None of the Above

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Media Outlet: Slate

Website security questions stress me out. How am I supposed to choose and remember a favorite book or favorite teacher? What if I’ve never had a pet? What if my high school’s mascot was a battered bronze lamp that was ceremonially passed from the graduating senior class president to the incoming senior class president at commencement every year while the rest of us sang a high-pitched anthem that began, “Great lamp whose light alone can show among the devious paths of life/ Which way our stumbling feet must go to reach the peace beyond the strife”? (Don’t get me wrong, if a website required me to write out all the lyrics to both verses of “Lamp of Learning” in order to authenticate my account, that would probably pretty drastically reduce the number of potential hackers.)

So answering security questions can be tricky. You want to choose something that’s not so easy anyone trying to get into your account will be able to easily figure it out (see: mother’s maiden name, city where you were born, high school), but not so hard that you run a good risk of being unable to retrieve your answer several years down the road (see: pretty much everything else).

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Josephine Wolff was a Class of 2016 & 2017 Cybersecurity Initiative Fellow at New America, where she will write a book about cybersecurity incidents from the last decade, tracing their economic and legal aftermath and their impact on the current state of technical, social, and political lines of defense.