December 15th, 2020

STIR/SHAKEN Takes Center Stage at Canadian Telecom Summit

At the 20th Annual Telecom Canadian Summit, held virtually November 17-19, industry leaders zeroed in on a broad range of topics of interest to the Canadian telecom industry. These included disruptive innovations like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain; transformation for the 5G era; privacy and identity; and regulatory topics. But it was no surprise that STIR/SHAKEN was a key topic at the event, with its prominence reflected in the agenda each of the three days.

The rise in nuisance calls (how Canadians refer to robocalls), call spoofing, and fraud in Canada has resulted in a mandate for all carriers to implement STIR/SHAKEN call authentication by June 2021‒an important step in protecting consumers and restoring trust to the phone channel. To facilitate that process, the governance structure has already been established in Canada, and a number of carriers are deploying and testing STIR/SHAKEN.

In July 2020, the CST-GA selected Neustar as its Secure Telephone Identity (STI) Policy Administrator (STI-PA) and Certification Authority (STI-CA) to help eligible carriers participate in the STI call authentication ecosystem by June 2021 deadline mandated by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Several leading Canadian carriers had already been involved with their U.S. counterparts, conducting STIR/SHAKEN tests through the ATIS Robocall Testbed, which is exclusively hosted by Neustar.

Here’s a recap of the STIR/SHAKEN sessions at the summit:

The Next Step in STIR/SHAKEN 
In this session, NetNumber, Numeracle, Comcast, Everbridge, and Twilio talked about their successful proof-of-concept that demonstrated enterprise can have their calls signed through STIR/SHAKEN, using the emerging delegate certificate standard with a Rich Call Data PASSPorT, to achieve authenticated branded calls.

Doug Ranalli, founder and vice president of global data services for NetNumber, kicked off the discussion, noting, “We see a robust area of activity in enterprises, specifically complex use cases where an enterprise has a desire to source telephone numbers from multiple networks or route traffic into the public network through multiple service providers.” That makes it tough for the OSP to know who the enterprise customer really is.

Doug walked through the end-to-end demo, prefacing it by saying that he needed such an impressive group of panelists to be successful because, “As a company, we weren’t just interested in building a NetNumber solution, we want to participate in an ecosystem that leverages standards as we’re really trying to restore trust to all calls in the public network, and that can’t be done by one company.”

Rebekah Johnson, Founder and CEO of Numercale, focused on the importance of vetting in this process. “Part of why we don’t have trust is because anonymity exists. Transferring the identity of who is calling down to the terminating device is what we are solving for. The source of truth belongs with the entity, and they should manage that.” 

“This is a great step for Twilio,” said Christer Fahlgren, senior software architect at Twilio, “we can generate an ‘A’ for every number we own since we know our customers. But we have many customers who want to originate calls with Caller IDs, and/or numbers we don’t own.” 

It was gratifying to see such collaboration and progress for technologies that Neustar helped advance and co-author, and our software was used by one of the partners for the demo as well. Neustar also recently partnered with Bandwidth Inc. and Comcast to conduct a cross-industry STIR/SHAKEN interoperability test to enable enterprises to leverage STIR/SHAKEN delegate certificates to authenticate outbound calls, and add RICH Call Data (RCD) such as logos, reason for the call, and more.

Lessons Learned from Early SHAKEN Deployments, Challenges, and Opportunities
While STIR/SHAKEN mostly addresses call authentication in the SIP portion of networks, TransNexus expanded on how it can be used for TDM networks, which remain a large portion of the Canadian network infrastructure. Because the STIR/SHAKEN token can be dropped when moving from SIP to TDM, that presents a challenge in the U.S. and Canada. It’s critical to protect all consumers in the calling ecosystem, so not addressing the TDM issue may mean there’s a door left open for bad actors, and fraud.

Jim believes there are two key STIR/SHAKEN developments taking place now:

  • SHAKEN for TDM networks
    Will enable SHAKEN for all calls, which will provide the necessary economy of scale for STIR/SHAKEN deployment across a true trusted ecosystem. The technology for this is based on an Out-of-Band STIR approach, a standard that Neustar helped author. 
  • Rich Call Data (RCD)
    The ability to add logos, call reason, and more will provide a better user experience, and offer an opportunity for service providers to generate new revenue through security ID management, branding, inbound calling centers, and maybe even vanity caller ID with custom emojis!

In spite of the title about lessons learned, Jim Dalton, CEO of TransNexus, who led the session, said, “The good news in the U.S. is that the challenges are disappearing. We see it in customers. They are sending out digitally signed calls. The train has left the station.” What’s more, he noted, “Enterprise Rich Call Data is ready now, and you’re gonna see it everywhere.” That includes smartphones, desktops, smart TVs, and virtual communications.

Keynote: Restoring Trust in Phone Calls: The Role of Regulations and Technology
Seventy-five summit attendees tuned into the keynote by President of the Canadian Secure Token - Governance Authority (CST-GA), Jacques Sarrazin, and Neustar SVP and GM Caller ID, Jimmy Garvert, Restoring Trust in Phone Calls: The Role of Regulations and Technology.
In the session, the two discussed how malicious robocalls continue to be one of the most prevalent types of consumer fraud afflicting Canadians. They also talked about how regulations and standards like STIR/SHAKEN help mitigate nuisance calls, including robocalls and call spoofing, and restore trust to the phone channel. 

These exciting trends and successful proof-of-concepts bode well for the expanded use of STIR/SHAKEN internationally, and the rising popularity of branded calling using Rich Call Data (RCD). 

For STIR/SHAKEN to succeed, the importance of collaboration across the industry can’t be overstated. As an approved Certification Authority and co-author of the STIR certificate management standards, Neustar plays an integral role in the governance structure for the Calling Number Verification Service to mitigate illegal robocalling and call spoofing. To learn more, visit our STIR/SHAKEN Resource Hub and Trusted Call Resource Center and learn about our Robocall Mitigation solution.

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