May 29, 2009

You are hanging on a VERY thin thread

Hyang Zhao joined SL a month earlier than I did, in September 2006, and soon started to work as an official SL mentor, helping new users find their way around SL. Hyang is a community figure, well known to a lot of residents. Hyang is also a Premium member, paying hard currency to Linden Lab each month. Hyang comes from Russia, which makes some things more difficult compared to Western users, but Hyang takes it with a smile. The next software crash, redmapping or power/network outage might be the death sentence for Hyang Zhao, and she will never be able to get back into SL again.

Yesterday, Hyang changed her password on the SL website, something a sensible person should do every once in a while. Something went wrong during the process, a wrong click, a typo, something simple that can happen to anyone, and suddenly Hyang was locked out of the system. The options for password recovery given were:
  • Last amount of US$ transaction
  • Name 3 friends
  • Answer security question
According to Hyang - who was in a state of mild panic when she IMed me - she answered the friends question but the system refused the answer. This lead to the request of calling a phone number in the US which is quite expensive from Russia:
Are you having a little trouble with your password or security question? We can get this straightened out by talking to you. Please call us: (866) 476-9763.
I started a live chat session with LL Support on her behalf, and they confirmed there is no way around phoning them:
LL Support Employee: The only way we can reset a password is by speaking to the account holder, so she will need to call us
Eventually Hyang called the US number, and got asked for the security question which - in her case - was what her favourite book is. She got it wrong. She entered the security question in 2006, and since then tastes have changed, new favourites were added, and she did not recall which book she claimed back then. Linden Lab Support refused to reset her password, even after Hyang identified herself with real name, address, credit card number etc. - no valid answer to the security question, no password reset.

This got me wondering, what my security question might be. I set it almost three years ago, and even thinking about it hard I can not recall what it might have been. So alarmed by Hyang's experiences I tried to update my security question, but unfortunately you can't do it yourself. So I opened a ticket and asked them how to do it:
Dear Peter, Thank you for contacting Linden Lab support.
In response to your query regarding changing your security question. This can only be done via calling us on the below telephone numbers and requesting this via the phone call. Kind Regards, Brian, Linden Lab support.
Hum. I better call them and have that sorted out. Hyang's experience shows that all that separates you from digital oblivion is that security question. So you better know damn well what you entered there!


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