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Although the services have implemented protocols that are supposed to protect customers, some are still left vulnerable. There are a few solutions and here's just one.

A few days ago, I discovered that Washington Mutual Bank (WaMu) has implemented a new security protocol for its online banking customers. In order to confirm the identity of the person accessing the account, WaMu will present the user with one of three challenge questions.

I commend this bank's efforts to protect its customers, the security of their funds, identity, and privacy. As I said when this change was discovered, undoubtedly WaMu's contemporaries and competitors will follow suit with similar, if not the same, protocols. It's unfortunate that their measures are a bit shortsighted. For those of you who are their customers as well as survivors of abuse, allow me to educate you on a few safety strategies that you can use for yourself.

Background in Abuse
Because you have survived an abusive relationship and escaped it, there is an implied reality that the relationship began as one of trust, perhaps even love. Either way, the foundation was built on implicit trust. Because of that trust, you divulged personal information that you would not ordinarily share with anyone else. Your abuser has knowledge of, access to, and use of any and all of your personal information. They will use it.

One of the things the abuser does is control. They take pleasure is crippling their target by neutralizing them financially, making their target completely dependent on them for absolutely any form of financial ability. The abuser will go to any lengths to discredit their target in order to force their return to "the cage" of inability and stagnation. If discovered, the abuser will subvert every effort their target makes to develop a healthy, productive identity outside of the abuser. It is important to develop strategies to overcome these overwhelming drives the abuser has to control and not allow their tentacles to strangle you and your opportunities.

The Challenge Questions
When I initially read that there would be three challenge questions, I immediately remembered a site from a few years ago that implemented challenge questions in order to secure their enterprise. It was a disaster. The questions were not some that one would think of on a regular basis. Therefore, the answers were not responses that could be easily recalled. The results were not very remarkable.

WaMu has taken the time to develop a menu of challenge questions that relate to things that are somewhat easy to remember. Unfortunately, all of the challenge questions, if answered honestly, are responses that would be well known by the person who you hope is in your distant past. It appears WaMu could have used some assistance in developing these challenge questions or needed to take a broader look at the security it was providing. The security needs to extend to more than just identity theft and fraud.

A Solution
There is a solution to developing your challenge question responses. Given that your abuser already knows the correct answers to each and every potential challenge question, do not use the correct answers. Use a response that only you know, that will make your experience unique. Make certain your responses are tied into something that triggers a recollection for you that you have never shared with your abuser.

Finally, make certain that you never share this information with any person.

More Safety
There are other steps that you'll want to take in regard to making your environment safe from your previous abuser, keeping your whereabouts private, and so on. We'll talk about those on another day. The immediate concern at this writing is keeping your funds private and access to them on a locked vault door. There's also the matter of your online security while job searching and interviewing.

You survived the abuse and have started Life anew. Keep living, free and happy, productive. You are capable and intelligent. But there will be times when all of us need a little counsel.

Be safe.

McAfee, Inc

Dell Home Systems


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