Google Apps Security

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How to Stay Secure with Google

With UCSC’s increasing use of Google’s services, it is important to remember that sensitive information often requires special protection. It is also important to remember that although Google provides enhanced security features and UC’s contract with Google provides assurances regarding the security and privacy of customer information stored on Google’s systems, most security cautions that apply to UC systems apply to Google.

Following are several proactive steps you can take to help maximize security and privacy when using Google.


Google's two-step verification uses a code in addition to your username and password. Each time you log in, Google sends a new code via text or voice message that you will need to enter. This means that to access your account, a hacker would not only need your username and password, but also your phone in order to get in.


Don't use Google to send or store highly sensitive information such as PII or other restricted data. If you must, encrypt it first.


All devices used for work must meet UC and UCSC security requirements. Tips for protecting mobile devices are available on the Mobile Devices and Wireless page.


It is important to know Google's default settings and sharing options in order to avoid accidents related to over- or under-sharing. To learn how to share your Google documents, files, and folders with others, visit Google Sharing Information


Be sure you know who you are sharing your calendar and meeting information with. The default sharing setting at UCSC is that your Google Calendar and meetings on it are visible to everyone in the university.

Meeting privacy settings are at the bottom of each meeting's Event details page. There are three options:

  • Default: the event's privacy setting is the same as the calendar's overall privacy setting. See "Calendar settings," below.
  • Public: makes that event's details available to everyone who can view your calendar, regardless of your regular calendar settings (see below).
  • Private: only you, meeting invitees, and people you have granted 'Make changes to events' or 'Make changes AND manage sharing' privileges to your calendar can see the event and its details.
    • Important privacy note: If you create a private meeting in Google Calendar and invite people, those attendees can change the private meeting to public on their own calendar. This means that people viewing that invitee's calendar will be able to see the meeting details. It's good practice not to put any confidential or personal information in the event title or description of a meeting, even if you make it "private".
  • Additional information about these settings



Additional information from Google about sharing your Google Calendar


Report email spam and phishing directly to Google. This helps put these emails on their radar. You must do this from your email on the web. If you don't normally access your email via the web, go to and log in with your full, email address and CruzID Blue password. When your mailbox loads, select the message you'd like to report.

  • For spam, click on the spam button in the toolbar above your message list (the one that looks like a stop sign with an exclamation mark). See Google's instructions for more details about reporting spam.
  • To report phishing, open the message and click on the little drop-down arrow next to the reply button in the top right corner of the email and select "Report phishing" (you can also report spam this way). See Google's instructions for details and screenshots.

Report Calendar spam to Google: If you receive an unsolicited calendar invitation that you believe to be spam, report it to Google by clicking "Report Spam" on the detail page for the event - click the event title to get to the event detail page. The "Report Spam" link is at the top of the screen to the right of the reply options ("Yes" "Maybe" or "No). Clicking the "Report Spam" link will remove the event, along with any other events on your calendar created by the same organizer.

  • Note: If you already responded to the meeting, you'll need to click the "Add a note or change your response" link at the top left of the event detail page to see the "Report Spam" link.


Last Account Activity - gmail only
Last account activity can help you detect if someone is using your gmail account without your knowledge. It shows information about recent access to your email, including when, from where, and how your mail was accessed. It also lists the IP address that accessed your mail. There is also an option at the bottom of the page to show an alert for unusual activity.

To see your recent email account activity, click on any of your gmail folders, or your inbox, then click the Details link next to the Last account activity line at the bottom of the page. Additional information

Your Recent Activity - entire Google account
The "Sign-in & Security" settings lists security-related actions you’ve taken, such as signing in to your Google Account, changing your password, or adding a recovery email address or phone number. This information is for your entire Google Account, so sign-ins from any Google product (such as Blogger, Gmail, or YouTube) will be listed in this section.

If you notice anything suspicious, e.g. a sign-in from a browser you've never used, or a location you've never been to, you are prompted to change your password to secure your account. If you notice a recovery option change you did not make, be sure to update the recovery option in addition to changing your password.

Account Activity - entire Google account
Google's "Account Settings" page includes a number of tools to help you manage your google account. Click on "Device activity & notifications" under "Sign-in & security" to see an overview of the recent activity on your Google account. See Google's instructions for additional instructions and details.

  • You can have Google send you a monthly reminder to check your account activity. Just click the box next to "Send me monthly reminders to check my account activity" at the top of your Dashboard.


Be sure to sign out of your Google account when you're finished, especially when using a public computer. Just click on your username/icon at the top right corner of the screen and select "Sign out." If you're using a public or shared computer, to be extra thorough you can also clear the browser's cache, cookies and history. Then, completely close the browser.


Google's Safe Browsing Tool lets you see whether Google has flagged a website as dangerous to visit. (more info...)


Google privacy and security tips:

Privacy settings for Google+: Like all other Google Consumer Apps, Google+ (G+) is not covered by UC's agreement with Google. The default G+ settings makes your G+ information public, so information you put into G+ is visible to others outside of UCSC. See Google's instructions on how to change your settings. See UCSC's main Google page for additional information about Google Consumer Apps.

Secure Transmission

UCSC's Google domain is configured use encrypted transmissions by default. This means that when you access your gmail or Google Apps via Google's web applications with your Google account, your email and docs are transmitted securely. This is true for the mobile email client, too. Google also requires encryption for third party email clients (e.g. Thunderbird, Apple Mail, etc.) to access your email data.

Even though Google encrypts your data during transmission, it will still be unencrypted at rest. Do not send or store restricted data in Google unless you have encrypted it first.

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Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service

The University of California has a contract with Google that provides assurances regarding the security and privacy of customer information stored on Google’s systems. UC's contract with Google takes precedence if there is a conflict with Google's posted terms or policies. For more information about how to protect your own privacy using Google Apps., please visit: Privacy Tools

See also:

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Google Security & Privacy Mythbusters

MYTH: My email is less secure with Google than with the old UCSC-managed email.


  • While it is true that UCSC-run email lived on UCSC-managed servers, Google undergoes significant independent audits and certifications of their security practices
  • Google has better spam and virus filtering than UCSC could provide
  • Google is constantly developing new security-related features for its services
  • Google gives you the ability to check for suspicious activity on your account, such as cities from which your account has been accessed
  • Google supports optional two-factor authentication for added account security (recommended)
  • Google's data is replicated in multiple data centers for redundancy and consistent availability
  • UC’s contract with Google also provides assurances regarding the security and privacy of customer information stored on Google’s systems.


MYTH: Google accesses people’s email for marketing purposes.

FACT: Google Apps for Education is ad-free for students, faculty, and staff. This means that your email is not processed by Google's advertising systems.


MYTH: Everything I create in Google Docs is available online to the whole world.

FACT: Google Apps for Education’s default is to set everything you create in Google Docs to “private”. This means that unless you actively grant someone access to something you created in Google Docs with your UCSC Google account, only you can access it.

Google Sites, on the other hand, defaults to allowing access to everyone at UCSC.

See above for information on changing sharing settings in Google Docs and Sites.


MYTH: Anything I create or put up on Google Docs becomes the property of Google.

FACT: UC’s contract with Google ensures that UC (its students, faculty, and staff) are the sole owners of their data.


MYTH: If Google receives a subpoena or search warrant for my email or files, I will never know about it.

FACT: UC’s contract with Google includes a requirement that Google notify UC if it receives a court order for UC-owned data. The one exception is if the court order includes a “gag request” that prohibits them from notifying the University. Even in this case, Google has agreed to ask the agency issuing a gag order subpoena or warrant if they can notify UC.

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Google Security-Related Articles

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Rev. Sept 2015