Human security

Josh Freed: Online security is getting a little too secure for me

I have to change my large number of secret 12-letter passwords so often that I have more passwords than spies, and more security questions than all the NATO joint chiefs.

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I hope you enjoyed accessing this column so easily, because it won’t last. Those easy-to-remember security questions we’ve been answering for years about our first car, dog, or elementary school are also easy for hackers to answer — guessing your car was a Volkswagen and your dog’s name was Rover, Fido or Cat.

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As for your primary school, most have closed here in English Quebec, so the remaining few are easy to guess.

Prepare now for more difficult questions. I registered online with Revenue Canada last month and their new security questions left me feeling insecure. Among them (verbatim):

Question: What is the furthest place you remember traveling by car as a child?

I do not know. At five, I had no map or odometer to know where we were going, let alone how far we were.

My only job was to say, “Are we there already? »

Question: What was your favorite game when you were a kid?

There are several possible answers. I loved table hockey, ping pong, hoops, throwing bubble gum hockey cards, rolling marbles and hitting our arms as hard as we could until a guy said ” uncle”.

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I also loved staring into space for long stretches and imagining that I was Rocket Richard scoring goals. Yet whichever of these activities I remember as my favorite now, I won’t remember next year when Revenue Canada kicks me out for answering “Old Maid” instead.

Other questions: Where were you when you had your first kiss? Hmmm, I barely remember where I was for my last.

What was the name of your imaginary friend when you were a child? I never asked, but his shoe size was 111.

Who was your favorite cartoon character? Now that’s a Goofy question.

Even the simplest question — What is your favorite hobby? — seems complex, because the answer changes over time. Six months ago, everyone’s favorite pastime was baking bread; now everyone plays Wordle. Next year we might all be throwing axes, who knows?

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Frankly, I don’t even remember the answer to my first security question: What was your first car?

I recently failed several times in my online banking attempts – before the site blocked me.

Eventually, I decided to get that security question changed. All I had to do was wait 25 minutes on hold for my bank and then I was told I had to call another special ‘banking security’ number where I was put on hold another 45 minutes.

In the meantime, I held my breath, hoping they would take my call without asking me a security question about what my first car was.

As for these Revenue Canada questions, I did what everyone else does when we’re worried about losing track of our security answers: I put them in my phone, which defeats the purpose to strengthen security issues.

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We’re also plagued by countless other crazy security gimmicks, like Apple’s “two-factor” security. This is where you have to provide your mobile number, so when you try to do something on your computer, Apple’s computer sends your phone a numeric code to type into your computer to make sure you’re really you.

The problem is that recently when I try to type in their SMS security codes on my computer, it doesn’t work. So I lost access to Apple services.

Last week I called Apple, which spent four hours of my unpaid time trying to resolve the issue, mostly with their “prime consultant” – who was completely baffled.

Since I had spent hours on the phone with him and answered many security questions, he knew it was me. So I suggested humans to just bypass the computer’s two-factor security and restore my Apple services anyway.

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The lead consultant replied, “We can’t do that. Nobody can except the computer – and that requires two-factor security. In short, Apple’s security is so secure that not even Apple can access it.

Of course, this is not the end of our online security spiral. I have to identify images of crosswalks, traffic lights and trucks in tests to prove that I am a human, not a computer. I have to change my large number of secret 12-letter passwords so often that I have more passwords than spies, and more security questions than all the NATO joint chiefs.

I am absolutely protected against anyone who wants to use my devices — especially me.

This completes today’s column. To leave this page without breaching security, please answer the following secret question: What was the make of Mr. Freed’s first car?

He would really appreciate the answer.

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