March 1st, 2021

STIR. SHAKE. Block. Trace. A formula to fight robocalls in Canada

From January through October of 2019, scammers pilfered $24 million right out of Canadians’ pockets through phone scams. Protecting citizens and businesses from predatory nuisance calls, spoofed calls, and fraud is a top priority for the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and Canada is on course to meet the June 2021 deadline for STIR/SHAKEN call authentication.  While global adoption of STIR/SHAKEN is the end game, Canada is one of the first countries to fully commit. That’s good news for North America.

But, as we know, STIR/SHAKEN is not a standalone solution to the onslaught of nuisance calls. By combining the power of STIR/SHAKEN with call blocking and tracebacks, Canada can not only tackle nuisance calls, but enable the use of Rich Call Data such as name, location, logos and more, to reassure customers about who’s really calling.

Canadian carriers on path to STIR/SHAKEN. 
Last year, the Canadian Security Token-Governance Authority (CST-GA) establishing Neustar as its Policy Administrator and Certificate Authority (STI-CA), creating the infrastructure to, at least initially, register over sixty Canadian national and regional providers of mobile, cable, and landline networks for STIR/SHAKEN testing and implementation. All Canadian carriers implementing STIR/SHAKEN must become a member of the CST-GA. 

While the original deadline for STIR/SHAKEN was last September, the CRTC granted an extension to all Canadian TSPs, regardless of size, to June 30, 2021—the same deadline as U.S. carriers face (with some exceptions.)

The rationale for the extension boiled down to a simple fact: TSPs need to be ready for a successful implementation. While many smaller carriers already operate using the IP-based networks necessary for STIR/SHAKEN, there is still concern that Canadian carriers may confront other barriers. 

The extension provides time to find complementary approaches and gives the Canadian Industry a chance to benefit from technology and standards developments that already have been developed as they implement STIR/SHAKEN. 

Major Canadian carriers like Bell Canada, Rogers, and Telus have long been part of the STIR/SHAKEN development and implementation process. It’s considered a vital weapon in their arsenal to block bad calls, but not the only one.

Call blocking makes legitimate dent in illegitimate calls.
In December 2019, the CRTC also mandated that TSPs implement a call blocking feature to either block “evidently illegitimate calls” or implement call filtering services. Bell Canada and Rogers chose universal call blocking at the network level to stop spoofed numbers. Telus, on the other hand, used a filtering system to block most nuisance calls. Their efforts are working. 

Bell Canada reported blocking 220 million “evidently illegitimate calls” a month and is now using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to further block calls. In the first 30 days of a 90-day trial, their AI system blocked more than 66 million calls without a report of a false positive. Telus challenges most callers to enter a randomly-chosen digit to connect the call which they report blocks 40% of bad calls. 

Efforts point to a common conclusion - defusing nuisance calls requires a multi-faceted approach. 

Enforcement through tracebacks offers promise.
In Canada, that approach includes tracing the origin of spam calls. The industry-wide Canadian Traceback Program is considered an important tool for enforcement of Canada’s laws and regulations. Initiated by the CRTC in 2018, the program released a report on its three-week trial of the “serial” method of call tracebacks. It works by tracing the call starting from the terminating end of the call and progressing backwards towards the originating network. If approved, it will complement STIR/SHAKEN efforts.

All this will lead to the use of Rich Call Data (RCD).
While an end to nuisance calls is a valuable end in itself, STIR/SHAKEN will also enable the use of Rich Call Data (RCD) in the future. That includes adding name, title, logo, reason for the call, and more to the mobile display. RCD will enable secure transport of traditional Caller ID in Canada that gets populated at call origination, which is very important. Enterprises will likely be willing to pay for this feature, which will help them get calls answered and protect their brand. While carriers are responsible for implementing STIR/SHAKEN, it’s the smartphone manufacturers who must prepare to support the new feature. 

Neustar’s work with government, TSPs, and enterprises is instrumental in mitigating fraud in the call ecosystem. Our Certified Caller STIR/SHAKEN solution supports multiple Canadian carriers, with many others conducting tests. These carriers are leading the way in adopting new standards to restore trust in the voice channel and get legitimate calls through. To learn more about STIR/SHAKEN in the U.S., visit our Trusted Call Resource Center. Find out more about Branded Call Display (BCD) here.

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