AT&T, Comcast Announce ‘First’ Cross-Carrier System to Fight Robocalls

Robocalls Spam Calls Iphone Scam Likely Credit: NY MAG / Intelligencer
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AT&T and Comcast have partnered to debut, what they say is, the nation’s first call authentication system to fight robocalls.

According to a joint press release, the system relies on the SHAKEN/STIR (“Secure Handling of Asserted Information using toKENs” and “Secure Telephony Identity Revisited” protocol). It’s a system that should let consumers know whether or not a number is being spoofed, at least if the calls are made from an AT&T or Comcast number.

While this isn’t the first use of the SHAKEN/STIR protocol, it’s likely the first implementation of the system between two separate voice networks in the U.S.

The SHAKEN/STIR protocol authenticates calls using digital certificates. The primary goal is to verify whether or not a call is actually originating from the number that pops up on a user’s Caller ID. Essentially, it’s a way to mitigate a popular tactic of spam calls: spoofing phone numbers.

At this point in time, SHAKEN/STIR isn’t perfect. It can only authenticate legitimate calls, and it won’t actually stop robocalls. Instead, any call that can’t be authenticated as genuine will show up as an unverified call.

In other words, the calls will still come in. But users will be able to see if the caller is really who they claim to be — and they can answer or decline the call based on that.

If SHAKEN/STIR sounds familiar, it’s because the Federal Communications Commission called for carriers to begin implanting it last year. T-Mobile has been rolling out the system for its subscribers, while other carriers are looking to follow suit.

The system won’t authenticate every call that AT&T and Comcast users receive, at least not at first. And since it’s a joint partnership between the two networks, calls originating from another carrier won’t be verified. That will probably change as the tech is adopted more broadly across the country.

Still, any step taken by carriers toward combating the scourge of robocalls is welcomed. Currently, the only really effective way to stop robocalls are third-party systems like Call Control.

AT&T and Comcast said they hope to have the system roll out for customers on their networks later on this year.

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