Please stop viewing them as reasonable verification



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Phone numbers are no proper verification

Am i real? Sometimes i have to doubt it. I dont have a fixed telephone number so many services do not accept me as a real person.

When i started my life as nomad i managed to loose my swiss telephone number in the first week, as i quit the account shortly before i have no chance at all to get a replacement.

The consequence was as simple as brutal. Online banking? Forget it! “Visit us to change your phone number” they said, when i explained them that i am on the other side of the world and dont plan to get a new phone number i obviously put them into a situation they dont have a plan for.

Coinbase locked me out, i lost some Twitter accounts, Google refuses me to set account secrets without a phone number. My Credit Card locked me out as well. Github let me use my Private key to verify the account, but they were the only ones who had a non telephone based solution in place. But now i cant use 2FA anymore because of that.

I never owned the number

This is i think the biggest problem with that all. I never actually owned the number. My provider can decide to take it away whenever they want and RESELL it! I mean think about it, somewhere out there is someone who now has my old number and can access dozens of MY accounts, only because of that. How did anyone ever think this is a good idea?

Clearly email is kind of similiar if you use gmail, hotmail or anything, but you usually can just keep a email without having to pay a monthly fee. A phone number is nothing you can just keep. Also i OWN my emails domains. Therefore they are under MY control.

Telephone numbers are not secure ether

Sure we tend to think they are. But in reality our phones are crazily dangerious. And to make it worse, finding malware on a Android phone is way harder than noticing something is off on a desktop.

I can not trust my phone to be secure, and honestly i use it with knowing that. I dont use my phone for online banking or anything else where i worry about security.

I use it with Google services, because i kind of trust Google to send me a email when someone accesses my account, which they do. Google is really good in that. Nobody warns me when someone was able to take over my phone number tho.

Just use new numbers on the go?

Yeah i tried that. I tried changing several services to my Thai telephone number. Emphasis on “i tried”. If your number is not from a western country you will be surprised how picky services are.

I cant create a Twitter account with my Thai number, my Bank does not accept it anyway. Also that is no solution. Things like Authy take 2 weeks to change a number. Other services i need to call each time i change my number, that easily can cost $100 and more in calling fees and takes a lot of time. Not to mention that it happens that you get really bad sound quality which some providers are not willing to use as authentification.

Seriously please, in the name of whatever you believe in, stop using phone numbers as authentification.

They are not secure, people dont own them, they cant be easily replaced. It is just crazy, and nothing else

/rant

If you found this interesting in some way, make sure to check out this blog post which was created as result to mine which goes into a lot more details and some serious technical issues with the dependency on numbers!


Written: 16.01.2017
Keywords: digitalnomad, phone number, travel issues


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About me

My name is Roman Pramberger, i am a 20something years old developer from Austria, spending my youth in Bern, Switzerland. I spend my days creating *things.

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