GSMA trials spam snitch scheme
Sling yer SMS hook
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.
Easier and better fix
Instead of setting up ridiculous filtering systems (or whatever they plan to do with these messages) how about this better and easier fix?
Make my SIM chip only receive text messages from a specific whitelist of other mobile users. This would effectively eliminate the problem of SMS SPAM overnight. If the spammer can't reach people by *default* then there's simply no market.
Frankly I don't know why any text messaging system was ever setup any other way. Then again as an American I don't understand how in God's name our phone companies get away with charging 20¢ per message (sending *and* receiving).
Oh, wait... *sigh*
Do you expect telcos to pay for that or governments?
Anyway, in both ways, we, us customers, are screwed. They don't care, as long as people don't complaint too much and it doesn't hurt the bottom line.
Reporting isn't the answer (yet)
What's needed first is international technical and logistical measures that can ensure the true origin of any call or message can be reliably and undisputably determined. For example, the sending telco could be required to positively validate their customers and embed a unique ID identifying both the sending telco and the individual call. The receiving telco should then be required to exchange a further data packet with the claimed sender's telco, to double check that the claimed and actual sending telco are both the same, before connecting or delivering to the final recipient. Only then may they connect to the intended recipient
Next is needed international agreement to exempt the receiving telco from the obligation to connect or deliver calls where a statistically significant number of complaints have been received against calls using that ID (or, in extreme cases, where the sending telco appears to be allowing a sender to spam using plural IDs).
Only then does a reporting code become useful -- and the processing mechanism should be able to block such calls within a matter of hours or even minutes of receiving sufficient reports against messages from the same origin.