AT&T and T-Mobile team up to fight scam robocalls – gpgmail


Two major U.S. carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile, announced this morning a plan to team up to protect their respective customer bases from the scourge of scam robocalls. The two companies will today begin to roll out new cross-network call authentication technology based on the SHAKEN/STIR standards — a sort of universal caller ID system designed to stop illegal caller ID spoofing.

Robocalls have become a national epidemic. In 2018, U.S. mobile users received nearly 48 million robocalls — or more than 150 calls per adult, the carriers noted.

A huge part of the problem is that these calls now often come in with a spoofed phone number, making it hard for consumers to screen out unwanted calls on their own. That’s led to a rise in robocall blocking and screening apps. Even technology companies have gotten involved, with Google introducing a new A.I. call screener in Android and Apple rolling out Siri-powered spam call detection with iOS 13.

To help fight the call spoofing problem, the industry put together a set of standards called SHAKEN/STIR (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited / Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs), which effectively signs calls as “legitimate” as they travel through the interconnected phone networks.

However, the industry has been slow to roll out the system, which prompted the FCC to finally step in.

In November 2018, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote to U.S. mobile operators, asking them to outline their plans around the implementation of the SHAKEN/STIR standards. The regulator also said that it would step in to mandate the implementation if the carriers didn’t meet an end-of-2019 deadline to get their call authentication systems in place.

Today’s news from AT&T and T-Mobile explains how the two will work together to authenticate calls across their networks. By implementing SHAKEN/STIR, calls will have their Called ID signed as legitimate by the originating carrier, then validated by other carriers before they reach the consumer. Spoofed calls would fail this authentication process, and not be marked as “verified.”

As more carriers participate in this sort of authentication, more calls can be authenticated.

However, this system alone won’t actually block the spam calls — it just gives the recipient more information. In addition, devices will have to support the technology, as well, in order to display the new “verification” information.

T-Mobile earlier this year was first to launch a caller verification system on the Samsung Galaxy Note9, and today it still only works with select Android handsets from Samsung and LG. AT&T meanwhile, announced in March it was working with Comcast to exchange authenticated calls between two separate networks — a milestone in terms of cooperation between two carriers. T-Mobile and Comcast announced their own agreement in April.

The news also follows a statement by Chairman Pai that says the FCC will sign off to approve a T-Mobile/Sprint merger, as has been expected.

 


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Robocall blocking apps caught sending your private data without permission – gpgmail


Robocall-blocking apps promise to rid your life of spoofed and spam phone calls. But are they as trustworthy as they claim to be?

One security researcher said many of these apps can violate your privacy as soon as they are opened.

Dan Hastings, a senior security consultant cybersecurity firm NCC Group, analyzed some of the most popular robocall-blocking apps — including TrapCall, Truecaller, and Hiya — and found egregious privacy violations.

Robocalls are getting worse, with some getting tens or dozens of calls a day. These automated calls demand you “pay the IRS” a fine you don’t owe or pretend to be tech support. They often try to trick you into picking up the phone by spoofing their number to look like a local caller. But as much as the cell networks are trying to cut down on spam, many are turning to third-party apps to filter their incoming calls.

But many of these apps, said Hastings, send user or device data to third-party data analytics companies — often to monetize your information — without your explicit consent, instead burying the details in their privacy policies.

One app, TrapCall, sent users’ phone numbers to a third-party analytics firm, AppsFlyer, without telling users — either in the app nor in the privacy policy.

He also found Truecaller and Hiya uploaded device data — device type, model and software version, among other things — before a user could accept their privacy policies. Those apps, said Hastings, violate Apple’s app guidelines on data use and sharing, which mandate that app makers first obtain permission before using or sending data to third-parties.

Many of the other apps aren’t much better. Several other apps that Hastings tested immediately sent some data to Facebook as soon as the app loaded.

“Without having a technical background, most end users aren’t able to evaluate what data is actually being collected and sent to third parties,” said Hastings. “Privacy policies are the only way that a non-technical user can evaluate what data is collected about them while using an app.”

None of the companies acted on emails from Hastings warning about the privacy issues, he said. It was only after he contacted Apple when TrapCall later updated its privacy policy.

But he reserved some criticism for Apple, noting that app privacy policies “don’t appear to be monitored” as he discovered with Truecaller and Hiya.

“Privacy policies are great, but apps need to get better about abiding by them,” said Hastings.

“If most people took the time to read and try to understand privacy policies for all the apps they use (and are able to understand them!), they might be surprised to see how much these apps collect,” he said. “Until that day, end-users will have to rely on security researchers performing manual deep dives into how apps handle their private information in practice.”

Spokespeople for TrapCall, Truecaller, and Hiya did not comment when reached prior to publication.


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