The State of Robocalls And What’s Next for Canada’s TSPs

The State of Robocalls And What’s Next for Canada’s TSPs

September 16th, 2019 - Telecom, Identity and Protection

By Jim Tyrrell, Director of Product Marketing, TNS

In TNS’ most recent Robocall Investigation Report – which analyzed more than 1 billion daily call events across hundreds of carriers as well as thousands of user-generated reports – nuisance calls increased 38 percent from the third quarter of 2018 to the second quarter of 2019. The fact is that consumers are not only frustrated, but also concerned about the volume of robocalls bombarding their mobile and home phones.

Just a few weeks ago, the Toronto police had to warn the public not to pick up incoming calls from any phone number pretending to be Toronto police asking for credit card information. Spoofing of legitimate numbers – whether it is business’ customer care departments or, in this case, the police – undercuts consumer trust in voice calling. This subscriber frustration is not lost on Canadian TSPs which recognize the potential impact of nuisance robocalls on subscriber growth and retention. Despite the efforts of the National Do Not Call List (DNCL), much remains to be done. Over a recent 12 month period, more than 740,000 Canadians complained to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre about being targeted by a phone scam, according to Ian Ross, Chairman & CEO of Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), at a recent SIPNOC Forum presentation.

The fact that consumers are more proactively offering up crowdsourced feedback is an asset Canadian Telecommunications Service Providers (TSPs) can leverage to draw a larger data-driven picture of emerging robocall trends and tactics. The ultimate goal is for Canadians to have access to a world-class communication system that promotes innovation and better protects subscribers (consumers and businesses), while also delivering an enhanced user experience.

STIR (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited) and SHAKEN (Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs) is a call authentication standard and framework that provides verified information about the origin of calls by enabling service providers to sign and authenticate information in the SIP header related to the origin of calling numbers. The Commission considers that STIR/SHAKEN will increase the effectiveness of opt-in call filtering solutions and network-level blocking of nuisance calls with blatantly illegitimate caller ID. More than 40% of the alleged violations of the unsolicited telecom rules are due to ID spoofing, according to Ian Ross.

Canadian TSPs have options when it comes to deploying the call authentication framework: deploy it themselves or leverage a hosted STIR/SHAKEN solution. In making the decision on how to move forward, consider factors such as capital expenses versus operating expenses, security concerns, IT staff capabilities, scalability, inter-carrier interoperability, and control of physical assets. Then, analyze the industry solutions available to combat robocalling which include:

  • Hardware and Software: Is the robocall solution limited in covering only traditional copper landlines, or offered as a mobile phone contract from a specific mobile phone operator?
  • Blacklists and Whitelists: The growing practice of neighbor spoofing and snowshoe spamming create challenges for mobile apps used to prevent robocalls. By the time an Over The Top (OTT) application determines the number to be from a bad actor, the bad actor has moved on.
  • Landline Call Blockers: Several physical products have been developed for use with landlines, which are typically installed in-home and employ a hard-coded or irregularly updated blacklist. Newer devices for landlines can use cloud-based data to resolve the hard-coded blacklist issues and allow you to create your own whitelist/blacklist.
  • Crowdsourcing: From our analysis, the amount of crowdsourced information more than doubled in 2018. Consumers are showing that they want to actively participate and help identify bad actors. Using crowdsourced feedback allows the analytics provider to fine tune algorithms and layer in context.
  • STIR/SHAKEN: This process employs the same type of public/private key structure that has been used on the Internet to prevent the spoofing of websites and can attest to the authentication of the calling party telephone number – but is not able to address the question of intent. Bad actors will be able to make malicious calls from numbers that they have been assigned by a provider and will be able to burn through those numbers to avoid detection.
  • Real-time Analytics: Bad actors change tactics quickly. Use of spoofed numbers is one of those tactics, as robocall scammers believe users are more likely to answer the phone if Caller ID shows a familiar number. Advanced machine learning methods for blocking robocalls using real-time AI in combination with big data gleaned from the network addresses the constantly changing identities of robocallers and can help TSPs rapidly spot emerging trends and tactics.
  • Branded Calling: Enterprises – particularly those whose business relies heavily on contact centers and calling campaigns – are undermined by robocall bad actors. TSPs should evaluate enhanced enterprise-focused tools such as Branded Calling, through which a logo and other business information may be displayed when the call is authenticated and has a positive reputation.

TSPs – as well as other stakeholders throughout the telecommunications industry ecosystem – recognize the risks associated with the rising tide of bad actor robocalls. If consumer trust in voice calling weakens, so does the relationship TSPs have with their subscribers. But at the same time, working proactively to develop innovative solutions to reduce robocall volume offers an opportunity for TSPs to enhance the user experience and maintain a strong relationship with consumers and businesses. 

Find details for your appropriate TNS representative on our contact page