How to check if your Gmail is hacked

Gmail by Bhupinder Nayyar

If you are worried about the recent leak of around 5 million Gmail user names and passwords on the internet and would like to check if yours was included, check out the following website:

https://isleaked.com

Just enter your Gmail address and it will tell you if it’s part of the database of hacked accounts. Don’t worry, the website is legit. I used it and was relieved to find out that none of my Gmail accounts were hacked.

If yours was, change your password now and even activate Google’s two-factor verification to make your account more secure.

Google has responded that the leak was not due to a successful attack that compromised their servers or network. Rather the database was a collection of Gmail accounts that were obtained through phishing, malware, or other means. So again, be careful with what email you open, link that you click and website that you provide your email address and other personal information to. Lastly, make it a habit to change your passwords every now and then and avoid using the same password across your online accounts. If you’re Facbook account gets hacked, all your other accounts will be hacked too.

Gmail logo is owned by Google, Inc.

Gmail becomes more secure with HTTPS-only

Great news from the Gmail team, something that will put our minds at ease knowing that our email will be more secure. Nicolas Lidzborski, Gmail Security Engineering Lead, writes on the Gmail blog:

Starting today, Gmail will always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when you check or send email. Gmail has supported HTTPS since the day it launched, and in 2010 we made HTTPS the default. Today’s change means that no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between you and Gmail’s servers—no matter if you’re using public WiFi or logging in from your computer, phone or tablet.

In addition, every single email message you send or receive—100% of them—is encrypted while moving internally. This ensures that your messages are safe not only when they move between you and Gmail’s servers, but also as they move between Google’s data centers—something we made a top priority after last summer’s revelations.

To recall, it has been revealed that the US government through its National Security Agency has been spying on US citizens through its PRISM program part of which is the routine interception of electronic mail from major providers like Google.

There’s no word whether other email providers would do the same but we can all bet that they will step up to what Google did today.

Belated happy 20th birthday to the Internet

What better way to return to blogging than to give my birthday greetings to the Internet which had just turned 20 last August 6 according to Sir Tim Berners-Lee because on the same date in 1991, the very first web page was born.

Happy Birthday

It’s amazing to look back on how much the Internet has changed the world, especially mine. If I recall it right, the very first time I encountered the Internet was when a friend of mine told me that I could look for pictures of Ferrari F1 cars using Google. It was after my introduction to the sport back in 1999. It was the British GrandPrix where F1 champion Michael Schumacher had that infamous crash resulting in a broken leg that forced him to sit out most of the season’s remainder. Since then, I had become an F1 enthusiast and a fan of the Ferrari F1 team.

After abusing Google for pictures of Ferrari cars, my next obsession was fanfiction stories based on the Gundam Wing series. It was around during that time that the anime was shown on GMA 7. Every day, I rushed home from school just to catch an episode.

Come 2002, in my last months of high school, my buddies succeeded in recruiting me to join Friendster, which was king of social networking sites back then, at least in the Philippines, and started to regularly haunt Internet shops to roam the world wide web.

Shortly, I stumbled upon HTML, free web hosts and Blogger.com. Two years later, I started The Four-eyed Journal, on a subdomain of a website intended for the fledgling advocacy group Lasallian Students for Justice and Peace in DLSU-D using WordPress.

Then I got on board Gmail via an invite from my college mentor, soon after I was blessed with a free .com.ph domain that has been the home of this blog since 2002.

Along the way, I received many checks and PayPal payments from Google, Text Link Ads, Chitika, LinkWorth and PayPerPost. The foreign exchange rates back then allowed me to stay in college and get my own laptop PC. The more fun part of it was the chance to meet a lot of cool folks, fellow bloggers and advocates locally and from around the globe.

It has been an incredible journey so far and I can’t imagine life without the Internet. We may be still stuck with pen and phone pals but I’ve had no regrets so far. Cheers to another 20 years and more of the Internet!

Image by Will Clayton

Send Email Using @facebook.com from Gmail

Do you already have your own Facebook email address? This new feature came with the new Facebook Messages wherein your Facebook account becomes the central hub for your communications: email, Facebook messages, chats and text.

It’s a cool new feature and definitely a welcome update to Facebook that once more proves why it is the king of all social networking sites today.

No matter how cool it is to send email with ‘@facebook.com’ address, I still prefer Gmail in handling my e-mail. So I thought of ‘merging’ the two: being able to compose and send email using Gmail but with my ‘@facebook.com’ address listed as the sender.

I did this by using Gmail’s Sending mail from a different address feature. It’s quite easy to setup and if you’ve done this before the whole exercise could be done in less than five minutes.

The steps are easy, once logged in to your Gmail account, click on the gear icon in the upper-right and select Gmail settings and select the Accounts and Import tab.

1. Under Send mail as, click Add another email address

2. In the ‘Email address’ field, enter your name and your @facebook.com address

Facebook mail

3. Choose the option to use Facebook’s SMTP servers.

4. Click Next Step then ‘Send Verfication.’ Gmail will send a verficiation message to your Facebook inbox.

Gmail verification email

5. Open that message and copy the verification code in the Accounts section of your Gmail settings.

Use your @facebook.com address from within Gmail

And you’re done! You can now send an email from your Gmail account and have your Facebook email address appear as the sender. Of course replies to that email would still go to your Facebook Messages Inbox but now you can send messages outside Facebook and use Gmail’s neat features like formatting, attaching large files etc.

