Telco action, public vigilance best defense vs fraudsters
Mobile phone users should exercise greater vigilance against SMS scams to better protect themselves and complement industry efforts against this long-running crime that, like a virus, evolves into “variants” to bypass countermeasures, according to Globe’s Chief Information Security Officer Anton Bonifacio.
Bonifacio, who leads Globe’s efforts to block scam messages and deactivate fraud-linked SIMs, likened SMS fraud to a virus that adapts to constantly improving methods and technologies used to stop scams. As such, a crucial way for mobile users to be protected is to wear 'double masks' - telco blocking and public awareness.
“As much as telcos are doing what they can to block spam and scam messages, that is just one protective measure. Online scams and fraud viruses are very strong so you need to be aware of another layer of protection. Mobile users can easily enable anti-spam filters on their mobile devices and they should always be vigilant of scams. It has to go both ways,” said Bonifacio.
He said local and international fraud syndicates continue to find ways to skirt spam-blocking measures that telcos have been aggressively enforcing with the spate of SMS scams.
“At the end of the day, for as long as scamming is lucrative for criminals, they will keep on looking for ways to do it. They try to bypass our blocking filters by changing the spelling of words and using different characters so they won’t get flagged. It’s like a game of cat-and-mouse,” Bonifacio said.
“If both telcos and customers will exercise vigilance, I think there are better chances that we can stop them,” he said.
He cited how Globe has been vigorously coming out with reminders to the public and instructional social media posts on how customers can enable spam filters on their devices, report unwanted SMS on the network’s Stop Spam portal, and detect suspicious messages they receive.
Customers can learn how to activate spam filters on their Android phones by watching the video on this link.
“If we’re able to catch up the ability of people to be more aware so that they won’t get duped, then syndicates won’t make profit out of these scams. Once they no longer have ROI for the devices they acquire for their scam business, hopefully they’ll stop,” Bonifacio said.
From January to June 15 this year, Globe blocked over 138 million spam and scam messages, including more than 9 million reported through partner banks. The total figure includes app-to-person and person-to-person messages of both local and international origin.
Globe also deactivated 12,877 mobile numbers due to spamming from January to May through reports from customers on its Stop Spam web portal.
Since 2014, Globe has been beefing up its cybersecurity capabilities to protect customers, including a 24/7 security operations center that detects and blocks suspicious messages. Its #MakeITsafePH campaign also educates customers on cybersecurity and responsible Internet use. Cybersecurity is a material issue in today's digital world such that managing these risks is an important sustainability agenda among mobile operators globally.
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