When you set up a new online account the website often will ask you to answer security questions so if the company needs to verify your identity, you can input the right answer to prove you’re you. For example, these probably sound familiar: “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “In what city were you born?”
No doubt you’ve answered these kinds of online security questions, but really, there’s nothing secure about such generic queries. That’s because someone who wants access to your account could easily do some Internet research to dig up the answers.
So, what’s the best way to keep bad guys from finding out (or guessing) your security question answers?
Your best bet is to lie, especially on websites that only offer generic security questions and don’t let you customize your own questions.
But what’s the best way to remember your false answers?
Use a password manager that also lets you store notes securely. We like Dashlane (free for one device for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android, or $39.99 for multiple devices). The app doesn’t care what kinds of accounts and information you put in there, so you could create an entry titled “Security Question False Answer #1,” and so on, for as many bogus answers you need to remember.
An even better option, and one that many websites offer is to create your own custom questions.
Think of little-known facts that unique to you, significant private moments that represent a milestone or warm memory—things that you have not posted on your Facebook page, or shared with others by way of quizzes on social media sites.
If you think about it, coming up with these unique questions and answers simply takes a stroll down memory lane. For example, you might use the question, "What food caused your first bout of food poisoning?"
You want to have an extremely limited universe of people who would have any knowledge of things, events, or people that are special to you. Your age, your birth date, your mother's maiden name, your favorite color, your first pet's name, your engagement or wedding dates are often all easily found online.
The best way to keep strangers from finding out your personal information is to not make it public. Limit the information and events you share on social media sites and make sure you change your privacy settings on Facebook and other sites so the posts you do share can only be seen by friends and family.
[Image credit: secure data concept via BigStockPhoto]