STIR/ SHAKEN Combats Robocalls with Caller ID Verification

How many times a day do you ignore your phone because you don’t recognize the number? Or, are you tempted to answer because the call looks like it is local? Either way, we all hate answering only to hear an automated robocall about a car warranty or insurance. Consumers in the U.S. get around 4 billion robocalls a month. In June 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be implementing new standards called STIR/ SHAKEN so that consumers can have faith that the number calling is actually who they say they are. So what is STIR/ SHAKEN and how will it impact telecommunications and IT? Here are 3 things to know about the new standards. 

Spoofed calls have long been a problem. 

In the telecom industry, we’ve long recognized that robocalls with spoofed called IDs were a major problem. A spoofed call happens when a caller disguises their number and usually replaces it with a local number in order to gain the consumer’s trust and potentially steal information. Let’s be honest–these calls are also incredibly obnoxious and lead businesses and customers to lose trust in phone calls. Thankfully, Congress passed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act in 2019, and mandated the implementation of the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) standards. The creative name was inspired by Ian Fleming’s character James Bond for his distinct preparation instructions for his favorite adult beverage.

STIR/ SHAKEN will validate numbers. 

STIR and SHAKEN are tools that prevent illegal calls and ensure the security of the calling number. A STIR/SHAKEN solution involves a series of protocols to ensure a caller ID has not been spoofed. It works as a simple two-step verification process. First, the originating telephone service provider authenticates the call and sends a digitally signed identity token with the call. Then, the terminating service provider verifies the signature and token and, if successfully verified, informs their subscriber that this is a verified call. Providers will need to implement STIR/ SHAKEN protocols by June 30, 2021. 

There may be some complications around implementation. 

Although STIR/ SHAKEN is great news for consumers, some companies might be experiencing headaches as the protocols get implemented. For one, if the originating provider has already implemented the new protocols but the terminating provider has not, calls might be dropped. Furthermore, STIR/ SHAKEN is only operational on Internet Provider (IP) networks. This means that if a provider is using a network other than IP, they will have to take steps to make sure consumers have the same protections. This might mean upgrading to IP or developing a phone number verification on non-IP networks. 

Once implemented, we will hopefully be able to answer our phones again and know that the person on the other end is who they say they are. While it still doesn’t guarantee that the end user will actually take your call, at least your car warranty worries will be a thing of the past.