During the online MEF Connects Innovators event, Director of Programmes James Williams hosted an update on the MEF SMS SenderID Protection Registry and its progress in fighting fraud in SMS.

MEF as an organisation was officially registered on February 4th 2001 in the UK but actually since 2000, trust in Mobile has been at the heart of everything we do. 2000 was really when MEF started to be pieced together by its five founding company members.

Orginally the Mobile Entertainment Forum, we rebranded in 2015 to what you know us as today (the Mobile Ecosystem Forum), a more encompassing name, better reflecting the members that had been joining us. Today we have over 120 members and two-thirds of them belong to our Future of Messaging programme. And Messaging is going places.

Watch the MEF SMS SenderID Protection Registry Panel in full

SMS is in its 29th year of existence and whilst Person-to-Person (P2P) volumes might be tanking, coming (like Voice) under sustained pressure from chat apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, Telegram, Signal etc., the world of Application-to-Person (A2P) SMS is in rude health. Simply put, A2P (B2C / B2B) Messaging is flying.

The SMS Business Messaging market globally is worth well in excess of $20 billion annually and when you take into account the fact that over $1 trillion (yes, trillion…) is spent on customer care each year, and that Business Messaging lends itself perfectly to doing some of the heavy lifting in this area, the headroom for growth is practically unlimited.

MEF is doing all it can to protect both consumers and genuine enterprises, merchants, sending content to us and, to this end, developed and is trialling a message proofing register, the SMS SenderID Protection Registry, to record proven companies and block fraudulent messages.

Now, you don’t need to be a Space X rocket scientist to piece together that if a market is growing fast, the potential booty for fraudsters grows as well. SMS has become a nice juicy target for bad actors or, more accurately, a perfect vehicle for accessing the cash cows – all of us!

Scammers trick customers into sharing financial details or sending money through SMS messages under the guise of trusted senders, a technique labelled as Smishing. Another technique (known as Spoofing) is also used to make a message appear in a chain alongside a genuine organisation.

Given so many people new to the digital, online world have been quite literally forced into its fast-flowing, often murky, waters as bricks and mortar establishments have been closed much of the past year due to measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, this means there are millions of potential new easy ‘marks’ for fraudsters.

MEF is doing all it can to protect both consumers and genuine enterprises, merchants, sending content to us and, to this end, developed and is trialing a message proofing register, the SMS SenderID Protection Registry, to record proven companies and block fraudulent messages.

The trial is proving extremely successful and indeed MEF is in discussion with other territories around the world (both near and far from the UK) about replicating the programme over with them. Singapore in particular is showing great interest.

Key to making the programme a success is engagement from stakeholders at every level and from across the Mobile ecosystem and it does not harm at all if the government is fully behind such a cross-party initiative. National cybersecurity, mobile and banking industry groups have joined the MEF initiative in the UK.

The UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), operator trade association Mobile UK and banking organisation UK Finance have backed our moves to prevent scammers using the current crisis in particular as an opportunity to defraud consumers.

Joining me to discuss the fantastic UK initiative and indeed other schemes elsewhere around the world (India in particular with its innovative use of Blockchain in their regulator backed SMS security initiative) were Mike Round (MEF Project Director, managing the SMS SenderID Protection Registry programme), Jason Lunn (SVP Commercial with imimobile – a major Business Messaging company in the UK and beyond) and Anurag Aggarwal, Director of Messaging with TATA Communications, a global Messaging player based out of India.

Given the amount of Banking related SMS traffic imimobile carries here in the UK, they are fully behind the MEF initiative and it was interesting hearing how the programme really works. Whilst it sounds simple in essence, getting so many different organisations to cooperate and practically share information is no mean feat.

Anurag provided some fantastic insight into what India are doing to rein in spam and fraud attempts in the SMS channel using Blockchain technology. Blockchain has been talked about conceptually for a long time but at last here is a real-life application of it, aimed at benefitting the lives of hundreds of millions of mobile subscribers across India. And it is delivering.

Of course all these initiatives are not without their teething troubles but at the end of the day, it all comes down to collaboration. If one part of the ecosystem stands on the sidelines with their hands in the air saying they have nothing to do with fighting fraud, then initiatives won’t work.

All have their role to play to ensure trust is present across Business Messaging globally and MEF is doing all it can, with the backing and active support of its members, to ensure this is the case. Initiatives such as MEF’s Business SMS Code of Conduct, which is available for any company around the world active in Business SMS to sign up to (whether a MEF member or not), are spreading in influence and educating the various stakeholders across the world of Mobile (subscribers in particular) is key.

Trust has been MEF’s middle name for 20 years and will be as long as our organisation lives and breathes and you (our members) have a huge role to play in delivering and ensuring this remains the case. Thank you for your ongoing support and hard work.

James Williams

Director of Programmes, MEF

  

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