will get a 16-digit code for your device.  WRITE THIS DOWN SOMEPLACE SAFE.  IF YOU LOSE THIS AND YOU ALSO LOSE THE BACKUP CODES, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ACCESS YOUR ACCOUNT!!!
  • Now you need to go to the Play Store and download Authenticator to your phone.  Click here if you have an Android phone.
  • Click “Install” to install and select your device to install the app.  Alternatively, search for “Google Authenticator” on the Play Store on your device.

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  • Run Authenticator on your phone and tap “Menu”, then “Set up account”.
  • Tap “Enter a code manually”, and enter the 16-digit code you wrote down earlier.

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  • The Authenticator app will generate a 6-digit code.  Enter the confirmation code generated by the app into the confirmation window in the browser.
  • Click “Backup Codes”.  You’ll get a pop-up.  PRINT THESE CODES AND PUT THEM SOMEPLACE SAFE!!!!   If you lose your phone or reset it so the Authenticator app is no longer installed, you will LOSE ACCESS TO YOUR ACCOUNT UNLESS YOU HAVE A BACKUP CODE.

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Your GMail account is now 100x more secure than it was before!

Why the App Method is Better Than Just Getting Text Messages

  1. You don’t have to worry about any SMS fees.
  2. The code will be generated on a time-basis.  IT WILL WORK WITHOUT A DATA PLAN AND WITHOUT ANY CELL PHONE SIGNAL.  So if you’re in the Canadian Yukon and you don’t have access to your text messages or a data plan, run the app and you’ll get the code.  Note that the code changes every minute.  There’s an indicator next to the code that shows how much longer it is valid.

What You Should Know About Google Authenticator:

  • I’ll repeat it here because it’s that important:
  • Click “Backup Codes”.  You’ll get a pop-up.  PRINT THESE CODES AND PUT THEM SOMEPLACE SAFE!!!!   If you lose your phone or reset it so the Authenticator app is no longer installed, you will LOSE ACCESS TO YOUR ACCOUNT UNLESS YOU HAVE A BACKUP CODE OR THE 16-digit code.
  • When you get a new phone, enter the 16-digit code you wrote down when you clicked “Can’t scan the barcode?” as described above.
  • DO NOT LOSE THE BACKUP CODES OR THE 16-DIGIT CODE.
  • DO NOT LOSE THE BACKUP CODES OR THE 16-DIGIT CODE.
  • DO NOT LOSE THE BACKUP CODES OR THE 16-DIGIT CODE.
  • DO NOT PUT THE 16-DIGIT CODE, BACKUP CODES, AND YOUR GMAIL PASSWORD IN A FILE CALLED “GMAIL ACCOUNT INFO”.  If someone wants to get in, they’ll be able to do so easily.  Remember the difference between the billboard and the scrap of paper above?  If you’re going to save the information on your computer, at least put it out of sight, make sure you are the only one who uses the computer, and that it is password-protected.

Have fun.  Rest safe.  Your GMail account is much safer now.  You’re not completely safe if the mafia really wants to get into your account, but you’re 100x more safer than you were a few minutes ago.

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