It is a question asked millions of times a day in call centres the world over. ‘What is your mother’s maiden name?’ All too often it is a name that can allow access to all manner of valuable and private data. And, say experts, it’s a name very easy for wrongdoers to discover. That charming person you met in a hotel lobby or bar, at the golf club or hairdresser – didn’t he drop that question into the conversation after that second martini or coffee? ‘My name’s Jack by the way. What is your mother’s maiden name?’ Studies undertaken by the Institute for Online Security (IOS) in Reading reveal four out of ten people will reveal their father’s name, the name of their first pet and their favourite subject at school within five minutes of meeting a stranger. Secretly filmed videos show targets revealing their favourite sport, TV star and their private family words for going to the toilet with alarming speed.
‘The answer is straightforward’ says Professor Maria Higg1ns42 at the IOS. Women’s surnames should in future contain at least eight characters, including at least two numbers. But Dr Helen W00psy-diddly-d@ndy! says that may not be enough and is proposing that all women’s pre-marital surnames have further complexity with use of shift and alt keys, and possibly even Cyrillic characters.
Dr W00psy-diddly-d@ndy! also argues that the whole concept of maiden names is related to old fashioned notions of marital maternal and female identity. ‘The issue is even more complicated than that,’ argued Jim 12OcelotSandwiches, senior lecturer in security studies at the University_of_12_Peculiar_Secrets. ‘Too many of us will invent funny mothers’ maiden names only to blurt them out in social situations to gain an approving laugh. Then we’ll need a new password, and so on. I can see a future in which people will have to prove their identity by producing a sample of an agreed bodily fluid.’