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How are 'Secret Questions' Secure? 116

Anonymous Howard wonders: "It seems that every authentication system these days requires me to provide the answers to several personal questions, such as 'Mother's Maiden Name' and 'Name of High School' for resetting lost passwords. I've always disliked this method because it is completely open to anyone with some personal information about me, but now it seems that its security continues to degrade as more and more Help Desk Reps can easily see this same information about me. Can anyone explain to me how these questions/answers, which seem to vary little among systems, are in the least bit secure?" You have to have some way of identifying yourself if you forget your password. If you feel the same way about these 'secret questions', how would you implement a secure facility to change passwords?

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