When security just becomes annoying

Like many people around the world, I manage my banks accounts online. Now I'm not constantly making transaction after transaction, but the convenience of being able to log just to simply check how much money is in my account is just amazing. Unfortunately, my bank seems to be doing everything in its power to replace this convenience with frustration and annoyance.

When I first signed up for my online banking account, things were great. But recently, my bank decided it was time to step up their online security. I received an email that informed me that the next time I logged into the website I'd be prompted to answer five questions selection from a provided list and that these questions would be used at a late date to verify my identity.

Well, just as the email described, I was prompted to select 5 questions to answer upon my next login. The problem is that the questions were ridiculous. Not only was it a horrible selection of questions, but all of them could easily be answered with little or now research or knowledge of me as a person. Even choosing the most obscure questions could easily be answered after a casual conversation. And of course, there was no selection of "other" that would allow you to write up your own question. While this sounds bad enough on it's own, it actually gets worse.

Your typed answer is saved in exactly the format you've typed it, which means that whether or not you know you answer, if you type it just a little bit different, it's going to register as an incorrect answer. For instance, lets say that one of your security questions was "What is your cellular phone number?", and let's say your typed answer was "760-555-5555". Well, this could also be typed as "1-760-555-5555", "1.760.555.5555", "1 (760) 555-5555", or any number of combinations of the numbers and punctuation. So, even though you obviously know your own phone number, you might fail to "properly answer" when prompted for it.

This means that you have to write down all 5 of your answers to the questions you've selected. Sure this doesn't seem that bad, but what if you're out and about and you need to quickly access your banking information? You don't always have access to your pad of paper (or encrypted disc image in my case) to get into your correct answers when you want to view your banking information. Worst of all, if you incorrectly attempt to guess the password three times, the system turns off remote login and you're forced to call the bank and have them turn it back on.

This system is horrible and frankly inconvenient. Sure, I appreciate my bank trying to make my accounts more secure, but can't they find a better way? At the very least they should have a "limited access" login option that only lets you view account balances without having access to the money itself. something that doesn't force me to jump through hoops every time I'd like to view my account balance.

posted by Christopher Schnese