How not to get tricked: Your favorite online safety tips

Whether it’s defending yourself from identity thieves or removing bad software from your family’s computer, it’s important to know how to stay safe online. Over the course of the past few months, we’ve explored the simple steps you can take to help keep yourself, your family and the web safer. And in celebration of October's National Cyber Security Awareness Month, for the past 30 days we’ve posted a daily tip on how to #staysafe online.

Even though our favorite month of the year is about to end, it’s good to know how to stay safe all year round. Here are the top five most popular tips from the month:

Security and privacy are important and Google provides tools to help you protect yourself and your information. For example, 2-Step Verification adds another layer of security to your Google Account. Google+ Circles and YouTube settings help you control what you share and keep your information private if you want to keep it to yourself. Verify Apps helps protect your phone from malware, and Android Device Manager will ring your phone and locate it on a map to help you find your device if you lose it (and remotely delete your information from the device if you can’t get it back).

For more information on how to stay safe and improve your online security and privacy, visit our Good to Know site, which has more information and details about Google’s tools and helpful advice on staying safe.

Don’t get locked out: set up recovery options for your Google Account

This summer we’re posting regularly with privacy and security tips. Knowing how to stay safe and secure online is important, which is why we created our Good to Know site with advice and tips for safe and savvy Internet use. -Ed.

Strong passwords help protect your accounts and information on the web. But forgetting your password is like losing your keys—you can end up locked out of your own home. It gets worse if your password gets compromised or stolen. Sometimes the thief will change your password so you can't get back into your own account—kind of like someone stealing your keys and then changing the lock.

If you've lost your Google password, you need a way to get back into your Google Account—and back to all of your stuff in Gmail, Maps, Google+ and YouTube. To help you, Google needs to be able to tell that you’re the rightful account owner even if you don't have the right password. There are a few easy steps you can take right now to make it easy for you—and no one else—to get into your Google Account if you forget or don’t know the password.

1. Add a recovery email address. By registering an alternate email address with your Google Account settings, you’re giving Google another way to reach you. If you forget your password, Google can send a link to that recovery email address so you can reset your password. Google can also use that email address to let you know if we detect something suspicious happening with your account.

Setting up your recovery options can help you get back in
if you get locked out of your Google Account

2. Add a phone number to your Google Account. Your mobile phone is the best way to regain access to your account if you forget your password. It's like the "fast lane" for account recovery: we text a code to the phone number you've registered with us, and you're back in business in no time. Your phone is more secure and reliable than other means of recovering your account. Methods like “secret” questions (asking your mother’s maiden name or city where you were born) may have answers that are easy to remember, but they are also possible for bad guys to uncover. And we’ve consistently seen that people who register a recovery phone are faster and more successful at getting their accounts back than those recovering their accounts via email.

You can also get a text message if Google detects that something suspicious is going on with your account. Giving a recovery phone number to Google won’t result in you being signed up for marketing lists or getting more calls from telemarketers.

3. Keep your recovery options up to date. It’s a good idea to check your recovery options every so often. For example, if you change your phone number after setting up your recovery options, take just a minute to update your recovery settings to match. We'll remind you of your current settings every so often to make it easier for you to keep them up to date.

That’s it! You can either update your recovery options next time you’re prompted, or you can take two minutes to do it right now on our Account recovery options page. For more advice on how to protect yourself and your family online, visit our Good to Know site, or check out some of the other posts in our series on staying safe and secure.

Dude, where’s my phone? Simple steps to protect your Android device this summer.

This summer we’re posting regularly with privacy and security tips. Knowing how to stay safe and secure online is important, which is why we created our Good to Know site with advice and tips for safe and savvy Internet use. -Ed.

With summer vacation in full swing, you’re likely out and about, using your smartphone or tablet to get answers on the go or check out the latest cool apps and games. But you don’t have to leave safety at home! In this post, we’re sharing a few tips and tools that you can easily set up if you’re on an Android phone or tablet to keep your device—and the contents inside—safe and secure, including a new service that makes it easy to locate a misplaced device.

1. Lock your device screen. Whether you’re on a phone or a tablet, it’s easy to set up a screen lock. This is important to do in case your device gets left in the back of a car, or you’re worried about someone picking up your phone and scrolling through your stuff. You can lock your device with a pin, password, pattern (or even your face!) by going to Settings > Personal > Security > Screen Lock.
2. Protect your phone from suspicious apps. We automatically scan Google Play to block and remove harmful apps. That makes Google Play the safest place to get Android apps. But Google Play can also help protect you even for apps you get elsewhere, like the web or a third-party app store. The first time you start to install an app from an unknown source, a message will pop up asking if you’d like Google to scan the file to make sure it’s not harmful. Tap “OK” to let Google help protect you from harmful apps.

3. Locate, ring and wipe a misplaced device. Have you ever lost your phone in between the couch cushions or left it in a restaurant? Later this month, you will be able to use a new service called Android Device Manager, which can quickly ring your phone at maximum volume so you can find it (even if it’s been silenced), or locate it on a map, in real time, using Android Device Manager. If your phone can’t be recovered, or has been stolen, you can quickly and securely erase all of the data on your device to keep your data from ending up in the wrong hands. The Android Device Manager will be available for devices running Android 2.2 and above, as part of Google Play. You can read the full announcement on the Android blog.
For more advice on how to protect yourself and your family online, visit our Good to Know site, and stay tuned for more posts in our security series.

