GMAIL reset: my gmail account has disappeared / been erased

by Sasha Wilkins on February 27, 2011 · 27 comments

Screen shot 2011-02-27 at 21.20.37

I’m not feeling very chirpy right now. First there is the matter of the raging cold I’m battling – I could call it flu, but then I’d have to change sex – and second, there’s the Gmail issue.

After watching a movie this afternoon with half-closed eyes, desultorily checking my email every ten minutes or so, I fell asleep propped up on a pillow, surrounded by tissues and cough mixture. I woke up a few hours later and hauled my laptop towards me. Through my snotty, half-awake haze I realised that something wasn’t right.

My entire Gmail account had been re-set. No labels, no spam, no trash, no emails, nothing. NOTHING

NOTHING AT ALL


Upon further investigation my contacts, documents and calendar were still there, so it was obviously not a hack but some kind of Google database problem. But could I find any hint of a problem on any Google official pages?

Could I heck. All there is, is one solitary comment on a forum thread saying it is being looked into from a Google employee over three hours ago (it’s now 2142GMT on Sunday).

It is clear from the Gmail forums and Twitter that hundreds if not thousands of people have had their Gmail accounts compromised. A firm believer in the concept of cloud computing, it never occurred to me that my Gmail account could one day disappear.

The account that has been compromised is my primary gmail acct (as opposed to the LLG one), which contains all my personal & business correspondence since 2005. You can imagine the implications this has for my business, tax affairs and so on.

Thanks to some helpful people on Twitter, I have now taken the following steps to back up my second gmail account:

I have Outlook on my Mac Air, so I have implemented POP and now my LLG Gmail account is mirrored on Outlook. I use Time Machine (a Mac backup which runs to an external hard drive), so that Outlook account is also backed up on an external drive. (Of course this would work with the Apple email client too.)

I have set up a tertiary cloud email address and now have every email sent to the LLG address forwarded on to that holding address.

I have downloaded a program called BackupGoo which downloads your entire Google account to your computer.

So, I strongly advise anyone who uses a cloud email address that doesn’t run through a desktop client (that is Hotmail/Yahoo/Gmail etc) to get backing up pronto. There is, as yet, no word from Google as to whether we will get our email back. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this is merely a datebase redirect problem.

If not, I am in big, serious trouble.

(and if you have emailed me to the sashawilkins account in the past month you may want to consider chasing me at libertylondongirl [at] gmail.com

UPDATE: 2211GMT
Another update on the status page:

“Our team is continuing to investigate this issue. We will provide an update by February 27, 2011 5:20:00 PM UTC-5 with more information about this problem. Thank you for your patience. This issue affects less than .29% of the Google Mail userbase.”

That has been estimated to be over 500,000 people by a forum user.

UPDATE 3:40 AM

Google Mail service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users in the near future. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change. 

This issue affects less than 0.08% of the Google Mail userbase. Google engineers are working to restore full access. Affected users will be temporarily unable to sign in while we repair their accounts. 

That has been estimated to be around 150,000 people by Engadget.

UPDATE 0835AM: GOOGLE HAVE NOW ENTIRELY DISABLED MY ACCOUNT. Fortunately, according to the forums, this means they are working on it. Unfortunately, this means all email sent to my sashawilkins address gets bounced back to the sender, and I can’t access calendar, Reader or Feedburner.
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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa February 27, 2011 at 17:03

Oh no! Good luck with recovery! And the thought of implementing backup to my email and online stuff fills me with a dark and terrible dread.

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LLG February 27, 2011 at 17:57

DO IT!! Honestly: it takes hardly any time x

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rosemary February 27, 2011 at 18:52

wow sounds scary..thanks for the advise of this other program for back up

will look into it asap

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Madeleine Gallay February 27, 2011 at 22:18

I’m so stunned believing it’s forever in the cloud,whatever that really is, and can’t be wiped even if you need to get rid of records urgently.

Colds/flu/fashion week … it is exceedingly difficult to stay well let alone rested.

Horrible event and Google owes you more than an apology.

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Roger February 28, 2011 at 01:20

@Lisa: As someone who has worked with computers since the mid-70′s, I say do not trust Google or anyone else with anything that looks like or is called “cloud computing”.

Why trust your information to somebody else?

PS. I have emails on my hard drive that go back to the mid-90′s. Backup everything. Every day.

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Benjamin Kerensa February 28, 2011 at 01:39

I bet your going to regret being linked by Huffpo…. Your site is lagging :P

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LLG February 28, 2011 at 03:32

Not as much as you must regret not being able to spell. (And for the record, HuffPo have linked to me many times and it makes very little material difference to traffic.)

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Penny Dreadful Vintage February 28, 2011 at 03:20

Holy moly, that is scary. I am just about to leave for work but will back up both my gmail accounts when I get in this morning. Thank you so much for the alert, I do hope everything comes back ok for you x

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willowhaus February 28, 2011 at 05:36

Umm, LLG – if you want to have a local backup of your email (which you really should, no one’s server is forever) then you need POP, not IMAP. IMAP is still a server-side method, you only download messages when you need them but they live on the server. You should implement POP and specify in the settings to NOT delete messages from the server after download (which it often does by default), and then you can access everything either locally or on the server. Then, when Gmail (not if – nothing is permanent!) suddenly goes the way of the dinosaur, you have all your old email.

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LLG February 28, 2011 at 05:43

Brilliant – I thought this was the case – hence my hesitation in the post. Will now amend, and thank you! LLGxx

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Dave February 28, 2011 at 06:39

You can also use DIMAP (Disconnected IMAP). Like IMAP, but the client actually downloads and caches everything for use while you’re offline, then resynchronises with the server next time you’re online. If there’s a problem with the server, your local copy is still safe.
For normal use, it’s simpler than POP because you don’t have to manage backups and deletions; it just works like IMAP.
But for batch-backup and saving a permanent archive, POP is good – just make sure you specify “don’t delete server copy” in the POP settings!

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LLG February 28, 2011 at 06:46

Thank you Dave – enormously helpful not just for me, but for my readers too. LLGxx

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Blonde February 28, 2011 at 07:59

Urgh – how infuriating for you. And how terrifying… Think I might spend a little time doing the same, soon, just in case…

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LLG February 28, 2011 at 08:47

DO IT NOW lovely! LLGxx

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Susan February 28, 2011 at 09:31

Shriek. I saw your tweets last night & thought ‘oh nooooooo’. The “small” % is, as you note, hardly small considering how many people are affected.I will immediately send your link to friends & family & not say to them “I told you so” – they laugh at me for my multiple accts, cc-ing myself, etc. And for what one friend calls my “backup compulsion.” I do hope your acct is restored soon.

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