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In recent years, unwanted spam robocalls and phone "spoofing" from scammers have made it increasingly challenging to engage prospects through phone calls. As a result, many people have developed a resistance to answering calls from unknown numbers, even those from legitimate businesses. Enter STIR/SHAKEN, a protocol designed to address this issue. In this article, we explore the impact of STIR/SHAKEN on legitimate cold calling and what it means for businesses.

In this article, we delve a little deeper into the transformative protocol of STIR/SHAKEN, tackling the challenges posed by spam robocalls and call spoofing. From understanding the origins of call spoofing to decoding the STIR/SHAKEN protocol, we explore its mechanics, benefits for businesses, and implementation responsibility.

 

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S.T.I.R./S.H.A.K.E.N. PROTOCOL

Call spoofing defined: Phone spoofing has existed for over a decade and gained traction with the widespread use of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. Number spoofing has valid uses, such as displaying all outbound calls as coming from a centralized customer service line rather than individual employee extensions or home office. However, over time, scammers began misusing it for phishing and other fraudulent activities.

 

Understanding the STIR/SHAKEN Protocol:

STIR/SHAKEN is a two-part process with acronyms representing each stage:

 

  • STIR: Secure Telephony Identity Revisited

  • SHAKEN: Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs

 

The protocol involves the assignment of a digital signature to the person making a phone call and its deployment across phone networks to provide visual authentication for users.

 

How STIR/SHAKEN Works:

STIR/SHAKEN authentication is applicable to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls, including those made over WiFi or cellular data. The process involves the following:

 

  • The service provider verifies the call through different validation levels.

  • The recipient's phone displays an indicator when a call is authenticated.

 

STIR/SHAKEN aims to decrease scam robocalls and "spoofed" caller IDs without hindering legitimate businesses from making cold calls to prospects. Operating similarity to email spam filers, it will verify accurate and transparent information about the call's true locality and origin, aiding in distinguishing between spam and legitimate calls.  

 

Benefits for Businesses:

Businesses stand to benefit from the ongoing refinement of the STIR/SHAKEN verification process. This protocol not only has the potential to increase connections with prospects via phone but, with the continuous improvement of the verification badge process, also rebuilds trust in answering calls from unknown numbers. Most importantly, it acts as a deterrent, preventing scammers from misusing caller identification for fraudulent activities.

 

Implementation Responsibility:

Telecom service providers are responsible for implementing the majority of STIR/SHAKEN but sales callers play a role as well. To minimize the risk of being flagged as a "spam call," VoIP users will now need to secure a registered Caller ID directly from their VoIP provider. This ensures that all calls, even when forwarded to another local number, undergo verification at the "A" level for authentication.   

 

When Will STIR/SHAKEN Take Effect?

While STIR/SHAKEN implementation is ready at the network level, the exact visual representation of validation is still being finalized. Prospects, having faced numerous scam robocalls, may still be hesitant to answer the phone until a consistent, visual form of verification is established.

 

Refinement of the SHAKEN/STIRRED Protocol is expected to be ongoing. The specific indicator displayed on the recipient's phone once the call is authenticated, for example remains uncertain, with some U.S. service providers considering a small badge on smartphone screens, similar to Twitter's blue checkmark for verified accounts. Carriers are being deliberately secretive about the specific protocol they use to identify spam calls. This secrecy is intentional, aimed at preventing spammers from finding loopholes or creating workarounds.

 

In the long run, STIR/SHAKEN validation aims to offer a reliable method for call recipients to distinguish between legitimate and questionable calls. This ensures a direct means of contacting the originator in case of any issues and aids businesses in adapting to the evolving landscape, fostering effective communication while trust in cold calls rebuilds.

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