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website security question

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

An internet security question is a backup measure used to authenticate the user of a website or an application in the event that they have forgotten their user name and/or password. Theoretically, a security question is a shared secret between the user and the website.

Because many security questions have answers that can easily be found online with just a little research, they are often criticized for making user accounts vulnerable to attack. Security expert Bruce Schneier referred to website security questions as an “easier-to-guess low-security backup password that sites want you to have in case you forget your harder-to-remember higher-security password.”

A security question should have the following characteristics:

  • The answer should not be available online.
  • The question and answer should be simple.
  • They should be about something memorable to the user.
  • The answer shouldn’t be anything that might change over time.
  • There should be many possible answers to the question.

Alternatives to website security questions include two-factor authentication.

This was last updated in January 2018

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