Homeless in Vancouver: Check your Google account security and get 2GBs of free cloud storage

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      Google celebrated the 12th annual Safer Internet Day (February 9) by offering 2GBs of free additional Google Drive cloud storage to any user who completes a simple security check of their account. (Last year Google made the same offer for two weeks, so you have some time.)

      And seeing as a Google account can encompass so much personal content these days—from contacts, scheduling and email, to photos, storage and spreadsheets—it’s a good idea to check the currency of your security settings at least once a year.

      One caution to users of pre iOS 6 devices and Windows 8.1 phones, as well as desktop mail clients—DO NOT allow Google to block access to what it considers are less secure apps.

      Otherwise, just click the link to the Google Security Checkup. Sign in to your Google account and follow the instructions. The whole four-step process only takes a few minutes.

      Step one involves reviewing your recovery information—the phone number, secondary email address, and security question that Google will use to contact you if something goes wrong with your account.

      Google also wants to verify your phone number, which involves you clicking the “Verify” button and then entering the six-digit code that Google texts to the recovery number.

      In my case, I don’t use a cellphone but the phone number of my cellular Internet stick (which can receive SMS text messages) works just as well.

      Step two involves reviewing the list of devices connected to your account, to make sure that they all belong to you.

      The latest thing in security is not backwards compatibility

      Step three involves disallowing or allowing access for less secure apps. Google is asking users for permission to block sign-in attempts from “apps or devices that do not use modern security standards”, in order to keep accounts safe.

      Some apps that Google believes do not support the latest security standards:

      • The Mail app used on iPhones or iPads with iOS 6 or below
      • The Mail app on Windows phones older than the 8.1 release
      • Some Desktop mail clients like Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird

      This would appear to block anyone accessing Google using a 3G or older iPhone, a third-generation or older iPod Touch, not to mention a lot of Windows and Linux users!

      I use Mozilla Thunderbird for Windows so that means that I enable access for less secure apps—I will also be looking into the supposed insecurity of Thunderbird.

      If Google feels strongly enough about this, then the day may be coming when it won’t allow users to opt-in access for older apps.

      Step four involves reviewing account permissions, again to make sure that nothing and no one is pulling a fast one on you. (Chrome has permission to run up my credit card? Well okay, I guess.)

      Before you know it, you’re on the “Nicely done, you’re all set” screen and Google is informing you:

      “To help celebrate Safer internet Day 2016, we added 2GB of free Drive storage to your Google account because you completed the Security Checkup”.

      Happy Safer Internet Day 2016. Remember, there’s a bounty of a shiny nickel for every Internet troll you bag before sundown.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.