Gmail is currently one of the most popular email platforms available online. Unfortunately, this also makes it one of the most targeted online services in the world. The truly frightening thing is that most of the users never actually realize that their Gmail account has been hacked.
Without taking the proper precautions, hackers can easily find backdoors that they can use in order to read your emails, even without logging into your email account.
Some of these are created by using the Gmail mobile application, the IMAP feature, and also more usual things such as email forwarding.
A quick way to see if anyone hacked your Gmail account is to use the “Last Account Activity” feature, however, there are better ways to monitor and secure your account, so that it will never be hacked again.
Bellow, you will find some of the ways in which you can easily determine if your Gmail account has been hacked or is monitored by someone. These tips can and should be used by all Gmail users, not just by those who suspect that their account has been tampered with. In the end, the best defense against hackers is prevention, and to do this, you must constantly monitor your accounts. This does not mean that you shouldn’t also use other methods to make your account more secure (Like choosing a complex password).
When most people hear the word “Hacker”, they think about an individual who uses his skills to rewrite lines of code in order to break into accounts and steal sensitive information. This can happen, but it tends to be too time-consuming for anyone to attempt it as an initial course of action. Most hackers use a practice called “Social Engineering” in order to gain access to your accounts, and they don’t have to break into the service provider’s servers or guess any passwords.
Hackers essentially use what they know about you, and the services that you openly use in order to gain your personal information which can then be used in order to reset all of your passwords (they can change the password to anything they want, or just log into your accounts as if they were you).
This is usually done with Facebook and Gmail accounts. Luckily, there are easy ways to see if your Gmail account has been hacked, without using 3rd party software.
Also, keep in mind that you do not have to have any technical skills in order to follow this guide. All the steps are extremely easy to follow.
Ways in which you can determine if your Gmail account has been hacked:
1. Using Gmail’s “Last account activity” feature
This feature was introduced a long time ago, however, very few people know of it, and even fewer use it. “Last account activity” enables you to track the location, time, method and IP from which your Gmail account was last accessed. When using it, it will display the last 10 logins, as well as the current one.
In order to use this feature, you have to go to your Gmail account, and then scroll down until you see “Last Account Activity”, followed by “Details”. Clicking on “Details” will open a new window containing all the information listed above. You can then look at where the account was accessed from and see if there are any locations that you do not recognize.
If you want to log out from everywhere else other than the device that you are currently using, then you can click on “Sign out all other web sessions”. Also, don’t forget that you can click on “Details”, below each entry, in order to see more in-depth information about the browser that was used, as well as the operating system.
2. Check for email forwarding traces
A common practice for hackers is to use another feature offered by Gmail. The only way in which hackers can save all the information contained in your messages is to forward your email to their inbox. Most of the time, they do not bother deleting the evidence due to the fact that not many people know of this feature. A lot of people do not even know that have a forwarding section on their settings page.
This having been said, in order to verify I a hacker is forwarding your email to his account, go to the settings page of your Gmail account, and click on “Forwarding and POP/IMAP”. At the top of the new page, you will see any address that your emails have been set to forward to. All that remains for you to do is to delete that command and click on “Save changes” on the bottom right of the page.
3. Check your POP and IMAP settings to see if anyone can link to your Gmail account
POP and IMAP are two security protocols that basically allow you to access your email inbox using 3rd party clients, like Windows 10’s “Mail” application.
The problem with using these protocols is that it enables anyone to access your email as long as they know the password. So it is better to deactivate these two protocols from your account’s settings page if you’re not using them. This will immediately deactivate the link between any 3rd party email apps and your account.
Other than this, please remember to change your password regularly. Even if you have a strong password that includes uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as various numbers and symbols, the best way to ensure that your account is safe is to change your password every couple of months.
Also, Gmail offers you the ability to enable “2-step verification”. This means that every time someone wants to log into your account from a new computer, he or she will have to insert a code that will be sent to your cell phone by SMS. This is a great way to secure your account due to the fact that your cell phone will act as an additional key, on top of the password.
Nobody is saying that you should be paranoid about the security of your accounts, however, avoid being too confident of your passwords. Make a habit out of monitoring your account activity and enable “2-step verification” features whenever you have the chance.