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8:19am on Tuesday, 11th January, 2011:

Security Question


I'm not a great user of Facebook. It's not that I don't get it, it's that I get how long it would take me to respond to it each day. I have a hard enough time with email...

Anyway, as yesterday was my birthday, I logged in to change my status. In so doing, I noticed that my prvious status was what I'd put my previous birthday, so I figured I'd better log in again to turn it off this time round. When I did, I got asked to improve my account's security:

Quite how having a "security question" improves my security I don't know. It looks like one more way a hacker could get in in my view. They may not be able to guess my password, but they could guess the answer to a security question. Well, they could if I don't get to ask the security question myself, which is the case here.

Look at the questions, too! I never had a "first grade teacher", but I did have a reception class teacher. Anyone who went to Hornsea County Primary School at the same time as me would know her name, and, as Facebook is purportedly for connecting friends, some of the friends on my friends list did indeed do just that.

I know the town of city my mother was born in, but it's another question for which "only you can answer" makes little sense. My mother, for example, probably knows the answer.

I don't have a "driver's license" either. I have a "driving licence", the last five characters of which I don't know. I do know that I can work most of them out from my personal details, though. According to Wikipedia: the first five are from my surname, BARTL; next is my decade of birth digit, 6; the next two are my month of birth, 01 (51 if I'd been female); the next two are my day of month of birth, 10; the next one is my year of birth digit, 0; the next two are my initials, RA; the next is a 9; the last two are check-digits. This leads to BARTL 601100 RA9??. The ?? are check digits, the code for which has apparently yet to be cracked, so that does mean that if I were to use this as my something-only-I-know it would take at most 26*26=676 attempts to guess it (or, if they can have numbers as well as letters in there, 36*36=1,296).

The street I lived on when I was 8 years old is, again, something that would be known to anyone who knew me when I was 8 years old.

In the end, I went with the "first grade teacher" question but salted it with some secret code that only I really do know.

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).