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The Most Secure Password Question

Friday, 22 May, 2015 - 1:00 pm

Google recently completed a study on password security questions.  Sometimes we forget a password (who can keep up with the numerous different types of passwords necessary for websites, devices and services?). To retrieve the password, we are often asked a security question. Some popular questions are, “Where were you born?” or “What’s your favorite food?”  The problem with these questions are threefold:

1)      We may not know the answer! Sometimes, we forget who our second-grade teacher was. We cannot be expected to retain information from long ago.

2)      Information changes. We may have correctly responded that pizza is our favorite food. But that was several years ago. Now, I’m on a serious health diet and I like spinach salad best.

3)      When asked, “What is your favorite song?” we are loathe to enter the true answer – because it’s so popular that it’s simple to guess. So instead we invent an (untrue) answer that is more unique. The problem is that we later forget our ‘creative’ response.

So it appears we may eventually be moving away from password security questions. (The safest way to retrieve a password is to have it sent to your email or cell phone).

But, so long as we do need to rely on security questions, which would be best? Ideally, the questions you will always have an answer to are ones that you cannot forget because they are essential to who you are. Nobody can make you forget that information, nor can they steal it from you. It’s yours because it defines you.

It reminds me of the fellow from Chelm who went to the bathhouse.

He worried that when everyone is unclothed he wouldn't know who he was. Without his own personal set of clothing to distinguish him from others, he might suffer an identity crisis. So he devised a plan. He tied a red string around his big toe so that even in the bathhouse he would stand out from everyone else. Sadly, when he was in the shower, the wet red string slipped off his toe. To make matters worse, the red string floated along to the next cubicle and secured itself on the big toe of another man.

Suddenly, the original man discovered that his string was gone. He started panicking. This was a serious identity crisis. Then he saw that the fellow next door was sporting his red string. Whereupon, he ran over to him and shouted, "I know who you are, but who am I?"

If our entire identity is defined by external elements, then we are in deep trouble. But, fortunately, there are things that are so essential to who we are, we can never possibly forget them. We can never lose touch with the core of who we are.

And this is the message we ought to remember as we prepare to receive the Torah once again. The Torah is not something foreign that we should embrace.

Rather, “The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov” (Deuteronomy 33:4). Torah is our heritage. It’s an internal inheritance – something we cannot lose even if we tried. It may get buried deep down, but it never gets completely lost. Just like genes, whether you are aware of them or not, they are there and they define who you are.  The Torah and its commandments are our spiritual genes.

This Shavuot, let’s relive the experience by looking within ourselves.

Now, looking deeply inside requires guidance.  So, we go to the Torah to rediscover that which is within.


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