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Is the smartphone the weak link in your current customer authentication process?

The Limits of Customer Security Protocol

SoftwareFolder|The Limits of Customer Security Protocol

Table of Contents

Beyond the Checklist:

Understanding the Limits of Customer Service Security Protocols

SoftwareFolder|The Limits of Customer Security Protocol

Customer Access Denied, Please Update Your Smartphone Details...

The other day I had another of one of those long-winded, exhaustive and grueling experiences where my delayed action and anticipation of what to expect was yet again proven to be correct. An hour or so worth of phone calls with zero result. After all, it’s pretty much impossible to update the details of an account you have been denied access to.

Anyway, confronted and passed along 4 different customer service representatives, the first one seemingly angry and on a mission to catch me out, rather than help me out. The 3rd and 4th a little more helpful, however, still unable to resolve what appeared to be a simple case.

So, is the smartphone the weak link in your current customer authentication process?

Now, while I am sure it wasn’t the intention to make things difficult, however the lack of possible continuity of the process for resolving the simple request to update the mobile number  stored under the profile of my account was thwarted by the  inflexible protocol. A sequence of questioning that although included information which only the account user is likely to know, but didn’t take into account the, perhaps, unusual case of a customer losing access to their mobile number.

The second representative, in case you were wondering, had no idea of what to do and so duly passed me on.

SIM, The core of the problem...

You see, my mobile number’s SIM card had expired and therefore denying me access, or the ability to verify my identity, and this is not only with the account I was attempting to access, but also wherever else authentication relied on my mobile number, such as social media and other platforms.

Anyway, at the end of this grueling ordeal, the conclusion that there really ought to be a better way for managing customer authentication, without all the scripted hoopla a customer is made to dance through.

If there is one thing that most responsible businesses continually work at; It is maintaining a good customer experience. Whether actively focused on providing a streamlined customer journey or inadvertently relying on the professionalism of staff members and their coordination skills. 

Weak links in your process for managing customer queries become apparent when your staff are confronted with a simple task, yet unable to fulfill a request because of protocol that no longer works in todays technological world and the different conditions or circumstances under which customers operate.


Nowadays, it can be so difficult to prove that you are you. It’s true, just lose your smartphone or change your mobile number and watch how your whole world can take a slight tilt Southward.

And it’s at that point that you realize how hugely dependent your online financial and social activity is on your smartphone’s mobile number (the Subscriber Identity Module or SIM)

As a customer yourself, be advised; to avoid a long winded, exhaustive and grueling experience with authenticating your identity, with even the most established business services, do not lose your current smartphone, or moreover, your smartphones mobile number.


The negative domino effect of losing your smartphone

SoftwareFolder|The Limits of Customer Security Protocol

Lost Smartphone or Mobile Number

If you happen to somehow lose access to your mobile number, unless there is a well thought-out recovery method in place, you, or your customers may be subjected to at least one of the following consequences :

  1. Social Media Disruption: Social media platforms often use mobile numbers for account recovery and verification purposes. Losing access to your number can lead to a disruption in your social media presence, as you may not be able to recover your account or prove your identity to regain access.

  2. Communication Breakdown: Your mobile number is likely linked to various communication channels such as messaging apps, email accounts, and other online platforms.

For a number of good reasons, smartphones have become an integral part of our lives. They have revolutionized the way we communicate, work, and access information. However, when it comes to customer authentication processes, smartphones can sometimes be the weak link.

Smartphones are now commonly used as a means of verifying a customer’s identity through various authentication methods, including; biometrics (fingerprint, facial recognition) or two-factor authentication (SMS codes, app-based verification). 

While these methods provide an added layer of security, they are not foolproof, and not all smartphones facilitate the more sophisticated range of features.

One of the main concerns with using smartphones for customer authentication is the vulnerability to hacking and data breaches. Malicious actors can exploit security vulnerabilities in smartphones or intercept SMS codes, compromising the authentication process. 

And as for biometric data stored on smartphones, well they can be targeted and stolen. Which in turn, leaves many people skeptical of embracing some of the more recent technologies.

