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October 1, 2019

Privacy Tip of the Week: Use Security Questions on Your Accounts

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Security, or password recovery, questions are a tool used by online accounts to verify that the owner of the account is who they say they are. It helps users recover forgotten passwords and adds an extra layer of protection to prevent accounts from being hacked. For any account that you can add a security question to, you should. However, not all questions are created equal. Some are easy to guess while others ask for information that can often be found online. To keep yourself protected, follow these tips when choosing your security questions:

  • Choose something memorable
  • Pick something unique
  • Make sure the answer will be consistent
  • Use a question with an unpredictable answer
  • Make your own question
  • Don’t use answers that are on social media
  • Don’t use answers that are public record
  • Store the answers

Choose Something Memorable

A password recovery question is meant to help you get into your account if your forget your password, while keeping hackers out of your account. However, this security measure won’t be very helpful if you forget the answer to the question you set up. For this reason, always choose a question that has a memorable answer, like the name of the first person you kissed or the make and model of your first car.

Pick Security Questions with Unique Answers

The question you set up should require a specific response with only one possible answer. If you choose a question that you can answer in several different ways, you run the risk of forgetting which option you chose. For example, if the question is “what was the name of your grade school,” but you attended multiple grade schools, you might forget which one you picked and therefore not be able to get into your account.

Make Sure the Answer Will Be Consistent

Some security questions ask for answers that can change in the future. For example, questions about your favourite things are notoriously unreliable because those things can change. Your favourite movie, song, colour and food might change from week-to-week let alone from log-in to log-in. If the answer to your chosen question changes. you might not remember what the original answer was.

Use a Question With an Unpredictable Answer

Some security questions run into the issue of being too easy and predictable to guess. For example, some may ask what your eye colour is or what kind of pet you have. There are a few common answers to those questions that can be easily guessed by a hacker trying to get into your account. Choose questions with answers specific to you instead of to huge portions of the population.

Make Your Own Question

Not all online accounts allow you to write your own security question. However, every time you have the opportunity, you should take it. This allows you to write a question that is incredibly specific to you and unlikely to be guessed.

Don’t Use Answers That Can Be Found on Social Media

Our whole lives are on social media. Just make sure your security questions aren’t. If your Facebook page tells people where you live, where you were born, where you work, and what your cat’s name is, don’t use any questions that ask for those answers.

Don’t Use Answers That Are Public Record

If someone can find an answer to a security question in public, governmental records, also avoid using those. For example, a popular question is to ask for your mother’s maiden name. While it seems like it might be difficult to find, a dedicated researcher could find records of her name change after she was married.

Store the Answers

Whether you think you’ll know the answers to your security questions in the future or not, one way to make sure you’ll never be locked out of your accounts is to write your answers down. Use a password manager like KeePass to store them safely on your devices.

To protect yourself further, browse the web privately and safely with HotBot VPN.

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