You can't be too careful these days. There are Internet thieves, election hackers and general evil-doers lurking around every cyber corner. So WebWorld is working to find ways to make us safer, to protect our identities, to do business only after verifying that we are exactly who we pretend to be.
Thus security questions, the answers to which can be provided by you, and only by you. These are items so deeply ingrained in your consciousness that the answers are always with you, and thus you do not have to write them down, because if you write them down then Russians will invade you home and find those scraps of paper and then we will elect Donald Trump.
I am generally mystified by security questions, because I find I can answer so few of them. My favorite color? Well, I guess I had official Favorite Colors when I was growing up. When I was five, it was pink. When I was nine, it was burgundy. When I was 15, it was steel gray and fuck you. But now? Depends on the day; and even then, on most days I don't think I could name a favorite.
So many of the questions follow this pattern. Favorite film? I'd be hard-pressed to limit the list to twenty. Favorite restaurant? Usually the one which most recently served me a really good main course based on cauliflower. But next week I might switch to the place that works magic with chickpeas.
Then there are definitional issues. One website suggested as a security prompt the "city where you had your first kiss." Let's see, now: when I was eight, I played the title role of Snow White in the Camp Sequoia production of the same name. Prince Charming was played by a boy named Harry, who if memory serves, actually did have shoulder-length golden hair. Also horn-rimmed glasses. In the final scene, where Prince C. gives Snow W. the Kiss of True Love that awakens her from death-like slumber, despite the fact that the staging did not require him to do so, Harry actually kissed me. ON THE LIPS. The Forest Animals thought this was a hilarious development. For cyber-security purposes, was that my first kiss? I couldn't tell you.
But I can tell you this: that boy had better not think about running for Congress any time soon.
And spelling questions! No, I do not need to write down the name of the street on which I grew up in order to remember the answer to that one. But is it "Barnes Road?" "Barnes Rd.?" Or just "Barnes?" If the answer is "Barnes Rd" (no period), and you tried answers one through three, then you've already locked yourself out of the system. And heaven alone can help you then.
Fortunately, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service has figured all this out. Customs and Border Protection is the agency which has been trusted with securing our nation's borders, keeping out those nasty terrorists about whom we are all pretty much quaking in our boots pretty much all of the time.
The TSA has a system for identifying non-terrorists and waving them through re-entry into our country, called the Global Re-entry program. As a committed non-terrorist, I am in the process of applying for Global Re-entry. Recently I had to log into their data system to manage some part of my application. I was informed that the system was undergoing a major security upgrade and that I would need to transfer my old login credentials to the new system.
Great news! The Border gang has figured out how to keep us all more safe and secure -- all to the good. The email goes on to explain how to transfer my personal data to the new system:
I should have known the Customs and Border Protection system to come up with the solution to the pesky problem of security questions! "Protection" is in their very name. The answer, no matter the question, is always "AAA."
The elegance of it is this: you never have to write it down! Because we all know how much of a security risk THAT can be.