Securing Google

I’ve been using my Google account to store increasing amounts of information.  It started with Gmail and moved on to Docs and Calendar.  It’s very handy to have access to my email and documents, especially research notes and other useful information, from any computer with an Internet connection.

But the more I stored on Google the more I worried about the safety of my information.  Admittedly I am paranoid when it comes to security but it troubled me that I was storing so much potentially sensitive information on publicly accessible servers, signing in on a number of computers and protecting it all with a keyloggable username and password.

Then I read this article and configured two-factor authentication on my Google account.  In a nutshell you sign in with your Google username and password and it then sends you a SMS message (or phones you using an automated voice system) with a six digit number which you have to enter before you can access your account.  You can configure several phone numbers including landlines.

There are issues if you need to use your Google account details somewhere other than the Google web interface.  This article goes into more detail but with the two-factor authentication in place I lost access to Gmail through the mobile app and my home email client.  Google will generate passwords for anything like this but they are complex and you can only view them once in order to enter them where required.  After this a password must be revoked and a new one generated if you need to re-enter it.  This will be a problem if an application is not able to store this view-once password.

For me personally the benefits, or at least my perception of improved security, far outweigh the niggle of occasionally generating a new password when my mobile’s Gmail app loses my account details.


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