The State of Robocalling – a discussion with Eric Burger, FCC

by Harry Wakefield, Marketing Communications, TelcoBridges

TelcoBridges executives were in Chicago this week for the 2018 IIT RTC Conference and Expo. Our own Alan Percy sat down and recorded a podcast with FCC Chief Technology Officer Eric Burger, discussing one of our favourite subjects, robocalling fraud and actions the FCC is taking to protect consumers.


Listen at: https://youtu.be/nUTA2m1Chnk

Our conversation touched on several aspects:

  • how it’s the #1 consumer protection issue right now for the FCC
  • it’s also personal, Mr. Burger’s phone actually rang with a robocall during his presentation! (not planned)
  • says he, it’s a “real problem with real impacts”
  • how to handle fraudulent robocalling vs legitimate uses by automated dialling systems
  • neighbourhood spoofing and related legislation
  • recent actions by the FCC including very large fines
  • the more than $200 million dollars in fines levied so far this year (a record)
  • new technologies that can help like STIR/SHAKEN
  • a progress report on that technology
  • the parts, the goals, and the implementation of STIR/SHAKEN
  • the roles of the vendors and carriers and a timeline for the deployment
  • and last thoughts, “there’s hope!”

Learn more about STIR/SHAKEN during a webinar TelcoBridges hosted with TransNexus at: https://freesbc.telcobridges.com/video-library/#Robo

Battling Robocallers – Round 3

by Alan Percy, Senior Director of Product Marketing

This last month, a telemarketing firm hawking health insurance was fined $82 million for their role in 21 million illegal unsolicited robocalls.  Are the legal consequences enough to put an end to the nuisance calls?

As reported by the Washington Post, the Federal Communications Commission imposed an $82 million fine against a telemarketer who made more than 21 million unsolicited calls to consumers to try to sell health insurance and generate leads.

Despite this stiff penalty against one firm, the phones of Americans continue to ring with offers of bogus credit card protection offers, free vacations and fake IRS scams.

A root of the problem is the ease at which bulk phone calls can be made with spoofed caller-ID information, tricking unsuspecting victims to answer call they think are from friends or neighbors.  While there are legitimate reasons to substitute caller-ID information (Doctors office reminders, school notifications, etc) fraudulent abuse continues to be an industry-wide problem.

Meanwhile, progress is being made in the standards bodies with further refinement of the STIR/SHAKEN framework that will allow service providers to “certify” that the originating caller and communications service provider owns the rights to the calling number.

In August, the ATIS and SIP Forum announced the release of two key specifications needed to standardize the user experience and APIs needed for implementation of SHAKEN.  The first specification Technical Report on a Framework for Display of Verified Caller ID (ATIS-1000081) defines a standard user experience for calls from known callers, likely SPAM callers, suspect and potential fraudulent callers with color icons and information on screen-based devices.  The second specification Technical Report on SHAKEN API for a Centralized Signing and Signature Validation Server provides a proposed RESTful API for the implementation of the SHAKEN specification

This next couple weeks will see two industry speaking sessions addressing the issues, including:

Battling Robocallers – a Tutorial on STIR/SHAKEN presented by yours truly at Astricon in Orlando on Tuesday, October 9th at 10:00 AM

Comprehensive Approach to Illegal Robocalls presented by Eric Burger, CTO at the Federal Communications Commission at the Illinois Institute of Technology Real-Time Communications Conference on Tuesday October 16th at 9:00 AM

Later in December, the SIPNOC event has a dedicated Robocall Summit track specifically addressing the problem, including a number of industry thought leaders.

However, questions do remain on the timeframe and motivation of the service provider community as to when they plan to implement any or all of the recommendations, giving consumers a break from the fraudulent robocallers.

 

Battling Robocallers – Round 2

By Alan Percy, Senior Director of Product Marketing, TelcoBridges

The battle to tame fraudulent robocalling made some significant advancements this week as the SIP Forum released two new technical reports.

If you’ve been following along, you know that fraudulent robocalling and caller-ID spoofing have become the tools-of-the-trade for criminals trying to trick unsuspecting victims into their scams.   (By now you’ve come to realize that you can’t trust the caller-ID on your phone.) The FCC and the CRTC have put deadlines in front of the carriers, requiring implementation of secure caller-ID technologies to prevent spoofing of caller-ID.

To address these requirements, the ATIS and SIP Forum announced this week the release of two key specifications needed to standardize the user experience and APIs needed for implementation of SHAKEN.


The first specification Technical Report on a Framework for Display of Verified Caller ID (ATIS-1000081) defines a standard user experience for calls from known callers, likely SPAM callers, suspect and potential fraudulent callers with color icons and information on screen-based devices.   The specification details the user experience study that went into the graphical images, providing data on real-world user responses and behaviors to the information displayed.

