If you weren't already paranoid enough about the security of your numerous online accounts – what with the authorities recently immune from prosecution should they decide to hack your phone, PC or laptop – a recent study by Google has shown that your passwords aren't all that secure at all.
Usually when you sign up for a new account you're asked, as a security measure, to pick a question you're likely to remember the answer to, should you forget your password: your first pet, your place of birth, your favourite author or the school you went to as a kid. These are supposed to provide you with an extra layer of security should someone try to hack into your account by re-setting your password.
However, Google's research shows that “secret questions are neither secure nor reliable enough to be used as a standalone account recovery mechanism" and that "they should not be used alone and best practice should favour more reliable alternatives". The reason for this is that the answers to these password questions is too easy to guess – and not just because a lot of us stick the answers to them up on a Facebook profile. Making an obscure reply to one of these questions also doesn't help, because the answer in that case is way too easy to forget.
According to Google, these passwords should only be used as a last resort and the study recommends that the best way to keep your account secure is through SMS backup. You know, kind of like Gmail advises you to do every now and then...