I haven’t gone around to using a desktop mail client like Thunderbird to manage my @facebook.com email yet. Perhaps somebody else has done it already, but that’s for another time. Hopefully, this simple tutorial will help those who like to use their Facebook email address but retain the neat features of Gmail.

Did Google Over-react to Facebook Messages?

The face-off between Google and Facebook over data-exportability has been the talk of the web these past few days.

It started when Google blocked Facebook from importing users’ Gmail contacts. The move was apparently aimed to stop or derail an upcoming project Facebook was working which has been speculated as an ‘email/Gmail killer’ giving birth to a messaging service that will give users the coveted ‘@facebook.com’ email address.

It turns out that Facebook was indeed working on a messaging service dubbed ‘Project Titan’. But as clarified by Mark Zuckerberg:

Today I’m excited to announce the next evolution of Messages. You decide how you want to talk to your friends: via SMS, chat, email or Messages. They will receive your message through whatever medium or device is convenient for them, and you can both have a conversation in real time. You shouldn’t have to remember who prefers IM over email or worry about which technology to use. Simply choose their name and type a message.

We are also providing an @facebook.com email address to every person on Facebook who wants one. Now people can share with friends over email, whether they’re on Facebook or not. To be clear, Messages is not email. There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and you can send a message by hitting the Enter key. We modeled it more closely to chat and reduced the number of things you need to do to send a message. We wanted to make this more like a conversation.

So, since ‘Titan’ is just Messages which is not a new email service but rather a ‘hub’ that allows Facebook users to communicate directly to their friends outside of Facebook, would Google still block Facebook from importing data from Gmail?

Or would Facebook Messages and other social networking sites for that matter, indirectly and slowly kill email since by Zuckerberg’s own account, discovered that high school students aka the young ones today, rarely use email, people would just signup to Facebook since they will not be completely in a ‘walled garden’ anymore.

For now, as long as Facebook requires an email address for an individual to open account, then Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, etc would still have its relevance and use.

Free phone calls via Gmail

When we talk about internet calls, Skype immediately comes to mind. Not Yahoo! Messenger for it’s mainly used for video chatting, nor Windows Live Messenger because very few are using it. There’s Google Voice but…oh you get the picture. Skype is still the king when it comes to making free calls over the Internet.

Google is looking to change that by offering free phone calls right inside Gmail. Here’s a video they put out to explain in their signature cartoon fashion:

Phone calls to the U.S. and Canada are free until the end of 2010 and for now it’s only available for Gmail users in the U.S.

Calls to other countries like U.K., France, Germany, China, Japan are as low as $0.02 per minute. That’s Php0.90 which is comparable to what Globe, Smart and PLDT are offering nowadays of IDD calls.

The service will be rolled out to non-US Gmail users in the coming years but I can’t wait for it already. To think that my Skype account is barely a month old, I would have ditched it right away had Google made their phone call offering available worldwide right away.

Back to using Gmail’s own rich-text email signatures

Being a loyal Gmail user for years, I’ve come to accept and make do with the few shortcomings it had. One of the most elementary is the lack of support for rich-text email signatures back then.

But as social networking sites become more popular, the urge to promote our various profiles became stronger. One of the most powerful and effective means of doing it is via our email signatures. Gmail didn’t supported it back then so hooks, hacks, Greasemonkey scripts, browser plugins, and even using canned responses from Gmail Labs were quick fixes.

One of the best solutions out there is WiseStamp Email Signatures. It provides extensions for most popular browsers that allows us to insert our own fancy email signatures to every email we send. It’s core strength is the ability to include icons representing popular social networking sites with a link to each of our respective profiles, RSS feed, IM services and more.

It can even provide custom email signatures tailored for personal or business email accounts. So after being reminded by Jaypee that I had installed the WiseStamp extension for Chrome last April, I had been using it to append my customized and cool email signature up until today.

Why until today? I have disabled the WiseStamp extension on my Chrome browser and have stopped using it. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed using it but the minimalist inside me was awakened when the Gmail team had finally enabled rich-text signatures for Gmail last month. On top of that, it also supports a specific email signature for each email address associated with my Gmail account.

Gmail-Rich-text-email-signature

Hand-crafting email signatures was fun and easy

So having the WiseStamp extension was a redundancy. This was also the opportunity to remove one extension and make Chrome a little lighter as my experience from Firefox had shown that the less plugins and extensions a browser had, the lighter and faster it performed.

Though using Gmail’s built-in rich-text signature meant more manual work for me to retain the email signature I was able to perfect easily using WiseStamp, it took me less than 20 minutes to hand-craft a unique email signature for the five most-used email addresses associated with my Gmail account.

Gmail-Rich-text-email-signature-2

Same fancy email signature made right inside Gmail. (Click for larger view)

The mini social networking icons I used came from a pack provided by Komodo Media and designed by Rogie King, all are for free and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

These are hosted in my blog’s media folder which I’ve setup to be offloaded to an Amazon S3 bucket, so in case something bad happens to my blog, the images would still be served. (Yes, I’m now offloading my blog’s images to Amazon S3 and I’m going to tell you all about it real soon! :D)

Now, I’m more confident that the email signatures on every email I send would still be unique and fancy. Chrome runs much faster and I have one less extension to worry about from now on.

I’m not saying that you dump WiseStamp and use Gmail’s own rich-text signature feature instead, this is just a personal decision of mine and I leave it up to you to follow suit or not. I just felt like sharing this story with each of you.