Thursday, December 15, 2011

Genealogy, Technology and the Cloud

Today I read with interest an entry on Marian Pierre-Louis' "Roots and Rambles" blog (read it here) about difficulties in the "cloud".  The cloud is current terminology used to explain how our online email, files, and other cyberactivities are stored away from our own computer.  An example is Google, where the user is able to access their email or other content on any computer, rather than only from home.

I have been a Google products user for many, many years. I have several Gmail accounts, this Blogger account, and joined Google+ earlier this year. I love Google.  Offering terrific, simple products for FREE is awesome. Over time, I never had a problem with any of my Google products until earlier this year.  I attempted to access my genealogy-specific Gmail account.  I received a warning that it was suspected of being hacked and was therefore unavailable.  Nothing I could do could gain me access.

Using, coincidentally, Google to search what happens when an email account is locked down, I learned I had two options: enter information demonstrating I am the owner, or providing a cell phone number.  As an inheritently private person, I was very leery of the phone number option.  Off I went to try to prove the account was really mine.  I tried to complete the Account Recovery Form.  The information requested was almost impossible, especially with some of the answers "locked up" inside my Gmail account!

I relented and provided my cell phone number.  I almost instantly received a recovery code and had access to my account within minutes.

What did I learn?

1.  Hackers and spammers are everywhere..

2.  I changed my password and backed up my blog posts immediately.

3.  I learned how to view and be alerted when my Gmail account may have been opened in an unfamiliar location.  In the bottom right corner of your Gmail page is a "Details" link.  Click it and see the last 10 IP locations where your account was opened.  Mine usually shows the same two: home internet connection and smartphone access.

I am keeping my Google products, as an informed consumer.