Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Beware Google's obsessive e-mail security mindset
I learned a lesson this morning, one that's going to take a while (certainly days, perhaps weeks) to sort out.
When I sat down at the computer this morning, our Internet service was out. A message appeared on screen asking the account holder (our housemate) to contact the service provider about unspecified issues. (It turned out that a re-issued credit card with a change of expiration date had screwed up the billing and payment cycle, and we'd been caught in the backwash.) It's going to take a day or two to sort that out.
While waiting (because Internet access is essential for my writing and blogging) I picked up a T-Mobile 4G mobile hotspot from our local Wal-Mart. It comes with a traffic allowance of 5GB of 4G data, valid for three months from date of installation, which made it by far the most cost-effective option. Setup was quick and easy, and the only problem I had was rapidly resolved with a telephone call to T-Mobile's unexpectedly helpful and friendly support desk. (What a contrast with AT&T and Verizon, who appear to staff their help desks with gormless goblins that can only be reached after interminable delays and infuriatingly unhelpful menu systems!) I was soon back on the Internet and humming right along . . . until I tried to read my e-mail.
Google's Gmail apparently has a persecution complex. It wouldn't allow me to access a single one of my multiple accounts (used to segregate different types of e-mail), because the IP address and ISP from which I was trying to reach them were new and unfamiliar. Very fortunately the e-mail account I use to sign into Blogger, and the one I use for most business activities, had been set up to use two-step verification; so after requesting that an authentication code be sent to my cellphone, I soon had them both up and running. I hadn't done that for the others, so I find myself barred from access to them at present - including the one I use for readers wishing to contact me from this blog. I've no idea how to go about resetting them. Google's asking all sorts of 'security questions' that I have no idea how to answer. It's ridiculous to ask me what year and month I opened an account when it was over a decade ago and I have no particular memory of it! I didn't ask for all those additional layers of security, and I'm annoyed that Google implemented them without so much as a 'by your leave'.
I now find myself stuck in administrative limbo until such time as I can figure out who to contact at Google to 'unfreeze' those e-mail accounts. (If anyone can offer suggestions as to the best and quickest way to do this, I'd love to hear from you in Comments; but please don't e-mail me, because I probably won't receive it!) When the dust has settled and everything's back online, I'll implement two-step verification on all my accounts; but I shouldn't have to do so. I resent Google making assumptions about my accounts when it has no idea what's going on. Why should I have to go through such additional, intrusive steps when I didn't ask for that level of security? If I hadn't implemented two-step verification on two key accounts, I'd be in serious difficulties right now.
Oh, well . . . at least I'm back online. That helps!