My password security fiasco: Part 3 of 3

May 7, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 7, 2017

The first installment of my password security fiasco is available here; the second part is available here. 

Nearly five years ago, I wrote about my propensity for opening oodles and oodles of tabs on my web browser. Those who know me will not be surprised to learn that my email accounts are similarly stuffed with tens of thousands of messages.

Every so often, I try to weed out outdated, obsolete and unnecessary emails. I was doing that the other night when I spotted a notification on my Gmail web page stating that I was using something like 2.5 gigabytes out of my 15GB allotment. I’d seen this information before, but on this particular evening, some combination of boredom and idle curiosity prompted me to click the link that said “Manage.”

That opened a new tab that had three components. One was a solicitation to buy more storage from Google (15GB is the company’s free basic offering). The second component was a pie chart showing me how much online Google storage I was using. The third thing was a reminder that my Google storage was shared by three of the company’s services: Gmail, the Google email service; Google Drive, the company’s cloud (read: online) file storage service; and Google Photos, their cloud photo storage service.

I don’t use Google Photos, or at least not consciously, but I do use the other two services, and I was curious to see how my online storage was split between them. I clicked a link beneath the pie chart that was labeled “View details.” That opened a window showing that most of my Google cloud data was being utilized by Gmail.

Google cloud storage

Most of the data I store through Google’s cloud services comes from my vast collection of emails.

Most of that is probably unneeded attachments, I thought. I should get rid of them! So I clicked on the link that said “Learn more.” This led to a Google help page that, among other things, recommended methods for clearing storage space. I clicked on the text that said, “Use a computer to search for your largest messages in Gmail.”

This revealed another Google help page that listed a whole bunch of useful search terms. One of them is “has:attachment,” which (you won’t be surprised to hear) pulls up messages that have attached files. I decided to use this term.

I got a lot of messages from various Durham neighborhood listservs containing pictures of stuff being given away or offered for sale, or of dogs or cats that had run away from their homes. There were also a bunch of press releases and promotions from online services and stores.

The first page of my search results stated that it was displaying “1–100 of about 186” messages. I know from experience, however, that this count is often askew, so I wasn’t surprised that when I deleted a few messages, the message count remained the same.

I also was unsurprised to find that, when I clicked over to the second page of results, the indicator stated that I was seeing “101–200 of many” messages.

But here’s where my overabundance of email converged with my forgotten master password. One of the messages on the second page had a subject line that said, “LastPass Security Notification: Account Change.”

I glanced at the date. The message was from Feb. 28, the night I’d selected — and then almost instantly forgotten — a new master password.

I clicked on the message. “Hi,” the text said, beneath a LastPass logo, “This is an advisory notice letting you know that your LastPass master password and/or email has been changed.”

LastPass email message main

This is the message that LastPass sent me on Feb. 28, 2017, when I changed my master password.

The message then listed the time of the change and the Internet address from which the change had been made. After that, the text continued:

If you did not recently change your LastPass login credentials and believe that your account has been compromised, then please reply to this email or contact us at support@lastpass.com .

If you need to revert this change, you can do so at https://lastpass.com/revert.php

Wait a second, I thought. What was that about undoing the change? I peered closely at the second paragraph from the bottom:

If you need to revert this change, you can do so at https://lastpass.com/revert.php

Whoa! I thought. That’s exactly what I need!!!

Feeling hopeful about my LastPass account for the first time in weeks, I clicked on the link. A few minutes later, I was able to undo my password change from Feb. 28.

In the grand scheme of things, this was a very minor accomplishment. But after more than two months of fretting about my LastPass password problem, it felt like a very major triumph.

What the heck. I’ll take my wins where I can get them!

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