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March 16th, 2018

Canada Doubles Down on Fight Against Call Spoofing

The phone is still the communication channel of choice for the majority of the population in our connected world. Unfortunately, it is also a preferred channel of choice for fraudsters. While much is being done in the U.S. to tackle the issues of illegal robocalling and call spoofing, work is also underway in Canada to address these growing problems.

It’s sure to be one of the hot topics at the 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit from June 4-6 in Toronto where Neustar will be in attendance. We invite any registered attendee to our sponsored breakfast on Tuesday, June 5 at 7 a.m. followed by a speaking session, Restoring Trust in Communications: Regulations and Innovations to Protect Consumers and Optimize Business Engagement” with Neustar’s Michael Cooley, VP of Business Development, that starts at 8:25 a.m. We’ll also be giving away prizes at the breakfast, so please join us!

It’s a Canadian problem, too

Malicious robocalls (also referred to as nuisance calls) continue to be one of the most prevalent types of consumer fraud afflicting Canadians. And, similar to what has happened in the U.S. with fraudulent IRS calls, Canadians receive calls from fraudsters impersonating the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) asking for immediate payment of taxes owed. But it doesn’t stop there.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) even had to warn Canadians about calls from individuals who falsely state they are calling on behalf of the National Do Not Call List (DNCL) provider, claiming that the call recipient’s telephone number is about to expire from the list. They then ask for personal information over the phone that is then used for fraudulent purposes.

In November 2016, the CRTC asked telephone service providers to empower Canadians against nuisance calls by blocking them on their networks and providing call-management services to their subscribers. Canadian telecommunications service providers were tasked with developing technical solutions to block unwanted calls through the CRTC Interconnection Steering Committee, an industry-led working group.

“We strive to ensure all Canadians have adequate and reliable protection when using the communication system,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. “In this case, telecommunications service providers are in the best position to develop and implement call-management solutions for the millions of Canadians tired of receiving nuisance calls, just as they have done for email and text messaging. We encourage Canadians to contact their service provider to find out what solutions they offer to protect themselves against nuisance calls.”

In November 2016, the CRTC also signed an agreement with their U.S. counterparts at the FCC to work collaboratively to combat illegitimate robocalls and caller ID spoofing by facilitating research and education. They also agreed to share knowledge and expertise through training programs and staff exchanges, as well as inform each other of legal developments in their respective jurisdictions.

New measures to stop caller ID spoofing

Recently, the CRTC has stepped up its fight against fraudsters, announcing new measures focused on reducing caller identification spoofing in January 2018. The CRTC asked for a six-month progress report, demonstrating the importance they are placing on these new measures, which mandate that all Canadian telephone service providers:

• Implement authentication and verification of caller ID information for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls no later than March 31, 2019.

• Establish an industry administrator to issue the certificates required to authenticate and verify IP-based voice calls.

• Develop a call traceback process for the CRTC to review and approve.

Caller ID authentication standards are part of the solution

VoIP calls have been specifically targeted in this mandate because they are increasingly being used by fraudsters to place international calls at low or no cost. Caller ID spoofing has become a significant problem since the introduction of VoIP services, as callers can now alter the caller ID, making it appear as a local call, even if it’s coming from the other side of the world.

While spoofed calls primarily originate from VoIP services, customers of all types of communications networks are impacted by nuisance calls. The CRTC discovered that Canadians are no longer able to reliably trust the accuracy of caller ID, and in turn don’t know for certain who is calling them, or from where. They determined that in order to combat this problem and protect consumer trust, a layered approach would be required, starting with the implementation of the STIR and SHAKEN industry standards for caller authentication:

STIR: a technical standard developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) provides a means to certify the identity of originating calls

SHAKEN: a framework developed by the Alliance of Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) that is focused on the implementation of STIR within IP-based service provider networks

Neustar is committed to helping solve the robocall problem, protecting both consumers and businesses. But we recognize that it takes a village. In addition to co-authoring the STIR standards for call authentication and helping service providers understand and implement these new standards, we developed the Neustar Trust Lab, the official host of the ATIS Robocalling Testbed.

The ATIS Robocalling Testbed was launched in 2017 to validate the effectiveness of these standards, and is specifically focused on using SHAKEN as an implementation framework for service providers to better combat robocalls and call spoofing on IP-based networks. To date, 22 companies spanning handset manufacturers, service providers and app developers, are either registered, actively participating or have completed testing.

As IP networks open doors to fraudsters from across the world, allowing them to continue to target innocent consumers, Canadian service providers are being tasked to implement extra consumer protection safeguards. While this is a great start, at Neustar we believe much more will need to be done to improve consumer trust — in Canada, the U.S., and other regions around the world. We invite you join us in our fight.

To set up a meeting with us during the Canadian Telecom Summit from June 4-6 in Toronto, please email Marcel Champagne. To learn more about these efforts and how you can join the Neustar Trust Lab and ATIS Testbed, click here.


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