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Anchor of Trust

By George Cray, Senior Vice President, iconectiv


Trust is the foundation for communications. But for over a decade, that trust has been under relentless assault by fraudsters. In the U.S. alone, an average of 60 billion illegal robocalls are made each year, while globally, 4.15 billion text messages are SMS phishing (“smishing”) attempts.

Consumers are fed up, to the point that when they see a call from an unfamiliar/unidentified number, they now let it drop into voice mail 76 percent of the time. Even with that precaution, they'll still lose an estimated $40 billion to fraudulent robocalls in 2022. Meanwhile, illegal robocalls, spam text and fraud will cost service providers $29 billion in lost revenues.

Legitimate businesses and organizations such as schools, health departments, retailers, banks, and airlines also suffer when their calls and texts wind up ignored. For example, if consumers can’t trust the Caller ID on an SMS message, they won’t respond to texts authenticating accounts they created on their computer. And in cases when a consumer does interact with a fraudulent text, there can be financial and identity theft repercussions for the consumer. All this additionally undermines the digital transformation projects that those businesses use to improve efficiency, customer engagement and customer satisfaction.

STIR/SHAKEN Cuts Illegal Robocalls by 29% in Its First 90 Days

Now some good news: Over the past few years, the telecom industry has made major strides toward restoring trust in communications, starting with the concept of an “anchor of trust” that would enable authorized verification of callers.

The NANC Call Authentication Trust Anchor (CATA) Working Group’s Trust Anchor Best Practices for the Implementation of Call Authentication Frameworks was an important step toward this goal, with the CATA Working Group recommending that the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited/Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs (STIR/SHAKEN) framework be adopted by service providers. STIR/SHAKEN enables service providers to cryptographically sign and verify calling numbers. This helps increase call-answer rates for legitimate businesses because service providers can give their customers verified Caller ID information.

STIR/SHAKEN had an immediate impact. Just three months after it was first implemented in the U.S., illegal robocalls dropped 29%.

Registered Caller™ Boosts Attestation Accuracy While Enabling RCD-Based Trust

The next step was to ensure that all legitimate calls receive proper attestation. That’s the goal of Registered Caller, a centralized telephone number registry developed by iconectiv and CTIA with input from major voice service providers, robocall-mitigation companies, and other leaders.

The latest initiative is to provide an industry-standard framework for presenting consumers with vetted calling party information. Originating voice service providers can use Registered Caller to get verified information about each phone number and the enterprise using it. This goes beyond what’s available with traditional calling name (CNAM) lookup services and capabilities while avoiding the shortcomings of bespoke solutions at the terminating service provider. When Registered Caller fully verifies an enterprise’s identity and calling number, the originating voice service provider can elevate that call to A-level, the highest level of attestation under STIR/SHAKEN, which allows the terminating provider to confidently present verified calling information to the recipient.

Extending STIR/SHAKEN a step further, enterprises can leverage the concept of Rich Call Data (RCD), so incoming calls can be delivered with the calling name, logo of the business making the call, as well as information about the call’s intent.

In order for service providers to trust RCD being passed as part of the call, Registered Caller has been enhanced to include the elements of RCD for each enterprise and related telephone number.  Registered Caller serves as a trusted, authoritative, centralized hub to validate and authenticate businesses’ RCD information.  Registered Caller will enable STIR/SHAKEN to encode reputational information in the form of enhanced caller identity information like a vetted company logo, for example, which will give consumers even more peace of mind when deciding whether to answer a call.  Equally important, brands will be able to properly present themselves in a fashion that is clear to their customers.

CTIA is working with service providers to align on the Rich Call Best Practices that will guide its use. And we, as an industry, are actively collaborating on best practices in order to facilitate and help enable roadmap development for all service providers as many plan to enhance the customer experience for both authentication and delivery experiences.

To learn more, check out the recent SIPNOC Forum panel discussion, “Rich Call Best Practices: Building trust for future success” with representatives from CTIA, iconectiv, T-Mobile and Verizon.