One of my favorite quotes is “if you aren’t paying for it, you are the product, not the customer.” The reason I like it is that it very succinctly and accurately describes the relationship we as end users have with many of the online services we have come to rely on ranging from email to social media.
We don’t pay for gmail accounts or Facebook accounts or LinkedIn accounts so that means we are the products, not the the customers of these services. So what happens if your account gets hijacked and you need a way to take back control? Can’t you just call customer service and have them restore things as they should be? Not really and that’s because products don’t get to complain — customers do.
So, what can you do to get your account back? One thing is to do some work up front that will make the need less likely and, failing that, make recovery less painful.
One bit of prevention is to make sure you choose a strong password.
Another is to set up two-factor authentication for your account (assuming the service provider supports this — Google and Facebook do, for instance) so that if anyone tries to log in from a new, untrusted device a code will be sent to your mobile phone via SMS (as one example) which must then be entered in order to complete the login process. This way an attacker would not only have to steal your password but also your phone in order to break in. Not impossible, but certainly harder.
Still another precaution you can take is to leverage Facebook’s new “Trusted Contacts” feature which lets you designate 3 to 5 friends who can then be leveraged to provide you with a security code to get back into your account. It’s sort of like giving parts of spare keys to your neighbors so that they can help you get back in if you lock yourself out.
Since the service is brand new there’s no telling just yet how well it will work but it certainly sounds promising. Here’s a good article from PC World that goes into more detail, if you’re interested …