George Mason University

News at Mason

Take a few minutes to protect yourself online

October 18, 2017

In recognition of October as National Cyber Security Month, Mason’s Information Technology Services wants to remind you that now is a great time to look at the security surrounding your online accounts. Make sure you are doing all you can to keep yourself safe. One place you can start is with the security questions you write to access Patriot Web. The security questions are used to authenticate your account and as another level of security to protect you and your personal information. Use security questions that are difficult or nearly impossible for others to answer.

Experts recommend security questions that:

  • Are simple
  • Are easy for you to remember
  • Have many possible answers
  • Are not found on your social media pages or in a web search
  • Have answers that never change

 

Examples of questions you do NOT want to use:

  • How do you spell cat? CAT. This question is easily answered.                      
  • What is my favorite color? Blue. If you ever take a ‘fun quiz’ on social media, answers to these questions about your preferences can be found. Cyber criminals are sophisticated enough to know how to access social media pages and scan through your posts to find the answers.

Take time to develop questions that are difficult for others to answer. Examples of GOOD security questions:

  • What was the name of your second pet? Questions usually focus on the first pet.
  • What was your favorite place to visit as a child? Use a specific name such as Mellon Park instead of something generic like park or grandma’s house.
  • Where were you on New Year’s Eve 1999? Many people remember because it was the end of the ’90s.
  • Who was your first high school crush? This can have a variety of answers and is not something most people widely disseminate.
  • Who was your childhood hero? The answer should be specific to you.

Questions such as these are more difficult for cyber criminals to guess and are not typically included in social media postings. Information Technology Services has suggested security questions and instructions for changing your questions at itsecurity.gmu.edu/patriotweb.cfm.

Please take 10 minutes to review your security questions and protect yourself online. Do not make it easy for cyber criminals to gain access to your accounts. Remember, you are big part of securing your online identity. It starts with a strong password and good security questions.