Posted on February 5, 2020

It seems as though nearly every person with a phone has experienced an increase in robocalling in recent years. In 2019, 58.5 billion robocalls were placed nationwide, equaling approximately 178.3 calls per person affected. In December 2019 alone, there were 4.6 billion robocalls placed, 42 percent of which were scams.

Thankfully, robocalls are about to meet their match. These rampant, inconvenient calls often convey a prerecorded message to urge the listener to do something. For example, imposters may claim to be from the IRS and demand immediate funds or personal information to avoid criminal punishment. Fraudsters may also try to rope listeners in with the promise of vacations or giveaways. The U.S. government and leading organizations have recognized this issue and are taking steps to combat the malicious practice.

On December 30, 2019, the government signed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act into law. Among several provisions of this law are requirements for the FCC to report on the progress of STIR/SHAKEN deployment by the end of 2020, as well as a requirement for service providers to have implemented STIR/SHAKEN within 18 months of the passage of the law.

So, what exactly is STIR/SHAKEN and how will it impact you?

STIR, known as Secure Telephony Identity Revisited and SHAKEN, Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs, are telecom industry standards that allow communication service providers (CSPs) to cryptographically sign calls in the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) header. These calls are authenticated by the originating service provider, then verified by the receiving service provider, and they help call receivers know whether the call is authentic.

Flowroute is committed to the deployment of the STIR/SHAKEN framework. STIR/SHAKEN seeks to reestablish and strengthen trust in the communications industry, fight against malicious robocalling and protect consumers against fraud and abuse. It is important to note that STIR/SHAKEN is not a technology that blocks calls, especially because not every automated solicitation call is deemed illegal. Calls from charities or debt collectors, for example, are permissible. Rather, STIR/SHAKEN is a tool to provide indications of when fraud is occurring and protect call receivers from falling prey to bad actors.

SIP headers will indicate whether the party originating the call is authorized to use the number by three attestation fields: A, B and C. These fields help categorize how to verify or attest the validity of a number.

Below are the three levels of attestation:

  1. (A) Full Attestation – The service provider has authenticated the calling party and is authorized to use the originating number.
  2. (B) Partial Attestation – The service provider has authenticated the originating call, but it cannot confirm the calling party is authorized to use the number.
  3. (C) Gateway Attestation – The service provider has authenticated where it received the inbound call but is unable to verify the call source.

Carriers have already started implementing STIR/SHAKEN protocol to verify callers and numbers, which should cut down on the number of robocalls received.

Flowroute is both supportive of, and committed to, the deployment this framework. Our deployment is taking place in phases, with the current phase involving code-level upgrades to our switching platform. Lab testing, integration activities and similar efforts will soon follow. We are eager to see how STIR/SHAKEN will continue to rebuild and improve trust in the global communications market.

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