Workspace: A Detective Story

Google Workspace is the paid version of Google’s suite of products including Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. It utilizes a domain you create to distinguish your account, rather than using gmail. Originally called G Suite and before that, Google Apps. Those who got in early as free users still retained that upgrade when it was taken away from new customers or those who back down on their plan to eliminate this offer, if they used it for personal use of the product only and now must state such to retain their email for free services.

However, if you forget to do that, or the person who is in that administrative role has since left, Google will convert your account to a paid version and then after a grace period for adding payment information, suspend the whole account. This will cause problems accessing any of its mailboxes.

I would like to share my story of the time when I had to recover the account. For whatever reason, if it is important to you, you have to be the maximum level administrator. (For this reason, I also caution against using “white label” services)

Is Google Workspace in danger of being hacked?

Connie had the email for her one-person business hosted at Google Workspace from when it was free. When Connie woke up one day, the email stopped going to any of her devices. To fix this, she accessed her email through Gmail’s Web app and couldn’t access Mail on her Mac because it needed an administrator’s help.

Google doesn’t provide clear contact information so it can be difficult to communicate with account managers. They might have a good reason for this in an organization with a large IT department, but that causes difficulties when issues arise.

I asked Connie if someone else had set up the account for her. She thought so, but the only person she could bring to mind was a long-departed employee we’ll call John, with whom she was still in touch. Unfortunately, neither of them remembered John’s password for his Google account. Worse still, our attempts to reset his password were met only with a directive to contact the administrator… which was theoretically John himself. That made me suspect there was another administrator in play with a different account, but Connie couldn’t remember who that might have been.

The “Forgot your email?” option from Google allows you to find an email by inputting a recovery email address or phone number and first and last name. That provided Connie and John’s personal Google email, but it did not avail anyone else.

Google’s Admins Toolbox has an obscure form that lets you request a user be promoted to Super Administrator. You must have the ability to edit DNS zone records for the domain in order to submit this form. I did this, but alas, to no avail.

It was concerning that Connie’s promotion to super admin had not happened automatically. It was also concerning that her email account was suspended and she had a difficult time responding to any requests emailed to her. The following situation had not been considered by Google.

After the suspended account was deleted, I couldn’t reach Google customer service without an active Workspace account, so I used mine and the agent helped even though my issue was about another user’s account. Google support quickly closed the case with instructions for more DNS zone editing, which I performed with no great optimism but apparently no other options. When my doubts were confirmed when I received an email that Google support’s caseload was overwhelmed and they won’t help. Another hour wasted.

Read a detective story where Google Workspace is the crime scene.

I poked around and found that Google Spaces still allows you to access a user’s contact info. Within the directory I saw another email address which was maybe Rachel Kole. When I typed it into Google, this person’s work history came up.

I’m the Super Admin!

When I have a question and the answer isn’t immediately available, I go on a “trail” until I find the information needed. When Google deleted the account while I was waiting for more information, I knew this was something very pressing that needed to be done ASAP.

I attempted to recover my password, and this time I had some more options in order to gain access. They were suggesting that the password was hers because it was her email, and then I had to input her recovery email address, which I knew from a previous game.

I did a Google search for “Rachel” and found information about this company that might match our email pattern, Dawson and Kole. When I tried to find more information about the company, though, I couldn’t be sure.

The domain had no website, so I next looked at the Wayback Machine, which showed that a website for existed between 2008 and 2016, but it was not accessible at all.

With google managing my email for, I tried and failed to get the two-factor code from my email address. I checked whether it had been registered in the past and found that it hadn’t. So I registered it with my current go daddy account and now have full control of

GoDaddy doesn’t provide free email with domain registration anymore, so I created a new trial Google account to register But Google wouldn’t let me do that because the domain was never removed from their world, even though there is no longer a registered domain behind it. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to try out the Custom Email Domain feature of iCloud (How to Set Up Custom Email Domains with iCloud Mail).

To set up iCloud Mail, I opened my browser and went to the iCloud Website, signed in with my Apple ID and entered the domain name. GoDaddy prompted me for details, so I signed into it as well. After that, I was all set.

After trying my personal email, I tried to input the recovery password. After three attempts failed, I was blocked from guessing for a few hours. Knowing that many people forget passwords for their phones, I decided to carefully think through my next guess.

I searched for Rachel’s email address and couldn’t find it. Instead, I tried the Wayback Machine, but it failed this time as well.

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