Telstra is fighting the rise of fraudulent text messages by blocking them at the network level.
According to a blog post Created by CEO Andy Penn, the scam filter – part of Telstra’s ‘Cleaner Pipes’ initiative – is designed to prevent the theft of personal information such as bank credentials, block the spread of malware and prevent customers from transmitting infections to their own contacts.
“We know that the number of fraudulent text messages on our network is on the rise – in 2021 we had over 11,000 reports of malicious texts on Android devices, compared to 50 reports in 2020,” Penn wrote.
This increase is due to malicious campaigns like Flubot, which infects Android users by offering a link to what pretends to be voicemail. Other versions of the malware notify users of a package delivery.
“That’s why we’ve enabled an all-new feature to find and block scam text messages containing suspicious links as they travel through our network and stop many of them before they reach your mobile device,” Penn wrote. .
His message explained that the scam blocks had undergone three months of internal testing.
“Around 2,500 employees participated and we managed to detect and block hundreds of fraudulent text messages every day.
“Our pilot program employees told us they saw a reduction in the number of scam text messages they were receiving,” Penn wrote.
The technology has been activated on all messages traversing Telstra’s network, including those from its low-cost subsidiary Belong.
“The capability under the hood is complex and scalable – it should continue to help thwart scammers – but simply put, we are applying knowledge of what fraudulent text messages look like to block them at the network level,” wrote Penn.
“If an SMS seems suspicious, we will block it before it reaches the user.
“Automatic machine scanning selects suspicious content such as malicious links and combines it with other patterns and characteristics such as time, sender, number of messages sent and recipient.”
Internally, he wrote, the system sends potential fraudulent messages to human reviewers to avoid blocking legitimate messages.
However, reviewers never see the details of a message’s intended recipient.
Penn also wrote that “we will not block commercial messages from banks and other large businesses, government departments, emergency alerts, and Telstra apps like MessageBank.”
There is also a deactivation mechanism: send an SMS to 0438214682 with the words FILTER OFF to deactivate the feature.
“If you change your mind you can turn it back on by texting 0438214682 saying FILTER ON,” Penn wrote.