Good security questions and answers

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In our last episode, we learned why security questions are important. Today we’re going to look at what makes a good security question, and which ones to avoid.

Here are five security questions you shouldn’t answer.

-What is your birthday?
-What is your mother/father’s maiden or middle name?
-What is your high school mascot?

What’s so bad about those questions? Well, let’s do an experiment. Log in to your Facebook account. See how many of those above questions you can find answers to on your Facebook page. Do you list your birthday on your profile? Are you friends with your Mom? Is your high school education listed? Is there a photo of your car tagged in someone’s album?

In today’s digital world, finding information is becoming all too easy. That’s because we’re becoming all too comfortable with sharing even the most mundane details of our lives with nearly everyone in the world. If you’ve posted your high school alma mater, someone can find out the mascot. If someone’s posted a picture of your car, someone will be able to find out the color, make, and model. Answering questions like the ones we just covered is a poor decision. Don’t do it! But even if you’re forced to, there are still ways to protect yourself.

Some websites, for example, don’t give you a choice of security questions to answer. They may force you to reveal your high school mascot. If that’s the case, find clever ways to disguise the answer. Let’s say your high school team was the Colts. Rather than using Colts, try something like this: “C@l+$”. The word is identifiable—and memorable—to you, but because you’ve used symbols in the answer, it becomes tough to crack.

If you get to create your own security questions, here are a few good ones:

-What was the last name of your fourth grade teacher?
-What was the name of your second pet?
-Where did you celebrate New Year’s Eve in 1999?

Those questions don’t have easy-to-find answers, and you can create your own as long as the answer isn’t obvious. As we learned in a previous episode, guessing the answer to a security question can allow the potential theft of your password. For more tips on protecting yourself, visit www.securitymatters.iu.edu

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