As I put more and more of my work on Google Docs I can’t help but wonder what would happen if someone ever got access to my account. I think this is a fear for a lot of people. Not just with their personal email, but those same usernames and passwords that get us into our gmail also give us access to our Google+ accounts, our Google Docs, Picasa albums and potentially much more. This fear becomes even more tangible when you put business spreadsheets online like I talked about in a previous post. The power of linking web data to Google Spreadsheets makes it hard to say no to putting some of your valuable data on the web. So how to do you protect it?
One of the best ways I’ve found to protect my Google account is through 2-step verification. It’s a service provided by Google that turns on an extra layer of security on top of your password. This second layer is an 7 digit number that is refreshed every 30 seconds. You can have this secret number sent to you via text, email, or a smartphone. I use the iPhone app personally.
So say I borrow a friend’s computer to check my email. Instead of just entering my email and password, I’m also now prompted for my verification code. I pull out my phone and open the “Authenticator” app by Google and enter this number into the screen. Now I can see my email! For programs that use my account regularly, I can create an app-specific password. So I create those passwords for my desktop mail program, my calendar apps and that sort of thing.
Alright, so this sounds like a pretty good system after you get it set up, but what happens if my phone is stolen? How do I get my email then? When you set up 2-step verification Google also provides you with 10 permanent verification codes. You only see these codes once so you have to write them down in a safe spot. This will allow you to access your account once per emergency-code without your phone app.
It’s definitely not a decision to take lightly since messing up means loosing access to your gmail account. But for those who are worried about someone getting past their password, this adds some piece of mind and an extra barrier that could prove invaluable.
Referenced: Google 2-Step Verification