AT&T moving away from Social Security numbers for customer security, will use pass codes instead

AT&T (NYSE:T) is asking its customers to use pass codes rather than Social Security numbers when dealing with the carrier in an apparent effort to better protect users' sensitive information.

"Previously, we required the last four digits of your Social Security Number as part of the process to access your account when calling Customer Service or visiting some Retailers," the carrier recently wrote in an e-mail to subscribers. "We now require a personalized passcode to access your account. Please set up your passcode now to help prevent issues from accessing your account later."

Users are asked to watch a video to learn how to set up the pass code and can learn more about the move on AT&T's website.

The operator acknowledged the change in policy in an e-mailed response to an inquiry from FierceWireless.

"This is part of an ongoing proactive initiative to update account security on a regular basis," AT&T said. "We value our relationship with our customers and the security of their wireless accounts. Therefore, we will require a personalized passcode as part of the process to access their accounts when they call us or visit some retailers."

The move comes as hackers increasingly target consumer databases maintained by telecom operators, retailers and other major consumer-facing businesses. A security flaw was blamed a few days ago when Verizon Enterprise Solutions suffered a data breach that saw hackers access the personal information of at least 1.5 million customers. Hackers accessed the personal information of as many as 15 million people who applied for a postpaid T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) plan between September 2013 and September 2015 when Experian suffered a major data breach.

Interestingly, AT&T's most noteworthy recent breach was an inside job. The company paid $25 million in a settlement last year after call center employees in Mexico, Colombia and the Philippines retrieved customer proprietary network information and other personal data that could be used to unlock users' phones.

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