Wednesday, November 09, 2005

RSA: Phishing experiments hook net users

Here's a nifty RSA press release describing a recent experiment they conducted in NYC. Experimenters posed as tourism pollsters and in most cases were able to gather enough information from their subjects to divine possible passwords they might use for their various accounts. Oddly, most people wouldn't give out their password itself, or the method by which they come up with new passwords.

The article points out that the most likely explanation is that most people just aren't aware of how other personal information can be used as "back doors" (e.g., by using the mother's maiden name to reset "forgotten" passwords). I'm kind of at a loss on this one. Who hasn't had to set up a security question for this purpose? Are people setting these up and forgetting about them, or maybe blindly answering the questions without understanding the purpose of collecting the information?

Here's what I'd like to do. I'd love to repeat this experiment, with a twist. At the end of each interview, hand the person a scorecard telling them how well they protected their information, and providing suggestions for improvement. Be sure to give examples of how each piece of requested information could have been used against them. That way you gather results and educate the public at the same time.

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