Feeds

Apple, Amazon, close password door after horse bolts

Australian bank dealt with this a decade ago, why can’t tech titans?

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Comment Apple and Amazon have, in the wake of the grievous p0wnage inflicted on WiReD writer Mat Honan, changed their security procedures and no longer allow password changes to be made over the phone.

Much is being made of how sloppy it was for both companies to allow this to happen.

I've got worse news: this stuff has been going on for a decade or more.

I can say this with confidence because in 2001, when I worked as a consultant, I was asked into a meeting at which a very large Australian financial institution sought advice on a problem.

The problem was that famous people had been ringing its call centres and telling sob stories about how they'd lost their passwords. The famous people pleaded that, as extremely busy and important individuals, they simply couldn't remember the details of every bank account they had opened.

Of course these calls did not come from famous people. They came from scammers who, armed with a copy of Who's Who, were able to provide enough personal details about the famous people they impersonated that call centre staff were convinced they were speaking to the right person.

The financial institution, which has of late been talking up its can-do attitude, was left with a collection of angry, high-profile, customers threatening to take their business elsewhere.

Over the last decade I have also, for what it is worth, spent a bit of time mixing with the call centre and customer service communities. Say what you like about both (we’ve all had some horrid times in queues) but in my experience folks in those fields are like anyone else inside a business: they have a sincere desire to do the best they can within the constraints of the policies and budgets at their disposal.

When I told the above story to call centre folks, they agreed that this kind of thing goes on, but added that call centre agents should be trained to avoid it.

The bank, for what it’s worth, hardened up its authentication procedures to stop this kind of thing from happening again.

Which leaves the “problem” Amazon and Apple have addressed in a fact a known way to scam call centres that has, even in the far antipodes, been something customer service professionals have been on top of for a decade.

That two of the mightiest tech companies have such poor processes is therefore a cause for some serious eyebrow-raising. Throw in the fact that two-factor authentication is now easier than ever to deliver, thanks to SMS, and the failure looks inexcusable. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.