smartphoneOn Saturday I was saved by a second factor of authentication.
I was playing the new SimCity game on my home computer in the basement, when my gaming session (surprisingly, it was playable that day) was abruptly terminated because my account had been logged on in a different location.
Seeing as how I only had one computer with the Origin software installed, I was surprised by this, so I restarted the game. It told me that I was logged on somewhere else, and if I logged on it would log me off the other location. “Sure, sure, whatever.”
A minute or two later, the same thing happens. Then I realize what’s going on.
I’ll admit, my password was horrible. It was four characters long. That said, I was surprised that someone had bothered to capture it. The only game I have is the new SimCity, and it’s problematic as I alluded to in the earlier link.

So I again logged on, forced out the other user, and then went straight to the “change password” link. Here’s where things get fun. Origin’s password reset system requires you to not only have the current password, but also have the answer to your “secret question”. The problem is, my secret question was currently in cyrillic. (Looks like this isn’t uncommon.) So, I didn’t know the answer.

Luckily, the “I forgot my password so please send it to my email” link does not require the secret question to get involved. So I clicked that, got the email, and used the link in the email to reset my password. After that, I spent 30 minutes waiting for an EA technician on chat support to help me change the “secret question”. So now I feel like my account is safe.

Then I walked upstairs and was greeted by 6 voicemail messages on my cellphone. All of them were just strings of digits. This is one of the messages. It turns out, the attacker tried then to gain access to my email account by using the password I had used on Origin, and had kicked off some password reset attempts. Since I had configured my email to require a second factor of authentication (call to my cellphone) before allowing the password to be changed, my email account remained under my control – for now.

So the moral(s) of the story? Use a better password than I did, and make sure you set up second factors of authentication on all the accounts you can. As Smokey the Bear would say if he switched his focus to information security: “Only you can prevent account hijacking.”

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