Anam Technologies, an Enterprise Ireland-supported company, is partnering with mobile operators across the world to secure networks against messaging fraud during the Covid-19 crisis.
The aim is to identify and block fraudulent traffic while protecting messages from legitimate businesses and organisations across partner networks in a time when fraudsters are ever-ready to take advantage, according to Mary-Therese Fitzpatrick, Anam’s Marketing Director.
Today, when it seems there is only bad news, Fitzpatrick describes the partnerships as a good news story: “Industry-wise, there is an increase in business messaging in general, so there is a silver lining.” The operators benefit from a revenue-sharing model on increased business messaging traffic, and their subscribers are safe from any fraudulent activity.
By providing firewalls that filter messages, Anam helps mobile operators ensure that they are protecting their subscribers against spam and fraud. It’s also a broader proposition for the operators. “On the business side, they are safely continuing and commercialising that business messaging,” Fitzpatrick explains.
Anam has been recognised 3 years running in independent surveys as the world’s leading SMS Firewall and A2P (application-to-person) monetisation service provider. Anam’s technology helps mobile operators to increase revenue per user by reducing the amount of spam & fraudulent messaging on their networks. The company partners with leading mobile operators in 85 countries.
The business of messaging
SMS is an essential channel during emergencies for both government and private use. While business SMS weekly traffic has reduced by almost half (retail marketing has nearly stopped), notifications, transactions and alerts traffic have grown with more people at home buying things online.
As the number of messages being sent increases, so too do the opportunities for fraud within the channel.
While the Covid pandemic contributes to a general relaxing of data protection rules, it may also be loosening our own digital defences. When this happens, fraudsters are at the ready.
Fitzpatrick compares Anam’s firewall technology to a tolled road. There will always be those who try to find back ways to the destination. “Part of our solution is detecting that ‘grey route’ traffic; traffic that’s freeloading on an operator’s network,” Fitzpatrick tells us. Anam blocks this traffic and filters it through the paid route, making sure that all traffic is legitimate and clean. They then share the revenue with the operators.
In the context of Covid-19, we see more messages from government services, health systems, e-commerce notifications and food delivery services. Some fraudsters are attempting to take advantage of this, sending texts containing key terms like ‘Covid’, ‘Coronavirus’ and ‘testing’ that might mislead people into giving away sensitive information or clicking on fake links to legitimate-looking websites designed to do the same thing. This is known as phishing.
The texts may look like they are coming from a bank or the government. Some fraudsters even use a tactic known as “spoofing” in which they can make a message appear in a chain of text alongside previous genuine messages. There have also been reports of fraud messages promising free devices or financial relief to cope with the Covid-19 lockdowns.
“If the operator has a firewall installed on their network, they can protect themselves and their subscribers from this malicious messaging,” Fitzpatrick says. And this is precisely what Anam is promoting with international partnerships.
A crucial way to communicate
During emergencies, SMS is an important way to communicate due to its immediacy and reach. Most people in the world have a mobile device capable of receiving SMS, and 90% of the messages tend to be read within three minutes.
The success of the channel, unfortunately, means that some vulnerable groups are misled. They may be isolated and not aware of the fraud risk. They may not be tech-savvy, but they most likely know how to receive an SMS. Fraudulent texts have the potential to reach everyone, even those without sufficient access to high-speed internet.
Fitzpatrick says that there has been an increase in fraudulent traffic. Although the process of detecting and blocking fraudulent traffic is automated to a large extent using AI and machine learning, there is still a manual element involved. The process itself benefits from the close partnership that now exists between Anam and international partners. “There are known addresses across international networks that can be identified and blocked once certain patterns of messaging are detected,” explains Fitzpatrick.
An evolution of traditional technology
While some might dismiss SMS as a technology, Fitzpatrick reminds us that behind every internet messaging service like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, a text message is used as an enabler. “there is a text message happening under the hood because all of those services rely on authenticating the subscriber’s phone number by leveraging the SMS delivery channel in the mobile network,” she says.
Anam’s solution is a very clever evolution within the changing messaging landscape”, Fitzpatrick explains. And the fact that today Anam’s systems and services are being used in 85 countries to protect an estimated three-quarters of a billion subscribers is testament to this.
Anam is currently in a growth phase, expanding its worldwide presence. In November last year, they opened an Africa headquarters in Kenya on the back of significant local contract wins. The new office builds out on the company’s other regional HQ office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and a presence in Egypt, Jamaica, Nigeria, Vietnam, Malta, United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Pakistan.