Getting spam emails is irritating, finding out spam messages have been sent out from your account is even worse, but having someone hack into your email account and delete sometimes irreplaceable date – such as what happened to an experienced tech journalist – that’s definitely the worst!

Mat Honan, Senior Editor for Wired, had exactly that happen to him. Hackers not only broke into his Gmail, Amazon and iCloud accounts, but also deleted data from his iPhone, iPad and computer through iCloud’s Remote Wipe feature. Eventually, Honan managed to track the hackers down and he’s not trying to put his digital life together again, however some data is likely to be lost forever.

So this week, we’re going to show you how to prevent the same thing from happening to you! While Amazon has since changed their security policies, hackers are able to find a way around those in no time. Luckily, there’s ways to protect yourself!

It is fair to say that your email account needs the most protection. After all, most other accounts online link back to your email address, thereby giving hackers a way into your online existence – including bank accounts, financial records and other personal data. Worse, if you have devices connected to your iPad through iCloud, that data is all fair game as well.

How to avoid this?

Two-factor authentication! Google’s powerful feature that adds additional security levels to your Gmail account. While it takes a little work to set up initially, it’s sure worth the effort in the long run!

What does it do and how does it work?

While usually all you’d need to log into your Gmail account is your username and password, two-factor authentication will add the necessity to enter a verification code, which gets sent to your mobile phone. This means essentially that even if hackers manage to get your username and password, without access to your mobile phone they won’t get very far.

Alternatively to the code being sent as a text message, the Google Authenticator mobile app available on iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android, and BlackBerry will generate your verification codes.

How do I set this up?

The first step to set up the two-factor authentication is to sign into your Google Account and go to Settings. Click on your name (in the right corner at the top of the page), then Account.

You click on the Security tab, and then pick Edit next to ‘2-step verification’. Click Start Setup and type in the mobile phone number you want Google to sent your verification codes to. To test that it’s set up, Google will sent an SMS with a verification code. Type this in and click Verify.

The next step is to set up your Trusted Computer. If you check the box, it will only ask a verification code on a monthly basis on the device you’re using for the set-up, whether this be iPad or computer. If you share your iPad or computer with others, or you’re using a public device, make sure the box is unchecked. Gmail will then ask you for a verification code whenever you login.

Last step – click Confirm and you’re set up!

What if I use Outlook or Mail?

If you access your Gmail emails through an email client such as Outlook or Mail on your iPad or computer, you will have to change your settings. In order for those email clients to be able to access your email, you need to get back into your Gmail Security settings, to 2-step verification, and Edit.

Head down to Manage Application-Specific Passwords, change your password’s name in the Name field to something easily recognizable by you (i.e. Mail-iPad). Go to Generate Password, then a custom password will be displayed that by Google for that specific application. On the app you use to access your Gmail, copy and paste the password into the configuration screen. Be sure to do so immediately as the passwords will only be displayed once by Google for increased security.

The great thing about this service is that you can revoke passwords, in case you lose your iPad. This will cut off email access from the app, and is done easily by clicking Revoke next to the device-specific password.

But what if I lose my mobile phone?

Of course mobile phones can be lost, stolen or otherwise unavailable, so how would you access your Gmail account then? Verification codes can be generated in advance, which you can then store either digitally or print out for emergency access to your Gmail account.

Of course, Gmail’s two-factor authentication doesn’t make your account completely impenetrable, but it sure helps a great deal to keep hackers out of your email account.

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