Call Spoofing: Congress Calls on FCC, Russia and China Answer

August 15, 2019

It is both amusing and dismaying. Last year, Congress passed Ray Baum’s Act telling the FCC to do something about those pesky incoming foreign SPAM calls and texts with the fake callerIDs. The FCC a couple of weeks ago responded with a chest-thumping Report and Order claiming it has “extraterritorial jurisdiction” that it does not have and promising it will do something. Don’t hold your breath on that one.

In less than two weeks, the world’s only global intergovernmental telecommunication standards body — which also has real jurisdiction over those calls, texts, and identification — is convening its network security group in Geneva. It is known as Study Group 17. Indeed, it has a pre-existing sub-group on spam calls.

The FCC in typical current fashion input nothing into this study group, and indeed has largely not participated for the past decade or more in any work. It was left to both Russia and China yesterday to table new work items into the meeting to help implement Ray Baum’s Act’s call for action. Congress calls for action, Russia, and China answer!

The Russian proposal is from its NIIR institute in the Ministry of Informational Technologies and Communications in Moscow — by one of its senior leaders who also happen to be vice-chair over the “Numbering, naming, addressing, routing and service provision” working party in the ITU-T’s Operations study group. This group notably is responsible for the global numbering standards and identification mechanisms at issue.

The Russian proposal calls for a description of the technical requirements for telecommunication management systems and/or client support services to receive notifications of incoming spam calls. The work includes scenarios of interactive interaction of clients with operators/service providers of telephone communication networks about incoming spam calls and the necessary technical measures. To implement such a mechanism, a number of technical measures are proposed, the implementation of which by operators/service providers and equipment manufacturers will contribute to the quickest and least costly scenario of involving the subscriber/recipient of spam calls and texts.

The proposal from China is from its most dynamic telecom service provider, China Unicom, by staff from its Network Technology Research Institute — proposing the development of a machine learning/AI technical framework for tackling the global spam challenges. The proposal notes that “some telecommunication operators of China have used ML/AI to counter-voice spam since 2015, and the techniques to counter spam are effective and efficient. In fact, U.S. industry and the FCC itself have made the same observations.

The China Unicom proposal intends to define the general technical framework for countering spam based on machine learning. It will provide general scenarios, characteristics of the spam, introduction of machine learning, and define a general technical framework, and workflows, to achieve effective governance and control of spam.

Twenty-five years ago, it would have been the FCC together with U.S. industry making these proposals and leading the efforts to implement global solutions with significant resources, and help coordinate among the many industry bodies already involved in this effort. Today, the FCC doesn’t even show up. Maybe eventually, someone will “make the FCC great again.”