What does this message from Google really mean?
December 1, 2015 6:08 AM   Subscribe

I recently started getting emails every day from Google with this message: "Someone just tried to sign in to your Google Account XXX@gmail.com from an app that doesn't meet modern security standards." What does this mean?

I've gone through the security settings and nothing seems awry. Except for a weird location of a last attempt (a town not too far away but not someplace I've been to recently) and odd times that log ins were attempted (I was home last night but didn't attempt to log in at the time it says), everything seems OK. I don't think that anyone is attempting to access my account -- it seems more like an app is -- but I don't know what's up and I can't figure out which app is doing it. It's more annoying getting the emails than anything else, and I want to stop getting the emails -- which means figuring out which app is doing this (or figuring out if someone is trying to get into my account).

If it helps, I have 2 macs, a PC, an iPhone and an iPad all connected to that email address. The emails just started about two weeks ago.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.
posted by archimago to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you tried force-closing all apps on the phone and iPad? (Doubleclick the home button, swipe apps off top of screen.) If you don't do this now and then, you end up after a while with every single app you've ever used open, consuming battery energy, and doing random things like trying to sign into Google. On your computers, try turning off any browser apps you're not sure about. If this kills the notifications, great. If they then reappear, the culprit will be one of the last things you've re-activated. (The nearby town is probably just where your ISP head end is located, or something like that.)
posted by beagle at 6:33 AM on December 1, 2015


"Someone just tried to sign in to your Google Account XXX@gmail.com from an app that doesn't meet modern security standards." What does this mean?

Do the emails include a link for you to click? And, if so, does the link take you to a download page for Chrome? The part about "app that doesn't meet modern security standards" sounds like marketing.

On the other hand...Are you sure this is from Google? This could be a phishing email trying to get you to install some "security" malware app.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:42 AM on December 1, 2015


It does appear to be a message Google sends out (although you need to verify the sending address). There are some suggestion on the Gmail forum about this here.
posted by beagle at 6:49 AM on December 1, 2015


It's not asking me to install anything -- and I'd like to believe I'm a little more savvy than that. The link brings me to my device activity page in Google (which I have to sign in to access). So I'm pretty confident it's legit from Google -- I just can't figure out what's causing it. I force close all my apps on the iPhone and iPad all the time, and from what I can tell, the "culprit" device seems to be one of my macs -- though I can't tell which one from the devices page. I'll check tonight when I get home and go through the apps that are installed -- but I don't really use many apps for the macbook or iMac that I have. I thought my husband may been trying to sign in to my email, but even that doesn't make sense because I leave my email signed in on both of the computers, so he can just launch a browser and get right into my email.
posted by archimago at 6:50 AM on December 1, 2015


I started getting this when I upgraded to the latest version of Mac OSX (El Capitan). It seems to be happening to both my gmail accounts at the same time, definitely when my computer wakes from sleep, but also at random times in the evening. I suspect it has something to do with mail.app's settings (as that's the only app that has both set up in it, though I don't use it anymore and it isn't running, but I think the notifications bar checks it?). I haven't locked down the cause yet but maybe check the notifications bar settings?

I also get daily prompts to enter my appstore password, which it also rejects, but I have no idea if that's related.
posted by litereally at 6:57 AM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I get the same thing in my regular gmail account when I attempt to update the password on my college.edu mail. (College.edu also uses gmail, and it used to work to send/receive as getawaysticks@college.edu, but now something has gone batty there). Do you have any accounts listed in "Accounts and Import" in the Gmail settings? My various accounts are listed under "Send Mail As.."
posted by getawaysticks at 6:59 AM on December 1, 2015


I haven't upgraded to El Capitan yet, so that's not it. I'm pretty sure it's one of the macs at home, so I can't check any of this until tonight, but please keep making suggestions so I can run through them all when I get home. Like I said before, it's more annoying than anything, and I can certainly ignore the emails, but I'm just one of those people that wants to fix it rather then look past it.
posted by archimago at 7:15 AM on December 1, 2015


