For a brief period, Social Security began requiring account holders on its My Social Security system to sign in using a onetime code sent via text message.
The security measure referred to as multi-factor authentication requires more than a username and password to access information. While the security feature has always been available to account holders, the decision to mandate the second layer of security was an attempt to comply with President Barack Obama’s executive order Improving the Security of Consumer Financial Transactions.
However, the mandated security measure was short-lived, lasting from its July 30 implementation to Aug. 15.
“Our aggressive implementation inconvenienced or restricted access to some of our account holders,” Social Security Administration spokeswoman Nicole Tiggemann said in a statement. “ We are listening to the public’s concerns and are responding by temporarily rolling back this mandate.”
In addition to the public’s concerns were urgings from several Congress members.
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate aging committee, sent a letter to Social Security Administration Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin calling on the agency to “consider the effect of this policy on the beneficiaries SSA is intended to serve” and ask “that [they] provide, as quickly as possible, additional authentication options” to “allow all seniors to have safe and speedy access to their own accounts.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., also wrote a letter to the commissioner asking for the SSA to develop and implement alternative multi-factor authentication methods.
“Providing only one method of authentication places an undue burden on recipients who may be unfamiliar with text messaging, may not have a text-enabled phone, or are unable to use text messaging due to disability,” Merkley wrote.