This Is Your Life*

Before trying to tap that account, you might want to bone up on obscure family history the security-screening process might want you to provide.
Before trying to tap that account, you might want to bone up on obscure family history the security-screening process might want you to provide. (By Chip East -- Bloomberg News)
By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 7, 2007

Please select and provide answers for three of the following questions:

What is your mother's maiden name?

What street did you grow up on?

What was your middle school mascot?

What color was your father's Chevy in 1988?

When you dinged that Chevy, what was the cost, in dollars and cents, of the repair, and which REO Speedwagon song was playing at the mechanic's?

Who are you?

Thank you. You will be directed to your account shortly.

* * *

Knowledge-based authentication. This is the security system used by financial institutions to determine whether users are who they say they are. Developed in the 1990s, it's now a $57 million business online -- up from $22 million in 2006, according to industry research firm Aite Group -- employed by big names like Vanguard, Wachovia, Bank of America and Mellon.

But the method, designed to be a simple and effective Q&A, has philosophical repercussions.

Like this one:


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