Telstra’s Scam-Blocking Tech Thwarts 185 Million Malicious Texts

Telstra’s Scam-Blocking Tech Thwarts 185 Million Malicious Texts
Image: file photo

Telstra has given us a reminder of why it’s Australia’s incumbent telco, today revealing its scam-blocking tech has stopped 185 million pesky text messages from even reaching you.

The tech finds and block SMS scam messages with suspicious links as they travel across its network. The SMS scam tech has been live for every customer on the Telstra network since April. So that’s 185 million blocked texts since then.

In a statement back in April, outgoing CEO Andy Penn said the telco knows the scam tech works because it has been testing it for the last three months.

“Now we’ve fine-tuned this technology, we have rolled it out to every customer on Telstra’s network – so whether you’re on a consumer plan, a managed device through your company or you’re signed up to another provider that uses the Telstra network like Belong – you’re now better protected from millions of scam text messages sent every day,” Penn said. “And the best thing is there’s nothing you need to do – it’s already switched on for you.”

Telstra in November announced it was ramping up scam-busting efforts, saying it was developing a cyber safety capability to help ‘turn the tables’ on the scammers. The announcement came alongside the Australian government making amendments to telecommunications legislation that allowed Telstra to kick this off.

At the time, now-former Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and also now-former Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the regulatory amendment would empower the telecommunications sector to identify and block SMS scams at source.

So how does Telstra’s scam tech work?

The capability under the bonnet, Telstra says, is “complex and evolving”. In simple terms, the telco is applying knowledge of what scam text messages look like to block them at the network level. Automatic machine scanning picks out suspicious content such as malicious links and combines this with other patterns and characteristics like the time, sender, the number of messages sent and the recipient.

Telstra said that while the technology is learning, it might flag a potential suspicious message asking if it is a scam.

“To avoid blocking something legitimate, the new message format may be reviewed by our specialists to identify if the message is a scam, but the details of the recipients will remain masked,” Penn’s statement reads.

“While we’re confident our SMS scam filter will block a significant amount of scam text messages, it isn’t fool-proof and criminals evolve and find new ways to scam us so we’ve all got to continue to be alert to suspicious messages – even the ones that might slip through.”

If you do not want any SMS messages sent to you being blocked, you can opt out by sending an SMS to 0438214682 with the words FILTER OFF. And if you change your mind you can turn it back on by sending a message to 0438214682 saying FILTER ON. You can report scams to Scamwatch.

This article has been updated since it was first published.