Telco Legislation Amendments Allow Telstra to Unleash Scam-Blocking Tech

Telco Legislation Amendments Allow Telstra to Unleash Scam-Blocking Tech
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Telstra is ramping up scam-busting efforts, on Monday announcing it was developing a new cyber safety capability to help ‘turn the tables’ on the scammers. The announcement comes as the Australian government makes amendments to telecommunications legislation, allowing the action from Telstra and its peers.

On Monday, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews announced the regulatory amendment they say will empower the telecommunications sector to identify and block SMS scams at source.

“The regulatory amendment we have enacted provides the telecommunications sector with the authority they need to block malicious SMS messages at scale and protect the Australian public from scammers,” Andrews said, making good on a promise made in October when the government announced it had a plan in the war on scams.

Just this year, Telstra has received 11,100 SMS scam reports from customers. This number might not surprise you, but last year, only 50 reports were made. While it’s obvious many people might not have thought (or bothered) to report SMS scams last year, Telstra says the ‘explosion’ is largely due to the cybercrime campaign known as FluBot.

“To get ahead of the challenge, our technology solutions are also evolving, and we are developing a new cyber safety capability to help turn the tables on the scammers targeting Australians,” Telstra said in a press release Monday.

The tool is designed to automatically detect and block scam SMS messages as they travel across the telco’s network. Ideally, this will see the scam text stopped before it reaches your phone.

Telstra said the new tech is complex, but what it basically does is apply knowledge of what a scam SMS looks like as it travels across the Telstra network. And if it looks suspicious, it will block it. It does this by automatically scanning the content of messages to find suspicious patterns and characteristics, along with other data including time, sender, number of messages sent and recipient.

The telco is running a pilot of this new capability internally so that any scam SMS messages sent to Telstra staff can help ‘train’ the systems to spot the difference between a legitimate and a malicious SMS. As with any algorithm, the more scams it sees the smarter it will get. The pilot will extend to Telstra employees’ family and friends (if they want to participate) in the coming month.

The initiative forms part of Telstra’s Cleaner Pipes initiative, which, launched in May last year, essentially sees the telco upscale its own DNS (Domain Name System) filtering, where millions of malware communications are being proactively and automatically blocked every week as they try to cross Telstra’s infrastructure.

Providing an update back in February, Telstra said it is blocking 13 million scam voice calls on average per month on its network.