Friday, July 29, 2011

This blog was temporarily deactivated due to suspicious account activity

For about six hours, this blog was down, and so was my Google Plus profile. Also, I didn't have access to my Google Mail account.

I noticed this after several hours -- the outage occurred while I was asleep.

The problem was ultimately solved by entering two subsequent authentication codes that were sent to me by text message. After the first auth code (for a password reset), I was told that my account had been suspended due to suspicious account activity. I was then asked to enter another auth code, which I received by text message as well, and then everything was restored.

There was some speculation on Twitter about it in light of the fact that I'm vocal about the intellectual property issues facing Android and WebM -- just like I'm vocal about issues involving and concerning various other companies. All of my concerns are based on my convictions, and such concerns have repeatedly been proven right. It's certainly not implausible at all that someone who disagrees with me (who could be employed by whichever company) might have attempted to hack my account and thereby triggered the suspension of my account and all of my Google services, including this blog. Since I frequently change my password and use very long (in this case, more than 40 characters) and safe (a random mix of lower-case letters, upper-case letters, numbers and symbols) passwords, brute-force algorithms that try out huge numbers of passwords in a short period of time wouldn't realistically succeed in actually getting access. However, it appears that such activity then triggers a suspension.

I believe the deactivation of blogs due to suspicious activity is not a good idea -- freezing them to protect against edits would be better. But even if one agrees that a blog should be suspended in such a case, the message that visitors get when trying to access it should indicate that it's a suspension. Instead, the message was just that the blog had been "removed" (not sure if that's the word that appears in English since I only saw the German-language message, which contains the word "entfernt", which in turn means "removed"). Here's a screenshot (click on it to enlarge):

I had received a notification of suspicious account activity just about 10 days ago. So this is the second such incident.

Any intellectual property issues affecting certain Google offerings are absolutely unrelated to my own use of various Google services. I like Blogspot (Blogger), the platform on which this blog is hosted; GMail, which is perfect for a "heavy-duty" user like me; Google Plus, which is off to a good start and has a lot of potential; Chrome, which I use for more than 50% of my web browsing; and, last not least, Android.

Not only do I like to use those Google services and products but I have also recommended them to many others. Any related intellectual property issues involve third-party intellectual property, not Google's own software, though I do believe Google needs to address those third-party IP issues and shouldn't expose others to risks related to IP enforcement.

Since anyone trying to perform suspicious activity on my account can get it suspended and thereby shut down my blog (even if only temporarily), I will now have to think about possibly switching to another blogging platform to avoid such outages. I would actually like to stay here, so I may wait and see if this problem reoccurs.

Meanwhile I have activated two-step verification for my Google account, which will hopefully take care of this problem for good.

Fortunately, I always make local copies of blog posts -- after each and every edit (I often fix typos or enter updates after publication). So even if all of my blog posts had been lost on Google's servers, I could have restored all of my content elsewhere.