A few easy tools the whole family will love

This summer we’re posting regularly with privacy and security tips. Knowing how to stay safe and secure online is important, which is why we created our Good to Know site with advice and tips for safe and savvy Internet use. -Ed.

Summer is here, and with kids out of school it is a great time for families to explore the web together—from learning what makes fireflies glow to playing online games together. But while there is a lot of entertaining, educational content online, there are also materials I’d rather not see when I’m surfing the web with my family. Google has built a number of tools that parents can use to help keep content they would rather not see from popping up on the family computer. It takes less than five minutes to turn them on, so follow the steps below to help make your search results more family-friendly this summer.

1. Turn on SafeSearch in Google Search
Turning on SafeSearch is an easy way to help you hide images, search results and videos intended just for adults. It’s especially helpful if you’re concerned about the content that might pop up on your family computer, and it’s easy to turn on. Just visit the Google Search Settings page, go to the "SafeSearch filters" section, and check the box to filter mature content from Google Search result pages. These preferences will apply for any searches done using that browser on your computer. If you have multiple browsers on your family computer, you might want to turn SafeSearch on for each one.

You can turn SafeSearch on or off from the Search Settings page

2. Save and lock your preferences
Once you’ve set your preferences, make sure to click the Save button at the bottom of the page. And if you're signed in to your Google Account, you can also lock the SafeSearch filter so others can’t change your preferences—just click “Lock SafeSearch.” Now the setting is protected with your Google Account password. While no filter is 100 percent perfect, with SafeSearch on you can feel more confident browsing the web with your family.

3. Turn on YouTube Safety Mode
YouTube Safety Mode helps you and your family avoid videos that might be OK with our Community Guidelines, but you might not want popping up on your family computer. Turning on Safety Mode in YouTube takes just one step. Scroll down to the bottom of any YouTube page and click on the button that says “Safety” at the bottom of the page—now you can choose your preferences for Safety Mode.

Click the button that says “Safety” at the bottom of any YouTube page, and then choose your preferences

4. Lock your Safety Mode preferences
Just like with Safe Search, you can also log in with your Google Account and lock YouTube Safety Mode on each one of your computer’s browsers. It will filter videos with mature content, so they won’t show up in video search results, related videos, playlists, shows or films. YouTube Safety Mode will also help hide objectionable comments.

5. Turn on SafeSearch on mobile
SafeSearch is available on your phone or other mobile device, as well as the web. You can turn on SafeSearch for Google on your mobile device by opening your phone’s browser and visiting Scroll to the SafeSearch Filters section to select what level of filtering you would like to enable. Be sure to tap “Save Preferences” after you’ve made your selection.

To enable SafeSearch on YouTube’s mobile app, first open your settings, then press “Search.” From there, select “SafeSearch Filtering” and select moderate or strict filtering.

Helping your family have a positive and safe experience with Google is important to you, and it’s important to us, too. That’s why we’ve partnered with parents and experts on free and easy to use tools and resources to help your family stay safe and secure when browsing online. If you’re interested in even more of our tools and tips, please see our Good to Know site, and stay tuned for more security tips throughout the summer.

Securing your WiFi network

This post is part of a regular series of privacy and security tips to help you and your family stay safe and secure online. Privacy and security are important topics—they matter to us, and they matter to you. Building on our Good to Know site with advice for safe and savvy Internet use, we hope this information helps you understand the choices and control that you have over your online information. -Ed.

More than a quarter of Internet users worldwide use WiFi at home to connect to the web, but many aren't sure how to protect their home network, or why it is important to do so. The best way to think of your home WiFi network is to think of it like your front door: you want a strong lock on both to ensure your safety and security.

When data is in transit over an unsecured WiFi network, the information you’re sending or receiving could be intercepted by someone nearby. Your neighbors might also be able to use the network for their own Internet activities, which might slow down your connection. Securing your network can help keep your information safe when you’re connecting wirelessly, and can also help protect the devices that are connected to your network.

If you’re interested in improving your home WiFi security, the steps below can help make your home network safer.

1. Check to see what kind of home WiFi security you already have.
Do your friends need to enter a password to get on your network when they visit your house for the first time and ask to use your WiFi? If they don’t, your network isn’t as secure as it could be. Even if they do need to enter a password, there are a few different methods of securing your network, and some are better than others. Check what kind of security you have for your network at home by looking at your WiFi settings. Your network will likely either be unsecured, or secured with WEP, WPA or WPA2. WEP is the oldest wireless security protocol, and it’s pretty weak. WPA is better than WEP, but WPA2 is best.

2. Change your network security settings to WPA2.
Your wireless router is the machine that creates the WiFi network. If you don’t have your home network secured with WPA2, you’ll need to access your router’s settings page to make the change. You can check your router’s user manual to figure out how to access this page, or look for instructions online for your specific router. Any device with a WiFi trademark sold since 2006 is required to support WPA2. If you have a router that was made before then, we suggest upgrading to a new router that does offer WPA2. It’s safer and can be much faster.

