Major US Carriers Strengthen STIR/SHAKEN Progress

By Greg Tavarez November 06, 2023

Imagine: An individual receives a call on their mobile phone from an unfamiliar number. Normally, they might hesitate to answer due to concerns about potential spam or scams. However, thanks to the implementation of STIR/SHAKEN, the caller's service provider has digitally signed the call with a cryptographic signature, and the recipient's service provider verifies this signature before the call even reaches the phone.

STIR/SHAKEN helps prevent spoofing and fraudulent calls by establishing a trust network among service providers, making it significantly harder for scammers to impersonate legitimate numbers. This process ensures that the caller's identity has not been spoofed, and the displayed caller ID is legitimate. As a result, the individual sees a "Verified" or similar indicator on their phone, indicating that the call is highly likely to be genuine. This allows them to answer with increased confidence, knowing that it's not a fraudulent or spoofed call.

And since the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC (News - Alert)) final mandate, which set a deadline of June 30, 2023, for the full implementation of the STIR/SHAKEN framework, the telecommunications industry has witnessed notable enhancements in voice traffic security. A recent report reveals that the industry made progress in digitally signing calls, thereby boosting caller ID authentication and strengthening the fight against spam calls and fraudulent activities.

The report, conducted by TNS, indicates a 3% overall increase in the number of calls that were digitally signed during the quarter immediately after the June 30 cutoff. This uptick reflects the commitment of top-tier carriers to improve call authentication through STIR/SHAKEN. However, the most remarkable change has been observed among non-top seven carriers, which experienced a 20% rise in digitally signed calls, post-deadline.

There is no doubt the FCC's mandate spurred carriers of all sizes to adopt the framework, making voice communication more secure and shielding consumers from deceptive calls and caller ID spoofing. The future looks promising for the industry.

However, some challenges do remain.

Disparities persist in the adoption of signed traffic among carriers, with larger carriers maintaining higher rates than their smaller counterparts. This divergence is particularly pronounced when examining the signed traffic capabilities of the top seven carriers, Verizon, UScellular, T-Mobile, Lumen, Comcast, Charter and AT&T. According to TNS (News - Alert)'s observations, when calls originate from a Tier-1 carrier and are directed toward a smaller carrier, only one in every five of these calls arrives with a digital signature, highlighting a substantial contrast in the signed traffic practices between the top-tier carriers and their smaller counterparts.

In addition to the discrepancies in signed traffic, the report also sheds light on the evolving tactics employed by fraudulent entities. These bad actors have begun leveraging AI voice cloning technology to deceive consumers, extracting personal information and financial resources through robocall scams.

In the third quarter of 2023, many Americans were bracing for the impacts of student loan payments starting up again. Well, bad actors exploited the confusion surrounding student loan debt relief, causing a surge in robocalls related to this topic.

In September alone, Americans received nearly as many robocalls pertaining to student loan issues as they had encountered over the previous four months combined, underscoring the adaptability and innovation of scammers in targeting unsuspecting individuals – individuals seeking relief from anywhere.

Still, these challenges don’t undermine the fact that over 85% of that traffic is signed with the highest level of attestation, and smaller carriers showed an improvement as their total volume of signed traffic increased by 20% for the second quarter in a row.

“On the heels of the final STIR/SHAKEN implementation mandate, carriers continue to make improvements when it comes to signing traffic, a critical prerequisite for limiting the overall volume of spoofed and unwanted robocalls,” said Denny Randolph, President of TNS Communications Market.

Learn more about STIR/SHAKEN at ITEXPO 2024, taking place in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, February 13-15, 2024, part of the #TECHSUPERSHOW. Since 1999, ITEXPO (News - Alert) has combined educational conference programming with a robust exhibit hall, networking events, and other activities, bringing together buyers and providers of business technology products and services that drive business success. Along with ITEXPO, #TECHSUPERSHOW includes MSP Expo, IoT Evolution Expo, Future of Work Expo, Enterprise Metaverse Expo, Generative AI Expo, and more.

Edited by Alex Passett
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