Your Gmail account could be a goldmine for hackers, connecting them to other accounts with valuable resale values. Groupon credentials stored in Gmail could be worth $5, for example, and iTunes accounts worth $8. It all adds up. Cloudsweeper, a tool from the University of Illinois at Chicago, audits your Gmail account to find your account weak spots.
Cloudsweeper connects to your Gmail account through the OAuth open standard for online authentication, so it doesn't require you to give up your Gmail password. The service also doesn't log your credentials and it forgets your visit after you log out or within 60 minutes of inactivity, according to Brian Krebs. Normally I'd be really wary about any kind of service that scans your Gmail account, but if Krebs trusts it (and it's a totally legit university project), it's worth considering.
More important than how much your Gmail account is worth, though, is how many passwords are saved in your emails. Whenever you forget your password for a site (and, let's face it, that happens a lot to a lot of us), websites send you an email to reset or recover the password. The worst ones send it in plaintext (unencrypted)...which means they store it in their databases insecurely (unencrypted).
Cloudsweeper finds those services or sites in your Gmail account and offers you the option to encrypt or remove the plaintext passwords.
You could do the same audit by searching your email account for "password" and deleting those emails that give up your password in the message. It's super important to turn on two-factor authentication for your email account just for this reason; if hackers gain access to your Gmail or other email account, they've got the key to lots of other online accounts. To start, I'd strongly suggest deleting any online accounts you find sending your password in plaintext to your email account. After you turn on two-factor authentication, of course.
Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.