June 17, 2020

Call Origination: The Key to Stopping Robocalls

| | |

Call Origination Combats Robocalls

The SHAKEN/STIR protocol promises to help stop annoying robocalls. The technology’s framework relies on correctly identifying call origination, which would make it difficult for scammers to spoof phone numbers. If the framework can confirm a call’s origin, then call spoofing becomes nearly impossible.

Not many people know how call origination actually works, though. Before you can trust the technology to prevent robocalls and protect the reputation of your phone numbers, you need to learn some details about call origination.

What Is Call Origination?

To understand call origination and its importance, you need to know some basic facts about how modern telephony works.

When someone places a phone call, the sounds get converted into digital packets that travel from the origination point to the receiver. The call usually gets passed through a SIP (session initiation protocol) trunk. You can think of the SIP trunk as a digital telephone line used by modern equipment like VoIP and private branch exchanges (PBX).

The packets that get passed through the SIP trunk contain a SIP Header. The SIP Header holds quite a bit of information. For example, the Header keeps track of the call’s origin, timestamp, encryption, and authorization levels.

The SIP Header also contains the ability to stop robocalls. Unfortunately, every service provider would need to adopt the technology to make call spoofing impossible. There’s a significant push within the industry and the federal government to adopt SHAKEN/STIR protocol and its related technologies. Getting the desired results, however, will mean that a lot of companies have to spend money updating their systems. Also, some infrastructure issues make it difficult to enforce industry-wide adoption.

Why Is Call Origination Important?

It’s unbelievably easy for scammers to spoof telephone numbers. They just need to purchase software that does most of the work for them. The rogue software doesn’t even cost much money. In some cases, scammers spend less than 25 cents per spoofed call.

Scammers want to spoof numbers because it helps them connect with victims. A lot of people will ignore incoming calls from unknown phone numbers. If their smartphones see that the incoming calls come from trustworthy organizations, though, people will answer.In cases when scammers manage to spoof the phone numbers of doctors, insurance companies, government agencies, and other essential organizations, people might even provide sensitive information such as their Social Security numbers and addresses.

Scammers couldn’t trick people as easily if they had to use a telephone infrastructure with call origination authentication. Instead of letting the phone numbers get spoofed, the system would check the origination in the SIP Header against where the call is really coming from. If the “tokens” don’t match, then the service could cancel the call or warn the person getting the call.

With call origination, you get the first step to blocking spoofed calls.

Attestation Level

Let’s take a closer look at SIP Headers and call originations to learn more about how an anti-call spoofing system would function.

Sip Headers

When a SIP Header is passed, an attestation level gets applied to it. Attestation basically means that the origin has been checked and confirmed as accurate.

The service provider processing the incoming call gets a copy of the SIP Header and attestation level. The inbound service provider can look at the information to mark the call as verified or unverified. The service provider could also block the call for failing to meet its standards.

Data Modeling

The attestation levels and SIP Headers don’t have to work alone to stop spoofed calls. Service providers are building analytical data sets that will gather and utilize information about call spoofers.

Additionally, several companies have developed smartphone apps that collect information about phone numbers. The apps act as filters that weed out likely scams and spoofed numbers. As more people use the apps and report potential scams, the more effective the technology becomes.

A combination of SHAKEN/STIR, analytical data sets, and call-blocking apps could significantly reduce the number of unwanted calls that Americans get. Consider, for instance, how much better email filters have gotten at identifying spam. The same could happen for phones.

Who Is Implementing This Technology?

SHAKEN/STIR technology still has a way to go before it solves robocalling and call spoofing problems. Some service providers, however, are taking the issues very seriously. In 2019, T-Mobile launched caller verification that helps protect customers from scams.

AT&T also deserves credit for its Call Validation Display. The display goes a step further than displaying incoming numbers. Incoming calls that pass verification get labeled as “Valid.” The technology doesn’t work on all AT&T phones, but the company is committed to supporting recent and popular models.

When it comes to building call verification and blocking apps, some of the companies that stand out in the field include:

Most of the third-party call-blocking apps cost a few dollars per month.

Service providers, consumers, and businesses have high hopes for these technologies. No one likes call spoofing. Call spoofing and robocalls erode trust between consumers and companies. It only helps criminals who want to take advantage of trusting victims.

Unfortunately, industry-wide adoption will take time. Until every service provider initiates SHAKEN/STIR, robocalls and number spoofing will remain a problem.

Mitigating Robocalls Now

SHAKEN/STIR has shown positive effects in limited trials, but it can’t stop robocalls on its own. Service providers and app developers will need to keep building technology that makes it harder for scammers to trick people. As well as third-party apps, it takes time for them to determine which phone numbers are suspicious. The apps rely on users to report numbers. Reports leading to a flagged number on one app will likely not display on other apps.

In the meantime, businesses can protect themselves by monitoring their phone numbers. If numbers get flagged by carriers or apps, someone has probably spoofed it for robocalls and scams. Eventually, call origination may solve the problem, but you need to mitigate the effects now. Otherwise, people won’t answer when you call them with legitimate offers.

Caller ID Reputation gives you a powerful solution to monitoring carriers and apps for blocked numbers. When the platform discovers that one or more of your numbers got flagged, it will let you know. That way, you can stop using the reported number.

Ideally, call origination and SHAKEN/STIR will stop robocalls. Until that day, you need to manage your phone number reputations by scanning them regularly.