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How two factor authentication affected my life and mental health

by Gia Santos about a year ago in tech · updated about a year ago
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How two factor authentication affected my mental health

On July 27th, 2021 my iPhone fell into the bay causing water damage, even though we recovered it and did everything to make sure the iPhone was dry afterward, the iPhone apple signal simply did not turn back on. Never mind that just a few months before I paid Apple to fix a cracked screen that would turn the iPhone X into a "water-resistant" phone for the price of nearly $400 (without iPhone insurance), which iPhone claims you can only purchase within the first year of purchasing a new iPhone from them. This led to being without a phone for weeks until I was forced to purchase a new phone from AT&T along with a new phone number since the one I had been using was tied to a shared account I had no access to, and therefore could not resolve thanks to Apple not allowing me to change my password and two-factor authentication further worsening the already hopeless situation

The consequences of iPhone "Apple" not allowing me to renew the device insurance, and relying on Apple iCloud, and Google to automatically save my passwords for improved "security" including the use of two-factor authentication for emails, and social media had serious consequences including the following

I soon found out that I did not have access to my Apple account, my google emails, and other necessary day-day apps. I lost access to all my contacts for family, friends, and co-workers. I was not allowed to login nor regain access to my emails, and social media pages both personal and public pages I manage for various nonprofits and projects due to "two-factor authentication" codes required by Apple, Google, and most social media sites which utilize them as an extra layer of security to login. It left me in-communicated with family, friends, co-workers at a crucial time when I am working on the East Coast through the pandemic and an uncle was in a hospital in TX at the time. I was also left with writing deadlines I no longer had access to and worse... applications I had just started and could no longer update in order to receive the necessary support

The amount of stress caused by a lack of customer support from Apple, Google, and social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter was unnecessary and affected my mental health especially when I was a paying Ads customer and long term user who manages multiple accounts for nonprofits in addition to my own projects and writing. Not to mention the loss of time, contact with family and friends in addition to lost applications, writing deadlines, and more. If you use social media make sure to “not” rely on any type of automatic password security by tech companies such as Google's automated password saving and two-factor authentication used by Google and most social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc unless you keep physical copies of those passwords and backup codes

When I spoke with a representative from BOA he shared with me how he has also experienced an issue with two-factor authentication on an Apple device he had given away which affected him when he did not realize he had left two-factor authentication turned on and therefore had no control over apps being purchased under his apple account which he could no longer gain access to

The main security flaws of two-factor authentication are the following

Two-factor authentication is not only flawed, but it is also not entirely secure according to Cnet- it is vulnerable to SIM swapping attacks just as Twitter's Dorsey was hacked before, and yet Twitter continues to use two-factor authentication (which promises an extra layer of security), along with Facebook-owned apps, Google Gmail, banking apps and more

SMS authentication is easier to hack according to The Verge, though Goggle has previously stated they would upgrade this system it was merely considered for high profile politicians and the like

How social media sites, Google, and other companies including AT&T, IRS responded to my customer support requests to update my passwords and regain access to my emails and social media pages

AT&T: Customer service was helpful, and friendly with getting a new iPhone device and phone number (with a special deal). However, due to the issues that could not be resolved mentioned above, I now have to wait an additional 30-90 days to attempt to recover a phone number connected to all of my accounts, before that number then becomes available for a random person to use

IRS website: The IRS phone customer service did not know how to help, after many attempts they did send an email signed by Katherine D. from Free-File team saying among other things, that if I no longer had access to my phone number and email used to create the account they could not assist me. With a deadline coming up in October, they will no longer be accepting updates to existing claims including child tax credit support (important to note for those who are still applying), which means I cannot update my existing application nor make a new one since their system is not designed to actually help those who need the support, and that needs to change especially when they claim they help "all who need it, including minority women" well I happen to be under all those categories

