Robocall takedown: AT&T and T-Mobile team up for cross-network call authentication

AT&T and T-Mobile implementations of the SHAKEN/STIR call authentication standard now interoperate, allowing subscribers to see if a caller is coming from a verified subscriber.

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On Wednesday, AT&T and T-Mobile announced that their respective implementations of the SHAKEN/STIR call-origin validation schema now interoperate. This feature allows compatible phones to display a badge in the Dialer app showing a "Caller Verified" message (or similar phrasing) to assure subscribers that an actual person is on the other end, in an attempt to limit the proliferation of robocalls.

With the announcement of this interoperability, the "Caller Verified" message now appears on compatible phones, for calls between AT&T and T-Mobile users.

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SHAKEN/STIR, which stands for "Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) and the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR)" was proposed by the FCC in 2017. In January 2019, T-Mobile became the first mobile network operator to implement the standards. Integration between AT&T and Comcast was announced in March 2019, which they touted as the first verified call made between two different phone networks.

The standard requires the network operator of the originating call to "sign" the call using a certificate. The network on the receiving end can verify the call by checking the cryptographic signature. Frequently, robocalls rely on Caller ID spoofing, often claiming the originating phone number is from the local area code of the targeted caller to convince victims to answer the call.

According to ZDNet's Liam Tung, the FCC wants robocalls blocked by default, but is not prohibiting network operators from charging an additional fee for the service. The FCC is aiming to bolster regulations against robocalls by banning caller ID spoofing in text messages and international calls, by amending the "Truth in Caller ID Act" of 2009, giving the government the authority to seize US assets of foreign entities found to be spoofing call information to US numbers.

Likewise, the House of Representatives passed the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act on June 24 in a nearly-unanimous vote.

For more, check out "How to block (or at least cut down on) robocalls" on ZDNet, and "How to enable spam call filtering on your Android phone" as well as "RoboKiller v. Nomorobo: Which robocall blocker should iOS users choose?" on TechRepublic.

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By James Sanders

James Sanders is a staff technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI/ML, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on ...