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The world’s A2P messaging community gathered in London last week to discuss growing the market and cutting out malpractice. MEF members led the conversation.  Here are the highlights.

There was a nice treat in store for any visitor to last week’s Messaging & SMS World 2018: a bird’s eye view of the Tower of London. One of the world’s most historic prisons, right there on the doorstep.

Inside the conference, the talk was also of crime and punishment, but of a much more contemporary kind. Specifically, delegates were asking: what can we do about A2P messaging fraud? About spam, SIM farms and SMiShing?

And on day one of the show, it was Mobile Ecosystem Forum that led the debate.

The timing was appropriate, given that MEF had just unveiled two important projects designed to take the fight to the fraudsters and improve awareness of the issue.

Gabriela Fernandes, Future of Messaging Programme Manager for MEF, kicked off the afternoon by introducing the first of them: the SMS SenderID Protection Registry.

This UK-based initiative was developed in a series of industry workshops to combat SMS-based phishing attacks. It lets merchants register and protect the message headers they use in SMS communications to consumers. It’s in collaboration with with Mobile UK in a cross-network initiative with all four UK operators – EE/BT, O2, Three and Vodafone.

A trial of the Registry will start with the banking industry and UK government agencies in early 2019.

Fernandes said: “The MEF already has its Code of Conduct to tackle fraud and promote a more transparent channel for A2P messaging. The SMS SenderID Protection Registry is a practical example of how industry collaboration is required in the fight against fraud.”

She was followed on stage by Ben Bannister, director of mobility and collaboration services at Tata Communications.

Bannister outlined the key findings of the second announcement from MEF at #MSW2018: the A2P Monetisation Study supported by Tata.

The study revealed the thoughts of more than 50 MNOs from all regions on fraud, malpractice, regulation, future monetisation and RCS.

You can download the report here.

One of the study’s key insights was how much income being lost to fraud. Some MNOs believe it could be as much as 32 per cent of total A2P revenue. However, the average response said 9.4 per cent. Assuming the market to be worth $13.72 billion (source: Mobilesquared), that’s nearly $1.5 billion a year.

In a panel session with MEF Members which closed the afternoon, the participants agreed that the ‘cost’ is very difficult to calculate. But they erred on the high side – mostly because of the sophistication of fraudsters.

Bannister said: “Criminals are always finding new ways to reinvent old frauds. I have a neighbour who was sent a spoof message from Microsoft, urging him to call a number, which gave instructions to type in a URL that introduced a virus. So, often there’s a combination of frauds, but the ‘way in’ to them is often with SMS.”

  Criminals are always finding new ways to reinvent old frauds. I have a neighbour who was sent a spoof message from Microsoft, urging him to call a number, which gave instructions to type in a URL that introduced a virus. So, often there’s a combination of frauds, but the ‘way in’ to them is often with SMS

Happily, the sector is having success defending against some frauds. Ashiqur Rahman, A2P product manager of Grameenphone, revealed the dramatic improvement after his MNO introduced traffic filtering.

“We had a huge number of lottery-based frauds in Bangladesh,” he said. “People were bring referred by text to very professional sounding call centres run by fraudsters, and were being robbed of millions. We would get 800 complaints a day. So we introduced policy rules, which we update on a daily basis. Now we are down to five or six complaints on a bad day.”

Undoubtedly, excellent news. However, fellow panellist Ira Cohen VP, head of business development and marketing at MMD Smart, sounded a note of caution.

He countered that filtering can inadvertently block legitimate messages. “A lot of traffic is not getting through – every day. We have gambling clients with opted-in lists trading in regions where gambling is legal, and they still get blocked. We have to find a solution because while legitimate traffic is blocked, fraudsters will just use other channels anyway.”

Smarter filtering systems may be one answer. In his keynote, Surash Patel, VP of EMEA at RealNetworks, talked about the potential of AI and machine learning to better detect illegal traffic.,

“We built these systems to tackle fraud, but the complexity is increasing all the time,” he said. “It now includes the terminating operator layer. So, for example, in the US there are some operators that let you send messages about cannabis. But others don’t.

“It’s why we built a platform – Kontxt – that uses AI to classify message traffic without reading it. It gives operators the ability to devise better policies. They can also manage their internal bandwidth and resources better. But it’s an ongoing process as fraudsters react to policy changes all the time. Ultimately we need a combination of technology, consumer education and industry initiatives to fight back effectively.”

Tim Green

Features Editor, MEF Minute


Download the A2P Monetisation Study

The A2P Monetisation Study in association with TATA Communications takes a snapshot of the enterprise messaging market, identifying the key drivers and barriers to growth. It reveals how MNOs view the market today and tomorrow – including an outlook for RCS.

The report analyses 10 key findings and features interviews with study partners and industry experts TATA and Anam.

Download the study now