As you know, due to COVID-19, the time we spend using any form of technology has drastically increased. However, using any medium of communication which requires you to share personal information, leads to fraudsters finding their way into that equation too. As MEF (Mobile Ecosystem Forum) phrase 'when crime pays, it’s usually MNOs and wholesalers that pay the price'. But stakeholders in messaging are working collectively to hit back.
Let’s look at how MNO’S and wholesalers are achieving this.
Over the last 10 years, Business (A2P) messaging has been one of the big successes. This success is due to the fact that A2P is direct, immediate and personal. It’s as simple as someone getting a text and then reading it. However, most importantly, SMS is – for the most part – clean. This means that unlike email which is highly susceptible to spam. Consumers trust the channel of SMS because this inbox does not suffer the same fate.
Also, according to Mobilesquared, 67 trillion A2P SMS messages were sent worldwide in 2017, but this is expected to rise to 2.80 trillion in 2022 (an average of 25.1 per sub per month). However, as mentioned, no medium of tech communication is blemish-free and the same can be said for A2P messaging. So it should not come as a surprise that fraudsters will never pass up the chance to exploit a popular communications channel and now have inevitably turned their attention to A2P messaging.
As a way to combat this, MEF’s has created an Enterprise Messaging Fraud Framework, which has identified 13 fraud types, which can be classified into two groups, according to who is affected.
Consumers and brands
These kinds of fraud types directly affect consumers and brands, and which we have all ‘interacted’ with, in some form – whether that be receiving the message or even having to delete them from your inbox, etc.
This is where fraudsters send unwanted messages or messages that claim to be a from legitimate sender and these messages usually include spam, phishing and malware.
MNOs and intermediaries
MEF notes this fraud type sees fraudsters that will exploit the competition in order to terminate messages – and the complexity of the settlement process between MNOs – to find backdoor routes for illegitimate traffic. Their methods include grey routes and global title faking, They can also use SIM farms to send A2P messages on low-cost local P2P rates. In MEF’s 2018 A2P Monetisation study, the average MNO said that fraud steals 9.4 per cent of their A2P revenue – that equalled nearly $1.5 billion that year.
When fraud occurs within these channels, it creates a long-term risk which can see consumers and business lose faith in this communication channel. However,
“Specialists are now developing tools that use machine learning to look for patterns that indicate whether the traffic has come from a legitimate source or from a fraudster. Industry collaboration is also essential to ensure best practice and share insights. MEF is leading this process via its Trust in Enterprise Messaging programme” - MEF
How is the industry fighting back?
MEF mentions that MNOs have begun using SMS firewalls to scan a message to reveal its originator. This helps them to identify inappropriately charged grey routes and differentiate A2P from P2P SMS traffic. Firewalls have done a great job of reducing common ‘faking’ fraud for example.
This has led to MNOs and messaging aggregators turning their attention to more challenging fraud types – such as identifying when traffic is coming from SIM farms. This is difficult. For instance, the traffic pattern emerging from genuine SIMs inside smart meters could, seemingly, resemble the pattern issuing from a SIM farm broadcasting spam messages.
To tackle this, more nuanced traffic detection is needed. As specialists are now developing tools that use machine learning to look for patterns that indicate whether the traffic has come from a legitimate source or from a fraudster.
Needless to say, technical defences can only do so much - Industry collaboration is also essential to ensure the best practices and share insights. MEF is leading this process via its Trust in Enterprise Messaging programme. This programme is 'a self-regulation service designed to accelerate market clean-up and educate enterprise messaging solution buyers about the threats of fraudulent practices and poor procurement processes'.
With such approaches and monitoring in place, we are one step closer to combating the plague of fraudsters and ensuring our channels of technological communication are better safeguarded.
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