Late Friday evening, or more precisely, early Saturday morning, all of my email communications stopped at 1:10 am. Blackberry alerted me that they could no longer send me emails, and when I tried logging on to Google I was informed my account no longer existed. Everything in my Google account – actually my entire Google account – was gone.
Although I have a robust business email account through my hosting company, FatCow, which also provides extraordinary 24/7/365 customer service, I had become lax and used my Gmail account for everything. I had also become intricately connected to many Google services, such as Google Alerts, Reader, Google Docs, Calender, Contacts, Google Voice, Analytics, and more, were now all gone. Not gone behind a curtain that would magically open after I reset my password, but gone.
Here’s what happened: A hacker in Turkey gained access to my weak password and then tried logging on to my Facebook account. Facebook, seeing that the person logging on was in Turkey, shut them/me out and temporarily froze the account until they received external confirmation from me. The hacker then went to my Google account, changed some information to suit him, rummaged through all my accounts trying to gain access to personal information, and when not finding anything valuable, deleted the entire account.
My friend, Rusty Shelton, one of the top PR people on the planet, especially if you’re an author (check him out), came to my aide, helping me navigate the not-always intuitive workings of the Google recovery system. Once Google became involved, and I went through their very thorough security and recovery process, I was back in business, although imagine returning to a ransacked home, an you’ll understand why getting back to normal will take some time.
As I recently wrote: Crisis: 15 Essential Truths, I now was faced with having to take my own advice. Here’s what I learned:
Although all crisis is unavoidable, I could have avoided this crisis had I truly believed that I would be hacked. (“Why would someone want to hack me?” I thought.)
When I caught myself saying, “How is this happening to me?” I realized the truth of numbers #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Although I know from over 25+ years of crisis experience, number #7 is true, I’m not feeling that way today.
My sister, Carla, who had come from Jerusalem to spend a few days with me, caught herself starting to say number #8, but caught herself. And to number #9, if there is another communications related crisis, I’m more ready than ever.
Thank God, I didn’t have to go through this crisis alone, I’m astounded and grateful for how many people dropped everything to get me back on the grid. And, as number #15 remains my favorite, I’m happily and seamlessly back at work in our Paris office, took a picture of my friend, Melissa’s, wildly popular product, Neoslev, at the Eiffel Tower, got lots of good research for an upcoming HuffingtonPost piece, will be giving a workshop tomorrow on “The Power of Story,” followed by another seminar on “Shifting the Crisis Paradigm,” then off to the Global Food Safety Conference in London.
Just a couple pieces of learning to do ASAP before your Google accounts go down:
- Create a recovery email account that will allow you to instantaneously shift to an alternative email system.
- Create a personal “Emergency Broadcast System,” either through Facebook, a blog, or an email list manager like MailChimp, to let all your contacts know immediately of your change.
- Create a password not easily duplicated.
- Keep a copy of your Google Alerts.
- Prepare: Ask yourself what would happen if you lost access to your Google account and everything in it now. I can’t tell you the number of people who when learning about my Google crisis say, “Really? I thought Google is safe.” Google is safe, just not infallible.
- If you don’t understand the technology, identify several people now who in the event of a crisis, can be at the ready to help you.
- Keep everything in perspective. As I was working my way through this mess, my sister reminded me that no one got hurt, I learned a lot, and just like number #9, this, too, will pass.
Do you have other tips I missed?
photo credit: ZapTheDingbat