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GSMA trials spam snitch scheme

Sling yer SMS hook

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The GSMA is piloting a scheme allowing GSM users to report SMS spam to a standard short code, in the hope of stopping the trickle before it becomes a flood.

The pilot will be offered to customers of AT&T, Korea Telecom and SFR, who will be able to forward spam texts to short code 7726 (T9 for "SPAM"), except where that's not available and the service will have to use 33700 instead (the equally-memorable "des00"). The messages will be collected by CloudMark, who will look at them carefully and decide what to do next.

Not that there's a great deal CloudMark, or the GSMA, can do about most of the messages. SMS spam is often sent through hacked SMS Centres in countries where security isn't the highest priority*; in which case it's hard to trace, or it's been legitimately paid for... in which case the operators have an agreed obligation to deliver it to the addressed recipient.

The French have been running a similar system since October 2008, which has received half a million reports and managed to shut down 300 spamming phone numbers, PC World reports. That system expects users to forward the spam, then respond to an enquiry about the number from which the spam was received, which can then be threatened with disconnection if it can be traced.

Text spam is on the increase thanks to falling text rates, and the international nature of GSM which allows a spammer to take advantage of incredibly-cheap texting rates in third-world countries, to (perfectly legally) deliver spam to western consumers. In extreme cases that can threaten the carriage agreements, though as long as customers don't complain too much, western operators are happy to take the termination rates.

Whether the GSMA is the right body to collect and collate text spam is open to debate, but the body reckons its international nature makes it the only one that can. ®

*In the past that's often included India, though international connection agreements mean that any SMSc in the world can be used.

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