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Sri Lanka blocks South Pacific in rogue dialer crackdown

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Sri Lanka is to block direct dialling to 13 countries, mostly in the South Pacific, in a move designed to combat the growing menace of rogue autodiallers. The ban comes into force on Tuesday (1 November), AFP reports.

Rogue dialers change the number used in dial-up connections to an expensive international number. Sometimes users are offered access to porn sites in return for changing their internet access numbers to what turn out be premium rate or international numbers. More often changes in dial-up numbers are carried out surreptitiously using malicious code. Through the dialer, users' modems are silently disconnected, then reconnected to the internet through an international long-distance number. Consumers typically realise that their internet dial-up settings have been changed only when they receive a phone bill with high call charges to international destinations, generating complaints.

In response, Sri Lanka Telecom has told ISPs and service providers to block direct dial calls to countries including the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, the Wallis and Futana Islands and Western Samoa. The block to these countries will stay in enforced for at least three months.

The scam only affects people who use a regular dialup modem to get online, but there are many regions where dialup is still in widespread use. Rogue dialer scams are commonplace throughout the world, generating varied regulatory responses. Ireland instituted a similarly motivated block in October 2004 but in that case specific phone numbers can be unblocked at the request of subscribers. Local users in Sri Lanka will have to use operator-assisted calls to blocked countries but are prevented from placing (cheaper) direct dialled calls themselves. ®

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