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We have recently started a project with a service provider who is a little old fashioned in their ways. They provide a product but don't market it particularly well, so we (as users of the product) have become involved in selling/marketing/improving this product. The service provider administers this product, while we run the customer facing website, giving people a nice UI, 24 access, etc.

Because of the nature of this product, customers can either use the website, or phone the company directly to purchase, discuss, update if they would rather.

All the automated back and forth between their systems and ours are fine, until it comes to working via the phone.

I am in favour of a webhook type system where any changes made directly on their system would notify us, and our system would check and update accordingly. However, they are a little averse to adding anything to their existing systems and would rather have some way that their phone staff could globally override any user's login to make the changes directly on their online account.

To clarify that:

  1. User calls to say they've changed address.
  2. Staff navigate to example.com, log in to user account (in some as yet undefined way).
  3. Staff enters details for customer, clicks save.
  4. Updated details send back to service provider systems.

As far as I can see, this an incredibly insecure way of going about this. However it has been, and will be very difficult to convince the provider to undertake any more work than they absolutely have to.

So I guess the question is:

Firstly, am I wrong; Is there a reasonable way of doing this without compromising security?

And if not, is there something I can cite to say to them that this would be a breach of security/privacy at an unacceptable level? Any relevant UK laws?

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This is a bit odd, usually the provider staff would have their own accounts with which to make changes to customer details. How it works isn't as important as providing:

  • Accountability: all actions by staff accounts would be auditable (if it's implemented properly)
  • Protection for customer accounts: the staff would not know customer login details

Having staff log in as customers to make changes could be done securely as long as it is accountable, and that the staff would not know the customer login details. This means developing some sort of abstraction layer which would track staff actions and handle the logins. This seems to be needless complexity, if you are going to develop this you may as well simply have them use their own accounts in the first place.

If they simply want to have the staff login as customers without these protections in place then that is definitely bad in many ways. You don't need laws to flash in their faces, just customer experience - every time the client calls in they would be asked for their password by customer service, and then have to change it afterwards. Ask them if they want their customers to know that's how they do business.

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