Telstra customers and folks on Telstra MVNOs might not see another SMS scam again, as the telco turns up the tech and the heat.
If you’re tired of the regularity of SMS scams, you’re not alone, because SMS phishing is becoming more and more of a problem. Messages that come out of the blue pushing the urgency that is a click have become so frequent, there are often more of those coming into your phone than messages from your friends and family, and they don’t seem to stop.
It’s not a problem specific to one telco over another, with everyone affected. Whether you’re using the majors — Telstra, Optus, or Vodafone — or one of the virtual operators working on those major networks, SMS scams can hit you, making it possible that you’ll fall for a fake voicemail link leading to an app install, the hint of a fake prize giveaway, or another of the many, many SMS scams. There are a number of ways scammers can go after you over text messages, and the frequency is going up, up, up, as scammers learn how to look like the real deal, tricking a number of people on the way.
Over the past year, Telstra has been trying to fix it with something the telco calls its “Cleaner Pipes” project, leveraging the power of artificial intelligence to understand what’s going on and proactively block scams. That’s largely been associated with scam calls, but scam messages are a part of the tech, as well, and lately, the telco has been turning up the pressure.
The latest Cleaner Pipes initiative is to go after SMS scams, thanks in part to the 11,000 scam reports its customers have made this year alone.
With more reports being made and customers switched on to what a scam looks like, Telstra’s addition to Cleaner Pipes is to apply artificial intelligence to these reports and try to learn how scams look and work, blocking messages like them from its mobile network. Essentially, Telstra’s system will scan messages sent on its network, and when something looks dodgy, Telstra will block it, looking at patterns of similarity sent by users that may not be connected with anyone you know.
“We are currently running a pilot of this capability inside Telstra, so that any scam SMS messages sent to our people help ‘train’ the systems to spot the difference between a legitimate and a malicious SMS,” said Andy Penn, CEO for Telstra.
“The more scams it sees the smarter it will get,” he said.
Telstra told Pickr that much like how Cleaner Pipes works for users of Telstra’s network on other operators, the technology being used here will also work beyond its customers, existing across the entirety of its network. Optus and Vodafone miss out, but Telstra MVNOs including Aldi, Belong, Boost, Lyca, Mate, Pennytel, Tangerine, and Woolworths Mobile are all covered, meaning they’ll be protected, as well.
The technology will also reportedly evolve as more scams come in, growing as it learns the patterns of scam messages, not just from what it sees, but what people report.
According to Telstra, it will include a mechanism for people to manually report scams, initially for staff at the company before rolling out to support friends and family, as well.
Next year, the company expects SMS scams to largely be dealt with and for there to be little to report, but will provide a way to submit reports for the scam blocking engine to learn from.
“Even with all of this work, it is important to understand that this will not be a foolproof solution to scams; no technology is perfect, malicious actors will continue to find new methods to attempt to scam Australians, and SMS will likely continue to be a part of that,” said Penn.
“We all need to remain alert to the possibility that when we receive an unexpected message it may not be genuine.”