3. Create a strong password for your WiFi network.
To secure your network with WPA2, you’ll need to create a password. It’s important that you choose a unique password, with a long mix of numbers, letters and symbols so others can’t easily guess it. If you’re in a private space such as your home, it’s OK to write this password down so you can remember it, and keep it somewhere safe so you don’t lose it. You might also need it handy in case your friends come to visit and want to connect to the Internet via your network. Just like you wouldn’t give a stranger a key to your house, you should only give your WiFi password to people you trust.

4. Secure your router too, so nobody can change your settings.
Your router needs its own password, separate from the password you use to secure your network. Routers come without a password, or if they do have one, it’s a simple default password that many online criminals may already know. If you don’t reset your router password, criminals anywhere in the world have an easy way to launch an attack on your network, the data shared on it and the computers connected to your network. For many routers, you can reset the password from the router settings page. Keep this password to yourself, and make it different from the one you use to connect to the WiFi network (as described in step 3). If you make these passwords the same, then anyone who has the password to connect to your network will also be able to change your wireless router settings.

5. If you need help, look up the instructions.
If you’ve misplaced your router’s manual, type the model number of your base station or router into a search engine—in many cases the info is available online. Otherwise, contact the company that manufactured the router or your Internet Service Provider for assistance.

Please check out the video below to learn more about the simple but important steps you can take to improve the security of your Internet browsing.

For more advice on how to protect yourself and your family online, visit our Good to Know site, and stay tuned for more posts in our security series.

Helping passwords better protect you

Knowing how to stay safe and secure online is important, which is why we created our Good to Know site with advice and tips for safe and savvy Internet use. Starting today, we'll also be posting regularly with privacy and security tips. We hope this information helps you understand the choices and control that you have over your online information. -Ed.

It could be your Gmail, your photos or your documents—whatever you have in your Google Account, we work hard to make sure it’s protected from would-be identity thieves, other bad guys, or any illegitimate attempts to access your information.

But you can also help keep your information safe. Think of how upset you would be if someone else got access to your Google Account without your permission, and then take five minutes to follow the steps below and help make it more secure. Let’s start with the key to unlocking your account—your password:

1. Use a different password for each important service
Make sure you have a different password for every important online account you have. Bad guys will steal your username and password from one site, and then use them to try to log into lots of other sites where you might have an account. Even large, reputable sites sometimes have their password databases stolen. If you use the same password across many different sites, there’s a greater chance it might end up on a list of stolen passwords. And the more accounts you have that use that password, the more data you might lose if that password is stolen.

Giving an account its own, strong password helps protect you and your information in that account. Start today by making sure your Google Account has a unique password.

2. Make your password hard to guess
“password.” “123456.” “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!” These examples are terrible passwords because everyone knows them—including potential attackers. Making your passwords longer or more complicated makes them harder to guess for both bad guys and people who know you. We know it’s hard: the average password is shorter than 8 characters, and many just contain letters. In a database of 32 million real passwords that were made public in 2009, analysis showed (PDF) only 54 percent included numbers, and only 3.7 percent had special characters like & or $.

One way to build a strong password is to think of a phrase or sentence that other people wouldn’t know and then use that to build your password. For example, for your email you could think of a personal message like “I want to get better at responding to emails quickly and concisely” and then build your password from numbers, symbols, and the first letters of each word—“iw2gb@r2eq&c”. Don’t use popular phrases or lyrics to build your password—research suggests that people gravitate to the same phrases, and you want your password to be something only you know.

Google doesn’t restrict password length, so go wild!

3. Keep your password somewhere safe
Research shows (PDF) that worrying about remembering too many passwords is the chief reason people reuse certain passwords across multiple services. But don’t worry—if you’ve created so many passwords that it’s hard to remember them, it’s OK to make a list and write them down. Just make sure you keep your list in a safe place, where you won’t lose it and others won’t be able to find it. If you’d prefer to manage your passwords digitally, a trusted password manager might be a good option. Chrome and many web browsers have free password managers built into them, and there are many independent options as well—take a few minutes to read through reviews and see what would be best for your needs.

4. Set a recovery option

Have you ever forgotten your password? Has one of your friends ever been locked out of their account? Setting a recovery option, like an alternate email address or a telephone number, helps give the service provider another way to contact you if you are ever locked out of your account. Having an up-to-date recovery phone or email address is the best thing you can do to make sure you can get back into your account fast if there is ever a problem.

If you haven’t set a recovery option for your Google Account, add one now. If you have, just take a second to make sure it’s up to date.

We have more tips on how to pick a good password on our Help Center, and in the video below:

Your online safety and privacy is important to you, and it’s important to us, too. We’ve made a huge amount of progress to help protect your Google Account from people who want to break into it, but for the time being, creating a unique, strong password is still an important way to protect your online accounts. Please take five minutes today to reset your important passwords using the tips above, and stay tuned for more security tips throughout the summer.