Did you enable two-factor authorization on your Google account? If so, you may have a device that's attempting to log in with your regular Google account password instead of a one-time app-specific password.
posted by hanov3r at 9:02 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Slightly offtopic, but:
> Have you tried force-closing all apps on the phone and iPad? ... If you don't do this now and then, you end up after a while with every single app you've ever used open, consuming battery energy...
This is a myth that won't die, but you do NOT need to do this on iOS devices. Just look at this graph: you waste more battery force-closing and re-opening an app than by letting it hibernate. Apple says: "Generally, there's no need to force an app to close unless it's unresponsive. When you press the Home button two times quickly, the recently used apps that appear aren't open. They're in an efficient standby mode to help you navigate and multitask."


For the specific question, I would bet that it's an app using Google authentication (i.e., logging in to its service using your Google credentials) but using a deprecated login mode.

Did you recently enable 2-factor authentication? Do you remember ever signing into any website or app with your Google credentials? Typically, a website might offer you options to "Sign in with Facebook, Sign in with Google, Create an account", and it's easy to pick an existing login instead of creating a new one.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:29 AM on December 1, 2015


Did you recently enable 2-factor authentication?

If I did, I did so unknowingly because I have no idea what that means.

If I sign into those kinds of websites, which is rare, I do so with my FB account, not Google.

But would something like that be trying to log into my account every day on its own? Even if I am not using the web site/app?
posted by archimago at 10:17 AM on December 1, 2015


I got a similar message when trying to use my gmail account as an SMTP relay for a linux server. The app I was using on the Linux server was deemed "less secure".

There's a setting in Google that allows "less secure" apps to connect. See this. That setting is unavailable if you have two-factor turned on though.

You can login to your Google account and see what apps are using your account. My Account > Sign-In & Security. Try resetting your app passwords.

Absolutely turn on two factor authentication.

The need to force close apps on an iPhone is a myth.
posted by LoveHam at 11:29 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I get these messages ever since i set up the Mail app on iOS to connect to my Gmail account (which is not my primary address). From what i understand it’s a “legitimate” warning that you are not using software that can be set up for Google’s two-factor authentication (although i’ve never set that up), but it also feels like they are trying to badger me into using Google’s Gmail app for iOS (which i won’t do because i refuse to give Google access to my contacts, etc.). You don’t need to have looked at Mail when it happens — if Mail is set up to check the server automatically for new messages it can trigger the warning. Thankfully, they don’t send a warning every time Mail connects to their server. I’ve looked up the IP address they report the connection came from and so far it is always from my house (i don’t manually check Mail often when not at home and currently automatic checking is off).

On OS X (10.11) i only have Mail set up to use my primary, non-Gmail address, but i suspect if i set it up to use Gmail i’d also get messages triggered by that also.
posted by D.C. at 8:15 PM on December 1, 2015


I get these messages ever since i set up the Mail app on iOS to connect to my Gmail account ... On OS X (10.11) I only have Mail set up to use my primary, non-Gmail address, but i suspect if i set it up to use Gmail i’d also get messages triggered by that also.

Odd? Mail on 10.10 collects my GMail, and I don't get this warning; Mail on iOS 9 also collects my GMail and I don't get this warning. But I don't have 2-factor enabled for my Google account, so maybe that's the difference.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:44 AM on December 2, 2015


So, I have managed to fix this on my computer by doing the following:
On your mac, in system preferences, choose internet accounts. There, you should have your gmail account in the left pane. Clicking to select it brings up an overview. Where your name and email address is in the right pane there's a button that says either 'details' or something else (It says details for me now but I'm not sure if it was different before). Clicking that bought up the gmail login in screen in a new popup window. I input my password, and I haven't had any of those emails since.
I hope it works for you!
posted by litereally at 12:17 AM on December 4, 2015


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