Monday, 4 March 2019

One step, two step... Cecilia Peartree

As an often reluctant smart phone user, I often wonder how people who don't have a smart phone manage to get anything done, or at least anything that involves government agencies or email providers. I was reminded of this recently when I forgot my gmail password for an account I don't really use because it doesn't belong to me but to a community organisation of which I am currently the secretary. I was the one to set up the account, however, so I must have created the password in the first place!

Somehow this account has 2 (or maybe even 3) step authentication on it, although I don't remember even providing a phone number to Google for it. So when I started to go through the password update process, the first thing it did was to send a message to my alternative email address with a secret code in it, and then once I had input that code, to my surprise it also sent a text to my phone with a different secret code.
Naturally my phone wasn't charged up at the time, because as a reluctant user I only charge it up in certain circumstances, such as that I'm waiting for an important text from a family member or close friend, as opposed to the constant stream of marketing texts I get from O2 telling me to top up immediately to get extra credit which will allow me to make the phone calls I never make and use the data which I never use because the screen on the phone is approximately the size of a postage stamp.
So at this stage I not only had to locate my phone but also the phone charger and.or cable, and to  unplug my Kindle Fire and use the socket for charging the phone instead. After a while the text arrived and I was able to use the secret code to update my password.
I was fortunate on this occasion to be able to find and charge the phone and view the secret code before it disappeared or became obsolete. I've found from bitter experience that if the income tax people send you a secret code like this, it only stays valid for a relatively short time before you have to start the whole process again and get another code.
And don't even get me started on the Scottish Government gateway, which I had to log into not long ago for some reason connected with the City of Edinburgh Council (probably something to do with bin collections, since I only interact with them on fascinating topics like that). Not only did I have to set up a username for the Council's website but I also had to set up a different one for the Scottish Government site, and needless to say, it is a username I have already forgotten, so I will probably have to start all over again the next time I have a complaint about the garden bin not being collected or something. The Scottish Government also sent me a secret code by text to validate my existence.
I think organised people, of which I am not one, or perhaps it's just because I am very skilled at filtering out things that I have not very much interest in, probably keep a spreadsheet of all the usernames and passwords and phone numbers they need in life, and don't just scatter them all over the place in the back of diaries or on the next page of their writing notebook. In my professional life I would probably express scorn at people who didn't do this kind of thing, so why am I so resistant to it in 'real' life? Surely it wouldn't interfere too much with my creativity?


Jan Needle said...

Poor you. I've got a quill pen you can have if the stress gets too much!

Bill Kirton said...

So familiar, Cecilia. And, as age creeps higher, I'm convinced that (contrary to all security advice), I'll need to use a single username/password/security question/identification criterion for every single site/amenity/access point. And, not only that, but I'll need to write them all out in big letters on a poster above my desk along with all my credit and debit card details.

Jan Needle said...

Bill, I happen to know a general in Nigeria who will send you seven million pounds - and keep it safe for you. Give me your bank details, and I'll pass them on to him. It's a genuine offer, apparently.

Umberto Tosi said...

I'm with you. The giant wireless network combines stopped listening to user a long time ago. We're eyeballs which they gear systems to capture and sell apps, ads and games and from which to steal and sell data. They're upgrading focuses on their making money off us, not on improving their devices and systems to make their phones friendlier. After all, if you can't get your phone to do what you want, they can shame you, not take responsibility themselves. If we had governments that work for us - not them - these phone giants would be broken up into manageable, service-focuses, actually competitive sizes.

Bill Kirton said...

Thanks, Jan, but I think his cousin's already been in touch. He's only a colonel, so his share was only 5 million, but I've sent him the necessary details and I'm expecting half of that any day now.