Moreover, smartphones are susceptible to loss or theft. If a customer’s smartphone falls into the wrong hands, it can lead to unauthorized access to their accounts and sensitive information. Even with password protection or biometric security, determined hackers can still find ways to bypass these measures.

Furthermore, not all customers may have access to smartphones or may prefer not to use them for authentication purposes. This can create exclusionary barriers for those who rely on other devices or methods for accessing online services. It is for this reason why it’s important to consider implementing additional security measures and alternative authentication options. 

This can include using multi-factor authentication that combines different methods (e.g., fingerprint and SMS code), regularly updating security protocols, and offering alternative authentication methods for customers without smartphones or simply prefer a convenient alternative method.

Overall, while smartphones offer convenience and flexibility in customer authentication, they also pose certain risks and limitations. Businesses must carefully evaluate their authentication processes and implement robust security measures to ensure the protection of customer data and accounts.

If you lose access to your mobile number, it becomes difficult to reach and make a live or direct connection with you, causing a breakdown in communication and potentially affecting any existing automated configurations and security credentials you may have in place.

Given the significance of mobile numbers in our digital lives, there is a growing need for a more definitive authentication device or method that is not solely reliant on a single mobile number. 

Blockchain technology may have some answers, maybe? What are your thoughts on this matter?

Authentication Methods Checklist

Finding a secure authentication process

Robust customer authentication is crucial for companies that handle sensitive data. The following is a checklist of common and effective customer authentication methods:

1. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA):

Require users to provide two or more authentication factors from different categories (e.g., something you know, something you have, something you are).

Common factors include passwords, biometrics (fingerprint, facial recognition), and one-time codes sent via SMS or authentication apps.

2. Biometric Authentication:

Implement biometric methods such as fingerprint scanning, facial recognition, or iris scans for a more secure and convenient user authentication experience.

3. One-Time Passwords (OTPs):

Use OTPs sent via SMS, email, or generated by authentication apps as a supplementary authentication method, especially for sensitive transactions.

4. Smart Cards and Tokens:

Issue physical or virtual smart cards or tokens that users must possess to access sensitive data or perform critical actions.


5. Knowledge-Based Authentication (KBA):

Ask users to answer specific knowledge-based questions, such as information only the legitimate user should know, to verify their identity.

6. Device Authentication:

Authenticate users based on the devices they use, considering factors like device fingerprinting, IP address recognition, and geolocation.

7. Behavioral Biometrics:

Analyze user behavior patterns, such as typing speed, mouse movements, or navigation habits, to detect anomalies and verify identity.

8. Risk-Based Authentication:

Implement adaptive authentication that assesses the risk level of a particular transaction or login attempt. Adjust authentication requirements based on the perceived risk.

9. Continuous Authentication:

Implement mechanisms for ongoing authentication during a user session, especially for activities involving sensitive data.

10. Blockchain-Based Authentication:

Explore blockchain for secure and decentralized identity management, providing a tamper-proof record of authentication activities.

11. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS):

Ensure that all communication between the user’s device and the company’s servers is encrypted using SSL or TLS protocols.

12. User Education and Awareness:

Educate users about secure authentication practices, the importance of strong passwords, and how to recognize phishing attempts.

13. Regular Security Audits and Penetration Testing:

Conduct regular security audits and penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities in the authentication system and address them promptly.

14. Compliance with Regulatory Standards:

Ensure compliance with relevant data protection and privacy regulations (e.g., GDPR, HIPAA) to safeguard sensitive customer information.

15. Incident Response Plan:

Have a well-defined incident response plan in place to address and mitigate security incidents promptly.

Customer Authentication Next Steps

As security is an area in which a number of businesses are most likely to trip up where it comes to consistency and providing a seamless customer experience. Especially as there are so many anomalies possible with a wide and varying customer base.

Given that the responsibilities involved with allowing access to valuable online content or a customers private account following a carefully thought-out procedure, intended to keep the bad guys out, may be an especially daunting experience for new staff.

