Originally published on WBUR Cognoscenti: http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/2013/01/01/password-security-chris-duff
Ever forgotten a password online? The questions that websites ask to establish your identity have gotten so specific and so difficult that I often have trouble convincing Bank of America that I’m really me.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in “Blade Runner” and Harrison Ford will show up at any minute to interrogate me. “I swear I’m not an android, Mr. Ford. I just want to check my account balance. Please stop testing my pupil dilation.”
Bank of America’s actual security questions make me wonder how much I really know about myself.“What is the first name of your first manager?” Oh wow. How do you define “manager” really? Are we talking the lady who ran the book fair I volunteered at in second grade? What was her first name?
“Who is your favorite childhood superhero?”I have absolutely no idea. Is this the type of information most people remember about themselves? I’m not even certain I ever really had a preference. If I was a 7-year-old being accosted on the street, I would gladly accept assistance from either Batman or Spiderman. I wasn’t one to take sides.
Bank of America isn’t even the worst offender. Heaven help you if you forget your Apple ID. Trying to retrieve a password from Apple is like taking a Rorschach test inside a hall of mirrors.
“What was the first thing you learned how to cook?” I’m going to assume for most people this was water. Does boiling water count as cooking? Are we considering assembling raw ingredients without heat “cooking”? If so, I’d like to change my answer to “baby food.” Is there someone out there whose first menu item was “soufflé”? Should I have been aiming higher? We’re only supposed to be establishing my identity, but somehow Apple manages to make me feel completely inadequate.
“What is the name of the first beach that you visited?” Again, this is an actual question that Apple uses to establish your identity. You might as well ask me for the genus of the first amphibian I ever saw. Who keeps a list of these obscure firsts? If I had only known that my failure to keep a diary as a toddler would prevent me from electronically purchasing music in the future, life would have been so different.
“What is your dream job?” All of a sudden you started caring about adult me, huh Apple? Do you want to know the specific position and company? Or are you just looking for a broad title like “astronaut” or “sandwich artist?”
And if asking me about my hopes and dreams and deepest memories isn’t enough, now you want me to retype the letters or numbers in this image? Those can’t possibly be numbers or letters. Who drew this? This looks like a dyslexic robot’s signature.
Let’s just stop this charade right now. Before you even try to ask me anything else, I’ve got a question for you: What’s your customer service number?