PROVING YOU’RE YOU
F OR YEARS, AND YEARS, ANYONE CALLING A BANK FOR ACCOUNT INFORMATION HAS BEEN PREPARED TO ANSWER A STANDARD SECURITY QUESTION: “WHAT’S YOUR MOTHER’S MAIDEN NAME?”
But as the threat of identity theft grows, financial-services companies are deploying a new array of questions—both on the phone and online—to confirm you’re really you.
These next-generation queries run the gamut from biographic trivia (“In what city was your first elementary school?” or “What was the name of your first boyfriend or girlfriend?”) to questions that sound better suited to an online-dating and/or romance questionnaire
(“What’s your favorite food? Favonte musician? The sports team you most like to see lose?”). Research analyst Michael Szydlo at RSA, a consulting firm that assists online security at Wachovia and Bank of America, says that while some of the queries may seem oddly personal, they’re heavily researched to ensure two things: that you’ll actually remember the answer, and that there are enough possible responses that it’s hard for hackers to guess the correct one.
Financial institutions are also paying more attention to users’ habits, such as what times of day they tend to access accounts: if usage patterns change drastically, the bank may suspect that the account has been compromised. That extra oversight is useftil, since too many users still rely on a primitive memory device that drives security experts nuts: sticking Post-It notes with their passwords on their computer screens.
March 12, 2007 (pg. 11)
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