As much as I would wish to be able to disagree at this being the case, it’s quite evident that sometimes the weak link is the staff you have employed  and their lack of experience or simply the wrong fit for the job.

An authentication method
you always carry around with you.

Now, be careful what you ask for, but wouldn’t it be great to have a simple, non-obtrusive, and seamless way to verify that you are indeed who you say you are. However, what would that be? Something unique to every individual being, maybe?

You see, with a definitive and absolute single authentication method that requires data that only you can possibly know or have access to, sounds like the perfect solution.

So, to answer the question framed as to whether having a single and definitive authentication method is a prudent way forward in ensuring a long-term method for maintaining a secure authentication process is a good idea, but there are still negative consequences you may face.

Physical authentication devices

Now, it’s easy to understand why the idea of including a physical item that people can carry around with them as being a touchpoint in part of the steps of a process for securely validating customers.

For the customer, this can be a grueling experience of repetition, false positives, and lengthy phone-call bills, that often lead to nowhere, as was one of my recent experiences.

Because often, you will find that along this chain for providing a secure verification process is the use of a mobile smartphone. Yes, your smartphone. Don’t have a smartphone?

If you do not have a smartphone, then apparently in today’s modern world, you’re not in the game.

Can blockchain technology help secure customer authentication?

Blockchain technology has the potential to enhance the security of customer authentication in various ways. It’s essential to note however, that while blockchain offers promising solutions, its implementation requires careful consideration of specific use cases, regulatory compliance, and user acceptance.

One way blockchain technology can enhance customer authentication security is through the use of decentralized identity management systems. Traditional authentication methods often rely on centralized databases, which can be vulnerable to hacking and data breaches. With blockchain, personal identity information can be securely stored in a decentralized manner, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

Multi-Factor Authentication Device?

One way to achieve this is by utilizing multi-factor authentication (MFA), which adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of identification.

This can include something the user knows (such as a password), something they have (such as a physical token or smartphone), and something they are (such as voice recognition, a fingerprint, or facial recognition).

By combining these different factors, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access and protect sensitive information. Additionally, MFA can help prevent account takeovers and minimize the impact of data breaches.

Another Case for Artificial Intelligence?

Another important aspect of a secure verification process is regular monitoring and analysis of user activity. By implementing advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms, businesses can detect and flag suspicious behavior, such as multiple failed login attempts or unusual account activity. This allows for timely intervention and mitigation of potential threats.

Furthermore, businesses should regularly update their security protocols and stay informed about the latest trends and best practices in the field of cybersecurity. This includes regularly patching and updating software, conducting security audits, and providing training to employees on how to recognize and respond to security threats.

Finally, a secure verification process is crucial for businesses to protect customer data and maintain trust. By implementing multi-factor authentication, monitoring user activity, and staying updated on security practices, businesses can create a secure environment for their customers and minimize the risk of security breaches.

Smartphone tips


Unfortunately, relying solely on a mobile number for authentication can be problematic if access to that number is lost. To address this issue, many online services now offer alternative methods of authentication, such as email verification, backup codes, or the use of authenticator apps. 

Here are a few steps you can take to mitigate the impact of losing access to your mobile number: 

1. Update your contact information: Make sure to keep your email address up to date with the services you use. This will allow them to reach out to you and provide alternative methods of authentication if needed. 

2. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): Set up 2FA using an authenticator app like Google Authenticator or Authy. This way, even if you lose access to your mobile number, you can still generate authentication codes using the app. 

3. Use backup codes: Many services provide backup codes that you can use in case you lose access to your primary authentication methods. Keep these codes in a secure place, such as a password manager or a physical copy stored in a safe location. 

4. Register multiple contact methods: Some services allow you to register multiple contact methods, such as a secondary phone number or an alternative email address. This way, if you lose access to one method, you can still receive important notifications and updates. 

5. Contact support: If you do lose access to your mobile number, reach out to the support teams of the services you use. They may have specific procedures in place to help you regain access to your account or update your contact information. 

Remember, it’s important to regularly review and update your security settings to ensure you have multiple authentication options and can maintain access to your accounts even if one method becomes unavailable.