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Theres a compelling reason the Federal Communication Commissions (FCC) STIR/SHAKEN was so desperately needed before its eventual implementation on June 30th, 2021. America includes a nasty robocalling problem to the tune of roughly 4 to 5 billion fraudulent robocalls on a monthly basis (by 2021). And attacks are growing more ferocious.
STIR/SHAKEN was designed amid a shifting fraud landscape. Fraudsters arent attempting to skim money off the trunk of telecom transactions anymore; today, its about harvesting personal and financial data. Enter the Robocall Big Bang, where attackers all over the world are exploiting vulnerabilities in current technologies to focus on customers directly.
Regulators know this, hence STIR/SHAKEN, a suite of technical protocol and governance framework standards designed to clamp down on robocalls, the majority of which carry a spoofed Calling Line Identification (CLI), or Caller ID. This is one way fraudsters make U.S customers believe theyre finding a call from someone in the U.S. when theyre not. Considering that the carrier originating the decision is meant to sign and verify each call as legitimate, STIR/SHAKEN was likely to bring confidence to end-users and terminating carriers (the ultimate destination of the decision in cases like this, the U.S.) if they verify an incoming Caller ID received on an IP network.
Its nice theoretically, but BICS FraudGuard revealed a 65% upsurge in the quantity of attacks to U.S. subscribers between November 2021 and February 2022.
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So, whats the issue, and just how do we correct it?
Call traffic isnt a straight line: The issue with STIR/SHAKEN
In the centre of STIR/SHAKENs shortcomings is really a misunderstanding of how international voice traffic works.
International call traffic isnt a straight line. Rarely does a call travel directly from an operator in a country or even to a mobile network operator in the U.S. There are several hops among: You may see traffic transiting between 3 or 4 carriers, but its not unusual to see as much as seven or eight separate connections between carriers as traffic makes its way around the world.
If an operator in Singapore erroneously certifies a U.S. CLI in a fraudulent call as genuine, and when numerous hops occur prior to the final U.S.-operator destination, then all of the regulations imposing solutions to certify that CLI and therefore the decision ultimately mean nothing.
Once you have many intermediate parties in international traffic, you lose traceability. The signature of the CLI is only going to be passed onto different carriers in the chain if the decision also transits through IP networks, that is not necessarily the case. Worse, data protection laws and company policies often further prevent operators in the U.S. from tracing a calls origin. And since foreign operators are unbound by FCC regulations, theres little incentive to implement STIR/SHAKEN.
Global adoption needed
Quite simply, STIR/SHAKEN forces international gateway providers to sign CLIs and in costly ways they cannot conceivably know are genuine. All a global gateway provider in the centre can perform is acknowledge the decision was verified by a youthful operator (if the CLI signature is offered in the SIP headers). Alternatively they are able to ascribe a C-level attestation to the decision (the cheapest trust level), effectively confirming they themselves havent manipulated an incoming call that comes from somewhere very different.
What’s the value of the attestation? For American customers comfort and safety, very little.
An insurance plan like STIR/SHAKEN can only just work if put on almost every other country sending calls with U.S. CLIs, which isnt realistic. For several of Americas influence as a significant geopolitical player, it might never impose its domestic regulation on operators in Japan, Zimbabwe, or Australia. Its governance framework is merely not created for adapting to the international environment.
An instant look at the Robocall Index reveals that the year-on-year amount of robocalls has dropped, however, not enough to justify the tremendous costs incurred by international carriers for performing low-value, C-level attestations of calls.
AI to combat fraud
Contrary to the robocall plight, for regulation to work, we would require a global framework that applies equally to all or any international parties. However the complexity of the means its unlikely that occurs any time in the future.
Tools like analytics and machine learning (ML) can alleviate this and so are already section of FCC regulations. Indeed, BICS runs a FraudGuard platform that sources intelligence from a lot more than 900 providers, then applies AI to detect and block incoming fraudulent calls and texts. Within the last year, BICS has blocked an incredible number of calls before they reached U.S operators and subscribers.
Section of why AI works here’s because the response to combatting fraud is less Know Your Customer than it really is Know Your Traffic, and in this respect, AI tracks traffic behaviors perfectly. But these tools can’t be relied on as a crutch. They have to be used carefully in order to avoid blocking legitimate traffic and causing legal disputes between international carriers.
Time and energy to search for humbler solutions
Tracebacks, also supported by FCC regulation and led by the Traceback Group (ITG), are an investigative process to root out the party in charge of originating fraudulent calls. You start with the final carrier, the decision is traced back through many carriers, bypassing confidentiality agreements and privacy legislations where possible to get the bad actors. Punishing robocallers should be section of our strategy, instead of punishing intermediate parties doing their finest, but admittedly, it is a very lengthy process.
Fortunately, you can find humbler solutions. One involves providing greater clarity for international carriers on the UNITED STATES Numbering Plan (NANPS) to help ease differentiating good traffic from bad traffic (that’s, which U.S. CLIs are permitted to generate traffic from overseas apart from roaming customers?).
Operators typically assign enterprises operating abroad with numbers and ranges with that they can generate traffic from beyond your U.S. a call center serving American customers will most likely carry U.S. CLIs even though they result from elsewhere. A listing of these enterprise numbers could feasibly be distributed to the international telecom community; any inbound number not on the list that doesnt show human roaming behavior will be marked suspicious.
New threats in a 5G world
Adopting more measures to combat fraud and security threats is only going to are more important in a 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) world.
This transition will add complexity to the telecom ecosystem, inevitably creating more entry points and loopholes for fraudsters to exploit. A network is ever as strong as its weakest link, so we will have to bring our A-game in fraud prevention and security protection being an international community. This consists of stricter audits of who have been employing, particularly if other parties are located to be originating spoofed calls.
Fraud prevention never stands still. Fraudsters are constantly adapting and expanding geographically. Theres no magical solution, but we need to recognize that we are able to never fully eradicate fraud. Protocols like STIR/SHAKEN certainly are a starting point to safeguard the telecom ecosystem, however the challenge of international borders necessitates a global collaborative approach from the complete ecosystem, including national regulatory authorities and operators.
Katia Gonzales is head of fraud prevention at BICSand Chair of thei3 Fraud Forum.
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