Man Locked Out of His Gmail Account Ends Up Helping Google Support Worker Unblock His Own Account

Recovering a Gmail account without all security verification presets in place can be quite the ordeal, as this startling episode revealed.

Gmail phone call

Forgetting any password and trying to recover it later can be quite an ordeal, especially if you don’t have all sorts of prerequisites in place. While Google and other tech majors largely recommend registering updated phone numbers, backup emails and preset codes for two-factor authentications and other security measures, such is not always the case. For many, who have had personal Gmail accounts for years, some credentials may often get outdated over time – even without a user realising it. This is just what happened to game developer Mike Rose, who got logged out of his personal Gmail account and failed to recover it – thus requiring official assistance. The Google Support service that he received, however, was startling.

The sequence of events

Rose reached out to Google Support by using his Workspace business account, which gets access to live customer support. While he asked Daniel from Google to help with recovering a personal account, he learnt that not only can Google not help if a user loses access to a personal account, there isn’t a lot that anyone can do. As a far shot, Daniel suggested Rose to post his Gmail account ordeal on Google Support forums, in hope of someone picking up the query and responding to it with a little-known workaround. Here’s where things get even better (or worse, if you’d so have it) – Daniel even confesses to Rose that not only can he not help him recover the account in any way, he has also lost access to two of his own accounts and has no clue of how to recover it.

In a rather surprising turn of events, it is Rose who ended up finding a workaround to getting added attempts to recover a Google account. What he suggests is to click on an account’s forgot password link, open the elements dashboard by hitting F12 on the page, clicking on the ‘Applications’ tab to the top-left, scrolling down to ‘Cookies’, and clearing it. Doing this unlocks a fresh set of security questions, and answering these correctly can help a user eventually recover an account that has long been lost.

Security vulnerability?

Google typically offers a set number of attempts to answer security questions before a user is locked out of being able to recover an account forever. This is particularly prevalent in cases of old accounts that have not been logged in for long (and hence has outdated phone numbers and recovery emails), and in such cases, even answers to security questions may have been forgotten over time. It is here that this process comes in handy, since clearing the cookies on the security questions page seemingly allows users a fresh shot at the answers – and therefore a broader chance at unblocking the account.

This, however, is a bit of a sketchy process. For one, it represents a security flaw that can technically lead to malicious cyber attackers and threat actors brute-forcing key combinations to gain access to a Gmail account. However, many would argue that since answers to security questions can literally be anything under the sun, such a brute force hack attempt would be a far shot in terms of being able to breach an account in time. Nevertheless, it would work as a violation of Google’s safeguards that act towards the security of a Gmail account.

Google isn’t believed to have issued any official word on the matter, as to whether such a workaround would be one way of recovering a long-lost Gmail account. It is also advisable that for any Gmail account of significance and importance (or any account for that matter), users should set up two-factor authentication and add recovery resources, so that they never have to resort to such means in case a password is forgotten or an account’s login is suspended due to, as Google put it in this case, “suspicious activity”.

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