‘Babala!’ NTC counters spam SMS with… text blast warnings

November 24, 2021 - 4:48 PM
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If you can’t beat them, join them?

Cellular service subscribers hit the National Telecommunications Commission for ordering telcos to blast texts to counter the spate of spam messages of job offers.

NTC on November 19 sent a letter to Globe Telecom, Smart Communications, DITO Telecommunity Corp.,and Digital Mobile Philippines, advising them to send out the following proposed message to their subscribers:

BABALA! Huwag maniwala sa text na diumano’y nagaalok ng trabaho. Huwag po magbigay ng personal na impormasyon. Ito po ay isang scam. 

The telcos are given until December 14 to submit a compliance report on the directive.

The initiative comes amid reports of Filipinos receiving a slew of spam text messages offering them jobs or high-paying salaries. There are others that offer the sale of products or items.

Some have suspected that their contact information in contact tracing forms or apps was supposedly being leaked to outside entities.

RELATED: NPC probes reports of spam text messages on sketchy job offers, free cash deals

NTC’s directive didn’t sit well with some Filipinos who saw the move as a “band-aid solution.”

“Lol [laughing out loud] band-aid [solution] hahahaha anong magagawa niyan,” a Twitter user said in response to the initiative.

“Today in doing the bare minimum,” another online user commented.

Others believed that NTC should actively conduct an investigation instead.

“I got one from NTC just now. But what we need is regulation and an investigation. How is our data being handled,” a different Filipino wrote.

“Well and good, but I hope the NTC and the telcos are also looking into how these scammers acquired so many phone numbers in the first place,” commented another Twitter user.

NTC is mandated to regulate and supervise the provision of public telecommunications services.

Based on its website, its mission is to “maintain a responsive regulatory environment for an effective telecommunications or ICT (information and communications technology) sector.

The agency also envisions itself as a “world class regulatory agency meeting the challenges of the digital world” by 2025.

The National Privacy Commission on Tuesday said that a global organized syndicate could be behind the barrage of spam messages victimizing Filipinos.

According to NPC Commissioner Raymund Liboro, it is unlikely that the SMS came from contract tracing systems given the huge chunk of mobile numbers that were illegally obtained.

“Ito ay isang international global na sindikato ang gumagawa nito at gumagamit ng mga numero na nakuha nila sa ibang paraan, malalaking database po na ginagamit nila dito,” he was quoted as saying in a Palace briefing.

“Maaring nanggaling sa mga dating na-breach o na-hack. Ginagalugad na rin natin ang dark web para malaman kung merong nag-trade ng numbers ng mga Pilipino diyan,” Liboro added.

NPC also advised entities that are collecting information, particularly for contact tracing purposes, to ensure that the data are protected.

Smart has stepped up its efforts to stop the proliferation of spam text messages by blocking mobile numbers, as well as web domains and IP addresses used by scammers.

“We protect our customers and block these suspicious accounts on several layers. We block fraudulent accounts based on mobile numbers associated with fraud. But since mobile numbers may be easily replaced, we also block on the domain and IP address levels, as soon as we have evidence that a specific domain is used as a platform by scammers,” Angel Redoble, PLDT and Smart chief information and security officer, said this week.

Globe, on the other hand, said it has deactivated confirmed spam numbers and blocked millions of spam messages this year.

It also said that it terminates numbers of detected spammers through its systems, including those reported in its “Stop Spam” webpage.

“We take unsolicited and fraudulent messages seriously, and protecting Globe customers from these scams remains a top business priority,” Anton Bonifacio, Globe chief information security officer, said.

ALSO READ: Telcos issue reminders for subscribers amid influx of spam messages

NTC on Wednesday admitted that it would be a challenge to trace the influx of phishing messages since the perpetrators used prepaid mobile numbers, which are unregistered.

NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said that telcos only have a database of clients using postpaid numbers.

“Kapag talaga prepaid mahirap ma-trace,” he shared in an interview.

Cabarios said that a mandatory SIM card registration is needed to deter text scams and other cybercrimes.