AT&T and Comcast form first ever anti-robocall tag team

JC Torres - Mar 20, 2019, 10:47 pm CDT
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AT&T and Comcast form first ever anti-robocall tag team

Fraudulent robocallers, your days are numbered. Or at least that’s what AT&T and Comcast are telling the sources of these calls designed to con people. In what is being touted as the nation’s first, the two providers are joining forces to combat such kinds of robocalls by authenticating not just calls happen within their respective networks but also those that cross the lines between the two.

Robocalls have become more than just a nuisance but have also become a real threat as well. Especially when its tricks people into believing they’re coming from legitimate numbers and phishing them into giving out personal information. The robocall situation has become so bad that even AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson supposedly got a robocall on stage hours before announcing its team up with Comcast.

US carriers are taking the fight against robocalls seriously but almost all of them start and stop within their own networks. They may be able to identify calls made from and to numbers within their respective networks but not those coming from outside. That’s where the SHAKEN/STIR protocol comes in, which AT&T and Comcast are using to fight the good fight.

An amusing acronym for convoluted names (“Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs” and “Secure Telephony Identity Revisited”), SHAKEN/STIR practically attaches an identifying mark (“certificate”) to calls to verify that it’s really coming from where it says it’s coming from. AT&T’s and Comcast’s partnership means that calls between the two can now be verified even if they come from different networks. The two plan to roll out this feature later this year.

While definitely a laudable and pioneering effort, there are still a few major flaws to this system. For one, calls made from other networks that aren’t AT&T or Comcast will still pose a threat. But more importantly, SHAKEN/STIR only deals with unverified calls (a.k.a. spoofing) and will still let unwanted but legitimate robocalls through (a.k.a. spam). At least the latter will be more of a nuisance than a danger and people will at least know who to really blame.


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