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What You Should Know About Security Questions

Jackie here. We talk a lot about passwords being the key to your accounts, but what happens you lose that key? Security questions to the rescue! These little questions are just as important as your password. How do you choose a good one? What should you avoid?

What Makes a Good Security Question?

Let’s start by taking a little quiz. I’ll list a few security questions below. Which questions do you think are strong?

• In what city were you born?
• What was the name of your favorite elementary school teacher?
• What is the name of your pet?
• Who is your favorite historical figure?
• What did you eat for dinner last night?

If you weren’t sure if the above questions are strong or not, here are some tips for picking the better questions. A good security question needs several key components. It should be impossible to guess or research, unchanging, memorable, simple, and have many potential answers (but only one answer to you). The key to a good question is an answer you’ll know, but no one else will.

Let’s look at the questions above and determine which questions are the better options on the list.

In what city were you born?– This question is problematic as it is easily researched. It may be public record and it is even an answer people may list on their Facebook profiles. Not a good choice for a security question.

What was the name of your favorite elementary school teacher?– This question is better. Few people probably know your favorite teacher in elementary school, but this is a question you’re likely to remember, especially if a specific teacher had a big impact on you.

What is the name of your pet?– If you frequently post online about your pet, this question is not the one to choose. This answer would be well known by anyone that knows you and is probably easily found on your Facebook profile.

Who is your favorite historical figure?– This is a good security question, provided you remember the answer. If you choose a question like this, make sure you choose a memorable answer.

What did you eat for dinner last night?– Although hard to guess, this question is constantly changing and will be impossible to remember. Not a good option for a security question.

While security questions are often pre-selected, you generally have a choice of options. Look for the best possible questions and choose answers that you will remember, but that others cannot easily figure out. If you can’t choose a unique question, consider creating a unique answer. You don’t have to answer with the actual correct answer if you’ll remember something else.

What Do I Do If I Forget My Answer?

Choosing a security question with a memorable answer is important, but what happens if you do forget? Every company handles this situation differently, but many will allow you to reset your questions with either a rescue email address (online) or a call in to verify your identity with a customer service representative. It is typically much easier to reset a password than a security question so make sure your answers are ones you’ll remember.

Do you have any tips for choosing good security questions and answers?


  1. Or you could come up with one obscure answer that you use for every question. Where were you born? carrotsoup. What is your pet’s name? carrotsoup.

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