Google: Google did not respond to my request from a work email to verify the personal and work emails are mine, furthermore... Google said I had to wait over 180 hours for a response they never sent. Google no longer showed me the option to verify the email is mine by answering a few security questions. Had they allowed me to answer those security questions as Amazon did. I would have been able to recover my emails, contacts, my writing pages, and even my new Etsy page which is now down since I cannot access my emails. I also had to speak with Amazon, BOA about updating my information for security since Google no longer gave me access to my own emails. I did eventually make a new email on Google and this time two-factor authentication was skipped for my own peace of mind

Facebook: Facebook denied me the ability to change my password due to two-factor authentication, not having access to my emails since Google also denied me access for the same reasons "two-factor authentication" like Google, Facebook also did not allow me to answer security questions nor did they provide a way for me to recover my account despite Facebook having all my private information such as state ID, full name, DOB, home address, passport, and even SS number and selfie to verify it all, much like the government demands you show at an airport, land border crossing except in the case of Facebook it was in order to have a one year pass to run ads deemed to be "political" in reality they were ads for human rights and freedom for nonprofit organizations which I manage for numerous NGOs and individuals. One thing Facebook did provide, was a list of three trusted contacts who can each provide a security code for me. The issue with that is two contacts are out of state, one doesn't know how the system works and another is out of touch making this option by Facebook impossible and useless. In the end, I was forced to make a new Facebook account which some family and friends thought was a "copycat" or fake account leading to explanations that did not need to be made. This of course also means I lost access to the pages I managed, owned including groups. I have slowly been able to regain some of that but my contacts and all content I uploaded is stuck in the Facebook domain

Instagram: Instagram functions with both Google and Facebook to login in addition to the pesky and flawed two-factor authentication which means I have as many chances of regaining that account as I do Facebook itself. This led me to make a new account which is time-consuming and devoid of my original content and followers

Twitter: What can be said of Twitter that hasn't been said of Facebook and Google already in regards to the failed use of two-factor authentication, you get the point. I was also forced to make yet another new account since Twitter is notorious for never replying to any requests for support, tweets, and emails to regain a personal/work account. This also isn't the first time Twitter has failed me and others either. The accounts Twitter has failed to allow me to recover are the following @Gia_Santos_ being the most recent and @GiaIbarra from years ago, and finally a collaboration of artists and activists @artists4freedom @music4freedom and more

It is time for Google, Twitter, and other social media giants like Facebook to start listening to their users, and clients before we abandon them forever to the competition "smaller spaces" that not only listen to their users, they don't shadow ban them for their opinions and/or sharing of information which is after all... a right

There are three companies out of all the tech giants, and the companies listed above that did help me recover, and update my accounts. Those companies are not surprisingly... Amazon, Ancestry, and BOA. That left me wondering if this is why Amazon is at the top of the chain due to actually having a system set up by phone, chat, and email to help their customers regain access to their existing accounts which means they keep their customers long-term. The same can be said for Ancestry, and BOA in case you're wondering which companies will actually help you when it all goes to hell, and they did that by having a system to answer customer calls, emails, chat, and having the customer answer security questions which only the customer and the company know. This makes sense right? apparently, it is something Tech giants and government support websites are behind on

As for my mental health, I take things one day at a time... if any pro-bono lawyers out there feel like taking on my case feel free to reach me. I have a feeling that after 30-90 days those tech giants will still hold my information, memories, work, and contacts hostage.

Written by Gia Santos Writer/editor

biosite/giasantos

tech

About the author

Gia Santos

Writer/editor/photographer works with SOLI, MOC | Co-Creator @Artists4Freedom | Gia Santos is my original page on vocal and social media.

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  • Amy Hall2 months ago

    Loved and subscribed! Can't wait to read more of your work! Consider having a look at mine and if you like it, please subscribe... there's a lot to come! I look forward to seeing more of your work!

  • z k6 months ago

    thank you for this story!!! mfa has also affected me greatly as the Univeristy of New Brunswick here in canada is using it to deny me access to much needed programs on which my career hinges. their system does not work for me and as a result i have been subjected to lies, gaslighting and mockery from their staff for over 6 months. i am unable to get access and they will not simply give me access. my mental health has suffered greatly and i have been self harming since this began due to the stress. they offer no medical exception and refused to even investigate my human rights complaint.

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