It can be a pretty scary thing to log into your Gmail account and be met with a blazing red banner that says “Warning: We believe your account was recently accessed from:” followed by a geographic location that you decidedly aren’t, often a place such as Russia, Poland or China, and that followed by the options “Show details and preferences” and “Ignore”.
Usually you can be certain that at that moment, the first thing you need to do is change your password, because your account was almost certainly hacked or otherwise compromised. However, that’s not always true if you get a warning of a remote access in the U.S., such as “We believe your account was recently accessed from: United States (CA).”
The way that Google detects this and determines to put up the “recently accessed from warning” is by geolocation. Google notes that your Gmail account is being accessed from an IP address that is in a different region than the region from which you usually sign in, and they tell you about it.
The thing is, with how common address book importing has become, it’s not uncommon at all that an email account is accessed from a different region of the U.S., because whatever service to which you’ve just given the keys to your address book is, well, accessing your Gmail account remotely in order to slurp down your address book (or your Yahoo account, or your Hotmail account, or your..well, you get the idea).
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So, for example, when Gmail gives you a warning that your account may have been accessed from California, if you’ve just joined Flixster (as one example), one of the multitude of California-based social-media-type tech companies, and if you’ve let them import your address book, this is what you may see when you sign into Gmail:
A check of that IP address reveals that that IP address belongs to:
So that remote access was actually Flixster grabbing your address book because, most likely, you let them.
Now, we’ve talked about the evils and dangers of address book importing plenty, including that it encourages people to give out their passwords.
And whether you authorized the access or not, you should immediately change your password once your account has been remotely accessed.
But, it may be that if you have recently signed up for a service which then asked you to import your address book – and you did so – that there is no need for panic.
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