Much of our identities are locked away in the ether. Kept safe in vapor pockets by banks and wireless providers with paper thin questions like, “What is your mother’s maiden name?” We’ve all answered them, developing password fatigue as we try to remember our favorite sports team or if we used our grandfather’s given name or “Gampy.”
Some things are not that hard to figure out. That Sarah Palin and her husband Todd met in high school was ferreted out by one such hacker just before her Yahoo mail became public knowledge. Same with the name of Paris Hilton’s dog. Yep. Hacked.
Good security questions are hard to design as they need to be definitive, applicable, memorable and safe. If the question is too hard, it might be easily forgotten by the person who is being protected. In the study mentioned earlier, participants forgot 16 percent of the answers within three to six months.
— If the question is too easy, the world of hurt can be indescribably huge.
As a user, you could increase your own security by giving false random answers, calling the bank for a reset whenever you forget them. Still, it is a work-around for a system employed way too liberally by banks that know better.
Perhaps they do it to make customers feel like they are participating in their own security. And better systems, like sending new passwords by email, require hiring an extra person on the phone bank as customers need tech-support when they forget how to use these systems or when they lose auto-generated emails in their spam filters.
Password questions are still king as there is no viable alternative. They reduce customer phone calls, giving companies incentive to keep status quo. Still, finding the balance between customer convenience and protection from identity theft might be difficult. With much at stake, responsible corporations with our identities in their hands might consider titanium locks over vapor.