Saturday, 20 February 2016

Locked Out for Phishing: When Blogger Security Goes Overboard

For those of you who tried to visit my blog on the evening of Thursday 18 February, you might have been in for a surprise. I know that I certainly was. After an afternoon spent idling around my local area, and a relaxing evening curled up with a good book (complete with some beautiful Haighs hot chocolate,) I was a little surprised to receive a message on my phone from blogger, telling me:

Hello,  Your blog at http://kathrynwhiteauthor.blogspot.com/ has been reviewed and confirmed as in violation of our Terms of Service for: PHISHING. In accordance to these terms, we've removed the blog and the URL is no longer accessible.  For more information, please review the following resources:  Terms of Service: https://www.blogger.com/go/terms Blogger Content Policy: https://blogger.com/go/contentpolicy  -The Blogger Team

Assuming that the email was probably a scam, I put my phone down and switched my MacBook on, expecting to see my blog appear. But, nope. When I typed in my blog address, a note came up, telling me that the blog at http://kathrynwhiteauthor.blogspot.com had been removed and that the address was not available for new blogs. A little nervous, I logged in to blog.

And yep, I was locked out. One supposed report to google that I was phishing and with no investigation whatsoever, I had ben locked out of my own blog. Four years of hard work, not to mention a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears and I was locked out. And on what basis? One stupid report. And the timing could not have been worse. On Sunday, I have an announcement for a new blog segment, there are a number of writing festivals on in days to come in Perth and then Adelaide, which might bring with them exciting writing news, and I have committed to another couple of blog tours in the next few months.

Needless to say, I was furious.

Actually, I was also crying, vomiting and wondering where I could find a lawyer who would be willing to sue google in the middle of the night so that I could at least have my intellectual property back.

There is an option to appeal, so I took it. It turns out that on blogger, after they so kindly lock their users out based upon hearsay, users can click on a button to appeal their case, and then, and only then, will the case be looked at by an actual human who works at google. There is no option to add specific details about the individual case, and it took me a while to find any feedback form at all, on which I could give google a piece of my mind about their heavy handed policy. 

After a further search, I found a blogger forum, where there were a surprising number of other blogger users complaining about the same thing. This suggests to me that there were one of two likely problems--either a software glitch, or a virus, had hit blogger. A third (and less likely,) possibility was that someone knew the policy and was reporting every blog they could, as some kind of a sick joke. But with no official statement from google, it's impossible to know for sure what went wrong.

At about two-thirty, I received the following email from blogger, assuring me that my blog had now been reinstated:


Hello,  We have received your appeal regarding your blog http://kathrynwhiteauthor.blogspot.com/. Upon further review, we have determined that your blog was mistakenly marked as a TOS violator by our automated system and, as such, we have reinstated your blog. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused in the meantime and thank you for your patience as we completed our review process.  Thank you for understanding.  Your sincerely,  The Blogger Team

Cheers. Now how about reimbursing me for all the lost sleep?