What is My Mother’s Maiden Name? “Meatball”

What is My Mother’s Maiden Name? “Meatball”
We are often asked by online companies for some piece of personal information with which to later identify us. “Mother’s maiden name” is one of those questions often asked.

Most people hardly hesitate to give out this information in an expectation that no one could do anything with that piece of data. Additional questions may include: favorite musician, high school mascot, favorite food, where you met your spouse, the name of the street where you grew up, or the like.

I have news for you however:  these are not secrets.

People talk on social media about their interests and hobbies and have links to their family members. Although your social media profile may not reveal your mother’s maiden name, there are also genealogy sites like Ancestry.com and others where hackers can get that information.

What makes it worse is that often times we can’t even remember what we said was our favorite food one year ago, but hackers can guess it twenty percent of the time – for example, “pizza” is number one.

Protecting Your Questions From Hackers

So what can you do?

Well, who says the answers to these questions need to be true? They just need to be easily remembered and match what you gave originally.

Use a word that is not part of your life, something you wouldn’t say on your Facebook page or LinkedIn account.

For example, let’s say you are a vegetarian.  You could use “meatball” for the answer to all your questions. It will be easy to remember and almost impossible for hackers to guess — don’t actually use “meatball” now that it is in this article!

You may think it is unsafe to use the same answer for all your questions, but you won’t easily forget it and if you choose a word that is not a part of your world, hackers will not easily guess it.

Lately, many websites are using tools like Konfirmi that take your basic information and check it against public databases, or use other verification methods such as two factor authentication to prove you are who you say you are.

Although these might add an additional step to a checkout process or online application, it is worth it to know that the site you are on is secure.

Recaptcha Security – Is It Dependable?

Of note, ReCaptcha or “Are you a Human” have been hacked and do not provide a sufficient layer of security to a website anymore.  For example, a security researcher named East-Ee Security claims to have discovered a “logic vulnerability” that allowed for an easy bypass of Google’s ReCaptcha v2.  University of Maryland researchers announced they have created “UnCaptcha”, an automated system to defeat ReCaptcha’s auditory challenges with a success rate of about 85%.

It is important to stay abreast of these changes in this age of data breaches and hackers trying to impersonate you.

Happy online travels and be safe!