Robocalls from spoofed numbers truly seem off the charts. Now what?
Robocalls from spoofed numbers truly seem off the charts. Now what?
11:29

Robocalls from spoofed numbers truly seem off the charts. Now what?

Mobile
Speaker 1: Robo calls seemingly are off the charts. And the old do not call list of yours. Seems like a quaint joke at this point. And a lot of us are just ignoring phone calls entirely now because so many of them are robo calls. We don't know which ones to trust. Can't even trust caller ID anymore. New regulations are coming though, try and aid us in all this, but what if they don't work any better than the old ones? Now what Maggie, Rudins gonna have a lot of good insights [00:00:30] on this for us. She's my colleague at CNET news, senior reporter. And she's been covering a lot on something called traced and stir shaken. Is that right? Maggie? Yeah. Well Speaker 2: It, the stir is a protocol that comes from the traced act, uh, which Congress, um, passed, uh, over a year ago. And it's Speaker 1: Yeah. Uh, taking effect though, uh, this we're, we're talking now in early June, but it takes effect end of this month. Is that right? Speaker 2: Yeah. So the federal communications commission last year adopted in order [00:01:00] were, they were all voice companies, all voice providers to implement this technology and the deadline for all the, the major carriers. Um, so the big phone guys is, uh, June 30th. Speaker 1: Okay. So before we get into the nuts and bolts of what they have to do, am I imagining things, are we imagining things are robo calls at some kind of an historic high? Is it just something that we're griping about for some reason? Yeah. Speaker 2: I, I think that the, particularly the illegal robo collar guys, [00:01:30] they, they realize that there's money to be made here. Right? I mean, people are getting scammed and that's why they do it. And so that's why we're probably seeing a lot more of it. Speaker 1: And it's kinda like, uh, spam on email, I guess it's cheap to do. And even if you only, uh, lure a few people, it pays off, is that kind of how this works? Speaker 2: It's exactly how it works. I mean, just think of it as spam for your phone. And, um, and then part of the big problem which this stir shaken protocol is gonna help with is a lot of times the illegal Rob collars, the scammers [00:02:00] will spoof a phone number. So they'll pre tend that the phone number is one that you might recognize. So it might have the same area code that you have. And sometimes it's kind of weird because it's like the number's only off by a few digits from your own phone number. And for some reason that tricks people into thinking that it's somebody that they know and they answer the phone. So, um, the spoof calls is really how they trick you. Speaker 1: I gotta say it's been, uh, it's been effective. I hate to begrudgingly give the, uh, scammers credit, [00:02:30] but that, uh, spoofing of area code and prefix is amazingly effective. I can't tell you how often I look at it and go give it a second thought. Maybe I should answer this one. I've gotten to the point now where I don't, but I'm starting to miss legitimate calls. So let's get into what the stir shaken protocol does. Uh, break this down. What do these voice operators have to start doing? Speaker 2: So basically the technology is going to make sure that they can authenticate the call so they can tell whether [00:03:00] the call is coming from a spoof number, or if it's coming from an actual, you know, legitimate caller. So it, it forces whoever is trying to make the call to identify themselves. And if it's, uh, you know, somebody that isn't identifying themselves, or they're trying to pretend they're somebody, the carrier has the authority, basically under the law to be able to block the call. And so it makes the, the spam blockers, the robo call blockers that a [00:03:30] lot of these guys are already using more effective because they can really look for, um, the suspicious calls and make sure those don't go through. Speaker 1: Okay. So that's interesting. So what I hear here is both, uh, some technology they're being required to use to, uh, determine if someone's legit. It's almost sounds almost like a certificate in an operating system when you install software where there's gotta be some sort of imprint that says, this is legitimately who it says it is. Yes. And then the other part is, uh, new teeth [00:04:00] or permission to be able to block calls. Speaker 2: Yes. And that's where it comes into the trace act. So that is federal legislation that was passed that basically gives the, the FCC, the authority to require phone companies to use this technology. It also gives authorities more, um, teeth to kind of go after the bad guys. And, and one of the problems for the FCC and for the phone companies in general is that some of the robo calls and [00:04:30] by robo call, we mean any call that uses an auto dialer. Um, some of those are legitimate. They're not necessarily bad and sometimes consumers want them, right? Like I get robo calls from my kid's school, uh, when we're gonna have a snow day or when there's something else going on, or you get a call perhaps from, um, your, um, your pharmacy to tell you that your, you know, your prescription is ready to pick up. So you don't want to inadvertently, um, be blocking those calls cuz then people are gonna miss [00:05:00] them. And that's, that's a problem too. So, um, I think there has been some hesitation on some folks that like, if we go too far and allowing and giving phone companies, um, the chance to block these calls, that they're gonna block out a lot of the good ones. And um, and then consumers don't have any recourse to go to the FFC, see and say, Hey, wait a minute. Like I want those calls. Speaker 1: So that's the thing I saw in some of your coverage that there's, uh, quite a bit going on here to make [00:05:30] sure that, um, that there is going to be a way to correct or keep the blocking from going too far, as you mentioned, cause let's face it. It'd be pretty easy for a voice carrier to comply by saying, let's just go crazy. And, and our work