I’m one fed up Hotmail user – and a Hotmail user who writes for a web site. So I get to make my rant public. Bear with me, I’m just the culture guy here -
Somewhere around 3 a.m. last Thursday, my e-mail account was closed. Deleted. Destroyed. Assassinated. Presumably by Hotmail administrators. Without any notice to me. I’ve been locked out ever since.
Now, granted, I – like most people – started migrating everything to gmail a long time ago. But I had first signed up for a Hotmail account in something like 1995, and have continued using it as both a social and business account ever since. It was how I kept in touch with college friends. It was how I worked with publicists.
But since I had originally signed up in 1995, my password was ultra- simple. And so two weeks ago, when I looked in my sent folder and noticed a slew of messages going out to my contacts that I did not send, I realized I had been hacked. Some bot was probably pumping spam out of my inbox. But I caught it after only a half-dozen messages, and immediately did two things: I flagged hotmail of the issue, sending a message out into the vast MSN void via an online contact form (which was never replied to), and updated my password to something far more complex and intricate. (More at Techland: A Mother’s Day Gadget Gift Guide)
The spam messages immediately stopped. No reply from MSN. I went on with my business.
Five days passed, and all was well. Then I woke up last Thursday and blammo – e-mail account shuttered. No explanation. No access to my contacts. No way to route all of my business contacts – accrued over the past 15 YEARS – to my new gmail account.
I freaked out.
I immediately e-mailed MSN customer service for help in explaining the situation – to notify them of the hacked password, the spam e-mails, but also of the fact that I had updated my security settings and all now seemed well. If nothing else, I asked for access to my contact list. 24 hours later, I received an automated response, demanding all sorts of information, to prove that I was the owner of the account. It read as if MSN thought I had forgotten my password.
I replied with all that info last Thursday, then AGAIN detailed the situation at great length, saying that someone had pumped spam out of my account, and that I had corrected the issue. I begged them to help me get back in, so I could retrieve my Rolodex. I never heard from them again.
Now… I know we’re not supposed to become reliant on webmail. But the fact is that almost all of us are nowadays. And I know that my password should have been more complex, but the fact is that there’s lots of us out here who have been using the same account for more than a decade, with simple passwords. And I know that Hotmail pretty much lacks any worthy customer service, but that doesn’t mean you can just close someone’s account WITHOUT notice WITHOUT a way of saving any information. (More at Techland: A Practical Guide to Android)
This whole episode puts into stark relief the dangers of our modern e-mail communication – that an e-mail provider can yank away my e-mail account and I can lose more than a decade’s worth of contact information in the blink of an eye. And then there’s no one I can speak to about the issue. I have no recourse, to salvage my contacts or letters. I have no way to forward my friends and colleagues and contacts elsewhere.
MSN has ruined my life and I can’t even complain to anyone about it.
It’s dismaying, and more than a little upsetting. So consider this your public service message of the day: Make sure your passwords are complex. Avoid using Hotmail, or other mail providers that are 100 percent uninterested in fielding user issues. And be sure you have back-ups of everything you need – at least all professional contacts - because these administrators can come in at any point, day or night, and obliterate your life without a second thought.
After 15 years as a loyal Hotmail user, and multiple attempts to contact the powers that be, I find it quite revealing to see how quickly I can be brushed aside.
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