The Big Four U.S. carriers are joining together to build a new mobile authentication solution

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have joined forces and created what they are calling the Mobile Authentication Taskforce (opens in new tab).

Because hacking, identity theft, and phishing are becoming a bigger problem, especially with mobile devices, the carriers want to create a system to make sure you are who you claim to be when using your phone for things like banking or shopping. Going through the hassle of fixing any type of bank or credit card fraud or data theft in general is no fun, but it's especially expensive on the enterprise end. With more and more unethical people looking for ways to exploit your phone's software or trick you into giving away your passwords, this is a problem that's not going away anytime soon.

This is an area where the carriers can help. They have plenty of ways to check where and when a phone is being used and can build a pattern to check against anytime you need to prove your identity with your phone.

With the four largest U.S. mobile network operators onboard, the Mobile Authentication Taskforce possesses significant capabilities and insights to address this issue, such as network-based device authentication, geo-location and SIM card recognition.

The GSMA (Groupe Spécial Mobile Association) is working closely with the carriers on the project. Alex Sinclair, the GSMA's Chief Technology Officer says this will cut down on fraud and data theft and that they are monitoring things to make sure the solution is interoperable with all the carriers and their different systems.

Through strong collaboration, the taskforce announced today has the potential to create impactful benefits for U.S. customers by helping to decrease fraud and identity theft, and increase trust in online transactions. Further, we will be working closely with the taskforce to ensure this solution is aligned and interoperable with solutions deployed by operators.

There are potential drawbacks as well. Carriers aren't exactly known for their rigid standards of protecting our data, and any identification system tied to your SIM card could potentially be held hostage until any contract conditions are met. Still, if the carriers can get together to keep us and all of our data a little safer that's a good thing. We hope they come up with an easy and secure system that benefits the users as well as the carriers themselves.

In the meantime, everyone should follow a few basic security practices like using a secure lock screen, strong passwords and two-factor authentication wherever it's offered. Keep your data safe!

More: Two-factor authentication: What you need to know

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • It is indeed a bad idea to trust your password security to a mobile carrier.
  • Lets hope the carriers protect our data better than Equifax.
  • It's alarming how much Verizon, and I assume other carriers, know about us. I can see every call, text, and times of day data was used for every line on my account. Don't need them knowing my passwords. It's also alarming the number of people, I admit many older, that think Verizon knows their Google account and Apple ID passwords or assume we can just reset it for them.
  • ☝️☝️☝️This!!! Sooo many people think we (cell carrier customer service) have access to their email passwords and Google info it's alarming. So many questions arise in me I just kind of stare at them in hopes they realize what they're asking. "Sir, you realize that would be an invasion of privacy if I knew that?" "Mahm, did you give that information to us? How would we have it? You realize YOU made that right?" Sorry, frustrated rant over lol
  • Thanks for the rant. Some customers can be rather dark above the shoulders!
  • It's the same thing with cable customers. "Can you tell me my email password" "What's my PIN for my voicemail?"
  • I want no part of my carrier handling my authentication. Piss off.
  • They can do this right, They have the data and the tools to do it. But I think it will end up as a way to generate even more money instead of actually helping customers because duh, carriers.
  • Yes - creating more income is generally the status quo with big business. The ability to track someone on the internet through providers has been around for a long time. As a person who has had his credit card 'sniffed' and identity stolen - it is a real pain in the ass to get things right again. One problem with big business and security - is it's only as secure as it's weakest link - which is usually 'someone' new in a department or new on the job - or literally in another country handling issues that they don't fully understand let alone speak the language correctly. Like literally reimbursing the 'perp' for the inconvenience on my part. Sigh... Yep. Fraud is big business - and very successful. Hopefully they can make it work.
  • The 'perp' that got well into 5 figures of money - also got my compensation money for going through this experience - that - was - after - that particular company knew full well that my account was exploited. They still gave him my money. Sometimes the 'bleeding' - just - does - not - stop.
  • Pretty much my jaded view as well. Rename "super cookies" to "mobile identity authentication tokens" and presto change-o! That's the perception hurdle they have clear. By the way, what is Verizon doing with Yahoo's infosec people?
  • Hell no in regards to the carriers with this. The only outcome they’re looking for is self benefiting, screw the consumers.
  • Great, but in the spirit of cooperation, can you all please make a universal video calling protocol so it doesn't matter which carrier or which mobile OS or software you're using. You can simply make a video call without the hassle - like sending text messages.
  • Wait now you're talkin crazy talk. Have the carriers cooperate on a video standard. Pfif, never gonna happen when there is money to be made.
  • They can still make money with their own apps and unique features much like the multitude of texting apps. The texting apps all use the same universal standard for text messages but they all offer unique features -especially when you're texting the user of the same app. Video calling could work the same way to reduce the hassle.
  • Delete
  • You should try the AC app. It's as easy to delete a comment as it is to edit it.
  • If anyone assumes that carriers are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts and that they really care about protecting their customers, you are delusional. This will be an additional fee on your wireless bill.
  • I work in the wireless industry and its not necessarily about caring but all these scams people are running are costing these companies tons of money