Why the “Wireless Passcode” AT&T?

UPDATE on April 2, 2016
Was stunned that AT&T sent me a text survey at 11:31am on a Sunday morning. As you can read I told them I was not happy. Do you get these too, especially at odd times?image

attIt’s been quite awhile since I’ve had to call AT&T but I wanted to ask a question today since my wife is headed to Puerto Rico and was wondering if there was a roaming charge when she was in this unincorporated U.S. territory.

Calling in to customer service surprised me since I asked her, “Does AT&T charge roaming for mobile use in Puerto Rico?” but the rep wouldn’t answer until I gave her my name (since she could see my mobile number) and then the surprise: “What is your wireless access code?”


I had no idea what this was and she explained that we couldn’t do anything over the phone without it, or in-store if I didn’t have a government issued photo ID with me. I WAS JUST NEEDING AN ANSWER TO A SIMPLE QUESTION for God’s sake. But no matter, we were stuck so I hung up and figured “the Google” would satisfy my needs. 

Here’s what it says about this passcode at AT&T’s “security” page:

Your wireless passcode is a 4- to 8-digit, non-sequential number that helps to protect your account and personal information. It’s separate from the login password that you use with your AT&T Access ID to manage your account online.

Then I thought about it for a moment: This is NOT something that “helps to protect” my account. In fact, it’s the opposite. Having my own long, high entropy password to secure my account is best and if AT&T offered 2-factor authentication with it even better. Why doesn’t AT&T offer that? Because this access code available means anyone—AT&T, the NSA or law enforcement—only needs to obtain that code to get into my account and 2-factor authentication would be much harder to systematically use. So no thanks.

Yes, AT&T has a long history of opening the door to all of our internet (and voice) use, but if me NOT creating a wireless passcode means vacuum surveillance has one more hoop to jump through to surveil me domestically, so be it.

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  1. alan geeves on April 2, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    Typical bank pin no is 4 digits which allow you to access your money (with your card of course) and no other hoops but most banks in NZ have also implemented a second level challenge to get at your details Some better than others. Phone companies and power companies power companies are normally happy with just address and date of birth. In fact thats all I needed to access my wifes tax info. (girl on the phone wouldnt believe me though My voice was too deep)

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.