Gmail hack alert: Danger, Will Robinson

Gmail will now yell at you if it thinks your account has been accessed by a no-good dirty hacker. If your account is accessed in two different countries it'll show a fat warning

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Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
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Gmail will now yell at you if it thinks your account has been accessed by a no-good dirty hacker. The new feature, unveiled yesterday, analyses where you're logging in from, using your IP addresses. If you login from one country and then a different country just a few hours later, it'll display a fat red and white warning. Like a cross between Santa and the robot from Lost in Space.

Pavni Diwanji, Gmail engineering director, explains how the feature works in a blog post: "If it looks like something unusual is going on with your account, we'll alert you by posting a warning message saying, 'Warning: We believe your account was last accessed from...' along with the geographic region that we can best associate with the access."

Gmail hack warning

Rather like when your bank rings you up to check you really did buy that second-hand Honda in Ontario (we didn't), the alert flags up unusual activity based on location information that you provide. Google assures us it can't tell exactly where we are via IP, just the general locality.

A 'show details' link next to the warning will let you tell it not to worry its little head -- yes you were in Cancun last night, and having a lovely time too. If you weren't, you can change your password quick-sharp in the same window.

Google warns this isn't a replacement for common-sense security precautions. It offers some helpful tips on the subject here.

What do you think? Is this a useful feature to keep you safe? Or just further evidence that Google knows a little bit too much about you?