UK mobile operators join forces to combat text spam

Mobile phone users can report spam messages by forwarding them to a central service free of charge

U.K. mobile network operators EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have teamed up with the U.K. Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to try to stop and punish companies that are sending spam text messages.

The falling cost of sending bulk SMS messages is helping criminals to take advantage of consumers' trust of a highly personal medium, according to industry organization GSMA (GSM Association).

The operators are keen to keep text message inboxes free from spam.

"We want our customers to enjoy their mobiles, and spam is a barrier for them to do that. So if we can do something about it, we are keen to," said Guy Middleton, head of corporate communications at Three.

U.K. mobile phone users can report spam messages by forwarding them to "7726" or "SPAM" free of charge using GSMA's Spam Reporting Service. The messages are aggregated and analyzed, providing operators with important details about the origin and size of the attack. Operators can then share the data in real-time to ensure they can all block and cut off spammers.

The ICO's role is to mete out fines if spammers are violating local Privacy of Electronic Communication Regulations, which companies that send direct marketing electronically in the U.K. must comply with. Companies are not allowed to send marketing messages without asking for consent. They are also not allowed to conceal their identities, according to ICO's web site.

As a next step, EE, O2, Three, Vodafone and the ICO are investigating ways to extend the Spam Reporting Service to address nuisance calls, as well.

The Spam Reporting Service is operated on behalf of the GSMA by Cloudmark, a company that specializes in messaging security software. The service was originally launched in February 2011, following a pilot that AT&T, KT, SFR, Sprint, and Vodafone took part in.

The service works as a global clearinghouse of messaging spam reports submitted by mobile phone users. By combining different kinds of data, it gives operators the ability to understand the amount of spam entering and leaving their networks, as well as the amount of spam within their networks, according to GSMA's website.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

Tags antispamEEconsumer electronicssecurityGSM Associationo2smartphonesVodafone Groupthree

More about CloudmarkGSM AssociationICOmobilesO2SFRSprintVodafone

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