A national nightmare may be ending and no it is not what you think, sorry. No instead it is something that all Americans should feel good about: The robocall flood that has annoyed so many may be coming to an end and the people responsible may finally be held to account (or at least put out of business).

A Nation Tired of The Robocall

If you have a phone you have probably been bombarded by at least one robocall over the past few years. Its random calls coming from random numbers (or maybe even your own number) calling several times a day or week and most of them don’t even leave a message. Some of them are scams. Americans received 26.3 billion robocalls in 2018 and we are tired of it.

It is one of the rare issues that unties the country these days. Bi-partisan legislation was even introduced to do something should the telecommunications companies fail to act. Maybe that was how they knew the issue was serious this time?

Robocalls Coming To An End?

You may have noticed that the flow of them have turned into a trickle or have stopped completely. Why? The telecommunications companies have finally decided to do something about it. The issue has caught the attention of lawmakers with massive amounts of public pressure which forced change in the way of FCC regulation.

SHAKEN And STIR(RED)

No, this has nothing to do with your favorite British secret agent. Implemented at the beginning of March were two new protocols called Signature-based Handling of Assertive information using toKENs (SHAKEN) and Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR). SHAKEN will authenticate calls between carriers and STIR will be used to try to prevent number spoofing. Should a spoofed number be used it will fail the SHAKEN/STIR verification and will be stopped.

The protocols will use digital cryptographic certificates to verify the source of a call and will be passed on. When both sides are able to verify the certificate the call we be allowed to go through unfettered. Calls that fail the test can still go through but a message will be displayed that the call is unverified. Automatic dropping of those calls will not happen, just yet anyway.

Already Implemented

So far AT&T and Comcast have been the first to implement the SHAKEN/STIR protocols with T-Mobile doing so in a limited capacity. Verizon, Sprint, Google, Charter, Cox and Vonage will soon follow. Now SHAKEN and STIR will mean more than how everyone’s favorite British secret agent likes his vodka martinis.

Of course the robocall is more than a nuisance, they are illegal. Number spoofing is an illegal act just by itself. Within the past year four companies have been shut down and have been hit with millions of dollars in fines (whether those fines will be collected is another matter as the FCC has so far only collected about $7,000 in total fines). These companies, NetDotSolutions, Higher Goals Marketing, Veterans of America and Pointbreak Media, used auto dialing software and posed as a legitimate company (like Google) or charity and attempted to scam victims. It appears that no one has been charged with any crimes yet.

When those companies were shut down the FCC also threatened action against telecommunications companies and it seems like the message was received. For AT&T it did not help that its CEO Randall Stephenson received a robocall during an event at the Economic Club. We will now get to enjoy some calm until the criminal element comes up with another way to scam people but it is nice to know that the average American is being listened to.

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