By Bruno Coindre, VP Messaging Solutions

Critical Connections during COVID-19

Digital transformation has rapidly accelerated to cope with the COVID-19 crisis and new work environment due to the lockdown of many countries around the world. We are still observing and learning from this new situation and its impact on the telecom business. One of the key changes we have observed at iBASIS is the steady growth of SMS/A2P messages. In this article, we’ll share with you some communications trends that may last longer than the crisis, some new usage that has recently emerged but also, unfortunately, the arrival of new forms of SMS fraud.

It’s not new, but SMS communication still remains one of the most reliable and efficient ways to connect to, and benefit from, a wider reach than Internet apps have. Mobile operators can reach almost the entire population thanks to the broad coverage of their 2G, 3G and 4G networks and the diverse types of mobile devices on the market and get confirmation that messages (SMS) are delivered to the handsets. Since the inception of mobile communications, end-users have been able to receive SMS seamlessly even while roaming.

During the COVID-19 crisis, SMS has proven to be a reliable, simple way to relay information or alerts to everyone – even populations not equipped with smart phones or digitally connected via social media. Over the past several weeks, SMS/A2P traffic types have changed (e.g. retail marketing traffic dropped at the beginning of the lockdown as shops were closing). However, traffic grew in multiple areas such as transaction confirmation, authentication, one-time password use, notifications and alerts. Governments, health authorities and agencies are also relying on SMS/A2P for time-critical communications. More recently, with plans to relax confinement rolling out at different times in different locations, enterprises and shops are also dispatching quick information to employees and/or customers via SMS/A2P. As a result, new usage of SMS has emerged in line with the rise of new models of consumption and delivery that are expected to continue to develop during this transition and the upcoming months.

UK government-themed SMS phishing

At the same time we have witnessed a fraud boom, with imposters trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 situation regarding government aid, tax filing notifications, and more. Unfortunately, the list of types of COVID-19 scams and frauds is growing very long. Many reports show scammers using phishing techniques, impersonating agents from legitimate authorities. “Smishing” – or phishing via SMS – are scams that trick users into sending money or sharing personal account details with fraudsters, who use messages that often include links to a fake website or phone numbers to convince people to reveal their personal credentials. “Spoofing” is another technique used by fraudsters that makes the message appear in a chain of texts among previous and authentic ones. Many specialists and researchers are expecting these incidents to rise and are acknowledging the growing sophistication of these scams.

The growth of SMS scams must be vigorously addressed before it overwhelmingly impacts global SMS/A2P business, which is estimated to reach approximately $50.1 billion by 2023 with a CAGR of 4.7% over the forecast period 2018-2023, according to a recent MRFR study.

The current situation highlights how the extent to which SMS providers are ideal targets for these dark players. This goes beyond the idea of generating additional revenues in monetizing SMS. There is without a doubt much more value in protecting subscribers from fraud and scams. As the emergence of highly sophisticated forms of fraud generates more and more liability for telecom players.

At iBASIS, we have addressed both these aspects in our SMS solution. We provide solutions not only to help carriers capture more revenue from their SMS business, optimizing access to their infrastructure, but we also put in place the proper mechanisms to protect their subscribers from these risks and vulnerabilities – providing real-time detection and blocking tools while staying compliant with all GDPR and privacy rules.

To learn more about how we can better protect your subscribers and SMS traffic, reach out to us at contact@iBASIS.net.

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