The news that five million Gmail usernames and passwords were stolen alarmed many in the industry. If Google’s servers aren’t safe, whose are? But Google quickly followed up the news with an announcement that the information was taken from a website not belonging to Google. The company has searched its own systems for signs of a compromise and have found nothing.
What to Do Now
Since Gmail powers many workplace email accounts, it’s important that businesses first protect any email accounts that might contain company data. Even if one employee is using a Gmail account for work duties, that employee should take measures to ensure his account is protected. To be safe, business leaders should send instructions to all employees on safeguarding their Gmail accounts, even if they don’t use them for work purposes.
Protecting your Gmail account is easy. The first step is to change your password, which can be done by clicking the down arrow next to the gear in the top-right corner. Choose Settings, then Accounts and Import. Change Password is at the top. You’ll be prompted to enter your old password and your new one twice. Try to shoot for a “Strong” password rating. Once you’ve changed your password, you’ll be taken to another settings screen. If 2-Step Verification is disabled, click the link to set it up and go through the steps. You’ll be notified via phone call or text message every time someone tries to access your Gmail through an untrusted device.
To help their own systems remain secure, businesses should urge employees to use passwords that are difficult to guess. Administrators can set this up as a requirement on all applications and file servers, making each employee have a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters in every password.
Another trap business users fall into is that of using password keepers. This is a solution to the many passwords we’re all required to keep up with, letting users remember one strong password to access all sites and applications. While acknowledging the usefulness of such tools, it’s important that businesses explore the encryption being used by the particular password keeper being used. If your administrator is responsible for keeping up with everyone’s master password through a console, the security on the console should be investigated, as well.
The Gmail breach is yet another reminder of how vulnerable electronic systems are. If your business employs the best industry-standard software for security and encourages safe password polices, your users can stay safe during large-scale hacking attempts.