As a user of the Internets, I’m fairly certain that you have run into this situation before. Some website or service you’re signing up at kindly requests that you set up a secret question/answer pair. Most commonly, this functionality is used to reset your password in the event that you have forgotten it. Other times though, it can be used as an additional layer of security. For example, when you’re calling a company that provides a service to you, and you have the ability to do some really terrible things, like shutting down your server, they’re going to want to make sure they know who they’re speaking with really is who they say they are. Sure, I could tell them my name, but generally speaking these people do not know my voice, so anybody could say they are me. However, not everybody knows my high school mascot!
Unfortunately, that is not altogether true. In fact, most of the time you set up this secret question/answer pairs, you are given the ability to select from a pre-generated list of questions, often being things like:
- “What is your Mother’s maiden name?”
- “What is your Father’s middle name?”
- “What was your high school mascot?”
- “Who was your favorite elementary school teacher?”
- “What was your first pet’s name?”
If someone is trying to reset your password to your online banking website, prove that they’re really you so that they can shut down your server, or whatever the case may be, they’ll need to answer one of these questions. A lot of time, the people that are doing this do not know anything about you, they are completely anonymous. So the chance that they know this information is pretty slim, right? Nope! Now that we share every facet of our lives on social media, there’s a pretty good chance that if someone knows your email address, or even just your name, they can quickly and easily gain access to this information.
So what is the point of all of this? The point is the questions that they offer for you to select are usually ones that can be easily found out. Sometimes, the website will give you the option to write your own question, and you should take this option! Furthermore, your secret question/answer pair should be something completely nonsensical. That way, you are pretty much guaranteed to be the only person who knows the answer, and looking at your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and et al. will not serve up the answer.
So what do I mean by completely nonsensical? I mean COMPLETELY NONSENSICAL! Some examples:
Q: “What is fortitude minus sovereignty?”
A: “Mustard can.”
Q: “Where do the keys go?”
A: “Inside the jelly popper.”
Q: “What time is it in Sandusky?”
A: “Eagle swimming to Australia.”
See what I’m getting at here? Nobody in the world is going to know the answer to these questions, unless you tell them, which is in itself a whole other article. If the service you’re signing up for does not offer the ability to write your own question/answer pair, no worries! You can still answer one of the standard questions in a nonsensical manner!
Q: “What is your mother’s maiden name?”
A: “Captain washing machine floater.”