Web-based e-mail is convenient, but what happens if you forgot to log out of a public computer? Gmail users have an easy solution.


Last week, I got a panicked call from a friend. She had forgotten to log out of her Web e-mail account before leaving the study carrel she was using. My friend is in graduate school, and the library where she goes to work gets a lot of traffic. She was appropriately concerned about the security of her account and asked me if there was anything she could do to close that session remotely. Luckily, since she’s a Gmail user, I could offer her a solution.

Once a user logs in, he or she can find data about the “Last account activity” at the bottom of every Gmail page below the storage usage stats. Displayed there will be the last network address that accessed the Gmail account or an indication of how long the current session has lasted. There is also a link labeled “Details.” That link is where we’re headed.

By clicking on the Details link, a Gmail user can see a table of recent activity in her account. This table will indicate when and from where the account has been accessed, and it will display if there are multiple sessions active simultaneously. To close every other session except their current Web-based one, a user can click the Sign Out All Other Sessions button. This was what I directed my friend to do.

The recent activity report can serve as a useful security-auditing tool in other ways. Examining the data for suspicious network addresses and account activity can alert a user that the security of her Gmail account has been breached. More information on how to use the session activity report can be found on Google’s help pages.