The second specification Technical Report on SHAKEN API for a Centralized Signing and Signature Validation Server provides a proposed RESTful API for the implementation of the SHAKEN specification, used to authenticate and verify caller-ID for network-based calls.  This recommendation is an alternative to the SIP-based mechanism as specified in the SHAKEN recommendations, as is currently used by a number of vendors, including TransNexus and TelcoBridges.

“These two new resources are critical to helping service providers implement SHAKEN,” said ATIS President and CEO Susan Miller. “They are products of ATIS’ continued collaboration with the SIP Forum and are instrumental to industry efforts to address the robocalling problem and maintain consumer trust in the voice network.”

“The SIP Forum is committed to working together with ATIS to continue to develop the operational documents for the SHAKEN Framework, and these two new reports provide important additional guidelines and details essential to the successful deployment of the SHAKEN standard,” said SIP Forum Chairman Richard Shockey.

In addition to the above announcement, we’ve made significant progress with TransNexus on their SHAKEN fraud prevention framework, recently posted detailed configuration notes on how to configure both FreeSBC and TransNexus OSPrey server and completed our bench testing milestones.

Looking ahead and demonstrating the level of interest on the topic, a dedicated track and session on Robocalling is scheduled for SIPNOC 2018.

To learn more about STIR/SHAKEN, view the recording of our Battling Robocallers webinar and/or sign-up for one of the TransNexus Discover SHAKEN events.

Battling Robocaller Fraud – Top 5 Questions

By Alan D. Percy, Senior Director of Product Marketing, TelcoBridges

Last week we hosted a webinar with our Alliance Partner TransNexus, titled “Battling Robocaller Fraud – an Introduction to STIR/SHAKEN”.  As we expected, the topic was wildly popular with a larger than normal audience attending the live event and a long list of great questions during the Q/A.

As noted by Jim Dalton, CEO of TransNexus at the start of the session, automatic dialers with pre-programmed IVR scripts (aka Robocallers) do have valid applications (reminder calls from medical offices, bill pay reminders, school closures, reverse 911…)  But they are increasingly being used as part of elaborate fraud schemes, bilking victims and stealing their identities.  As noted by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), over 10,000 victims have collectively paid over $54 million because of phone scams since October 2013.  And that’s just the crime that was reported.

What is STIR/SHAKEN?

In a nut-shell, STIR/SHAKEN is a framework that adds an encrypted identity certificate to the header of a SIP INVITE (the message that initiates the call), proving that the originator has permission to use the associated caller-ID.

Once the call makes its way through the various IP-based wholesale operators, the terminating operator can use a public key to examine the certificate and verify that the caller-ID is intact and rightfully being used by the originator. Calls with a valid certificate will pass to the recipient unimpeded and with the associated caller-ID, knowing it is valid.  If a call arrives without a valid certificate, the terminating operator may flag the call as possible SPAM, send the call to a Captcha-like screening application or block the call altogether.

With literally billions of unwanted robocalls being made every month, they have become the largest source of complaints to the FCC, a very popular topic for a webinar and a great source of questions.

Here’s the Top 5 questions (and answers) from the “Battling Robocaller Fraud” webinar:

#1 How will stir/shaken affect class 4 telephony?

Answer: Implementing STIR/SHAKEN only impacts the originating and terminating carriers.  The intermediary carriers (class 4) must pass the SIP identity headers without modification.

#2: Sounds great, but it depends entirely on the originating TSP to provide genuine authentication.  What guarantees do we have this will be done by all originating TSPs, especially cellular carriers?  What about calls that originate outside the US?

Answer:  As the terminating service providers begin to flag calls without certificates as potential SPAM, or begin screening calls, the originators (both domestic and foreign) will have a strong incentive to add certificates to their calls.  One of the beauties of STIR/SHAKEN is that the originators of bogus calls can be quickly found and dealt with by the regulators, making enforcement pretty easy.

#3: Does STIR/SHAKEN work only on the PSTN using SS7?  What about OTT calls?

Answer: STIR/SHAKEN depends on IP infrastructure and the certificate is lost when handing a call over to a legacy TDM network.  However, calls without a certificate can be flagged in the caller-ID by adding/substituting text in the caller-ID fields.   Other applications like Skype SIP trunks could pass this information too.

#4: Does the size of the SIP packet require carriers to use TCP instead of UDP?

Answer: No, the identity certificates do fit within a SIP/UDP INVITE packet.  However, there is a trend to consider SIP/TCP to handle traffic in the future.

#5: What role does TelcoBridges FreeSBC or Tmedia Gateways play?

Answer: When a call is originated, either the SBC or gateway passes the INVITE to the Authentication Server, which returns a signed SIP token to the SBC/gateway before passing the call to the network.

There were many more great questions (22 in all!) – take a listen to the recorded webinar, available now in the FreeSBC Video Library

More insight into STIR/SHAKEN can be found in an Understanding STIR/SHAKEN article by TransNexus article

Interested in integrating STIR/SHAKEN into your network?  Request a consultation at the Discover SHAKEN workshop from TransNexus.