is done, but that obviously goes too far and snares too many good calls. So this is kind of a balancing act. It sounds like in this new act, Speaker 2: It is, it's a balancing act, but it, it gives, um, you know, a little more protection to the phone companies because there are also, [00:06:00] there are, you know, federal laws that basically would put them on the hook if they're blocking calls that they shouldn't be blocking. Right? So this, it allows them some freedom to try to get to the bad guys, but also enough leeway where they can try to let the good calls go through and, and really shaken protocol should help with that. Right? Like if it's Walgreens, who's trying to call you, they're not trying to spoof a phone number, right. They're they're gonna come up as legitimate caller. So hopefully that will help, um, let the good ones come through [00:06:30] and the bad ones, uh, not come through. Speaker 1: Okay. So now let's have a reality check. You and I have been around this game long enough, we've seen all kinds of things like this around either internet communications or voice communications. And they generally have a disappointing record, not necessarily cuz they failed because the problem is thorny. Um, what odds do you lay that these, that this act and this new technology, uh, authorization is gonna make a meaningful difference to those that are being driven up a wall by robe? Speaker 2: Well, it's funny you should ask cuz [00:07:00] I had a conversation with one of the FCC commissioners, uh, commissioner Brendan Carr. And I asked him this very question. I said, are we not gonna see robo calls after June 30th? Is this gonna put an end to that full stop? And he said, I sure hope Speaker 3: So, but it, it ends up being whackable. So the, the, the long term solution is gonna be, uh, uh, difficult to get we'll we'll see how much progress we can make with this. We're hopeful that this will bend the, the back of all these robo calls, um, and drive us, you know, close to zero, but it's, it's a multi technology [00:07:30] solution. So we've got this shake and stir approach, obviously carriers themselves now have more flexibility to block calls, just like, you know, email providers have technologies now that can block spams. So we're trying to give them more permission there. So I think as we continue to layer in these approaches also adding, you know, significant enforcement action and fines, I think combined that's, what's gonna break the back of these robocalls. If it doesn't, then we're gonna to continue to innovate and find more technologies that are gonna stop this cuz certainly the bad actors that are out there, they have a profit mode of define a way around [00:08:00] these systems. So this may work, um, immediately, uh, we may see a decrease, but we're gonna keep an eye on it and make sure that we cont continue to drive that number as close to zero as as possible. Speaker 1: Uh, what's your sense on this? Uh, do you think this is largely a domestic business of scammers or is this international like so much of the ransomware, um, exploits we hear about lately? Speaker 2: You know, it it's really an international thing. Um, a lot of it is coming from over overseas and that's what, you know, also makes it difficult to, [00:08:30] to get to these guys and that's and part of the trade stack actually gives law enforcement more teeth to kind of go out, um, overseas and, and, and look for these is internationally to try to, to put a, a clamp down on them. So yeah. So I mean it's, it's all over the place. Speaker 1: Yeah. I, I would imagine. Yeah. Whenever you find a, uh, a connected, lucrative exploit, it's usually not isolated to any country or region, right. It's, it's so portable. It is the, uh, it's the ultimate and most unfortunate [00:09:00] kind of a portable portable FEAS movable feast. Uh, let's ask, uh, let's talk about the practicality here now. Let's say I'm just a, I'm just a person with a phone. What do I need to do? If anything, to be covered by this new regulation and technology, Speaker 2: When you, you, as a consumer, don't have to do anything. Um, this is really a regulation that's for your carrier. So this is, um, technology that they have to implement. And I have to say that that most of the big guys have already done it. So everybody seems like they're on track [00:09:30] to comply with the regulation for June 30th. Now the only twist they are is that some smaller providers, I think less than a hundred thousand customers or something like that, they didn't have to comply with this date of, of June 30th, 2021. They were given till June 30th, 2023 to comply. But I think the FCC feels so confident that um, that carriers are able to meet the current deadline, the big guys, [00:10:00] and also because the, the, the need is so urgent that they actually have opened up another proceeding to see if they can move that date up a year for the smaller carriers. So, um, hopefully by, uh, this time, next year, all of the areas will be compliant and preparing to meet a deadline of June 30th, 2022. Speaker 1: Okay. So that's not too far away cuz June 23 seems kind of seems like forever. Uh, you know, a year from now seems like half forever. So I guess [00:10:30] that's better. Cause that's exactly what it is. Uh, in closing then do you think that this is going to be a watershed moment in improving this situation? Or I, like you said, uh, quoting the FCC commissioner, just the latest chapter of whackamole, Speaker 2: You know, I, I'm kind of with a commissioner car on this. I, I don't think that we're gonna see any drastic change, um, on June 30th, again, like I said, I think a lot of the major carriers have already begun [00:11:00] implementing this technology. So, you know, hopefully we'll start to see, um, some, some ramping back of this, but, but I think robocalls are gonna be with us for a while and, and it's gonna be a constant battle to, to stay ahead of the bad guys. Speaker 1: Yeah. I'm afraid. You're right. So I think my ringer is gonna stay off for a while. All right. Uh, is senior reporter@cnet.com.

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