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Telstra testing new technology that will block scam SMS messages

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Telstra has begun testing new technology that will be able to block scam SMS messages at a time when the number of scams received by Australians has increased to all new levels.

This year Telstra received 11,100 SMS scam reports from customers compared to just 50 in 2020.

“All of us have probably had an SMS scam message appearing on our phones – that strange, unexpected, garbled and invasive message with an invitation to click on the link to what is partially a malicious website attention,” said Telstra CEO Andy Penn.

“But as SMS scams become more common, we’ve been working on a solution.”

The tool is designed to automatically detect and block scam SMS messages as they travel across the Telstra network with the intention of stopping them before they reach a customer’s mobile phone.

The new technology applies knowledge of what a scam SMS looks like and will automatically scan the content to the message in search for suspicious patterns and other characteristics like time, sender, number of messages sent and the recipient.

Currently Telstra is running a pilot programme within the company so that any scam message is received will help train the systems to spot the difference between illegitimate and a malicious text message.

And the more the system sees, the more it will learn and the smarter it will get.

A small team will access the platform to review suspected scam messages, with the sender and recipient removed to protect privacy.

And once the system reaches a point where it can accurately identify and block the majority of scam SMS it will be enabled at scale across the entire Telstra mobile network early next year.

“Even with all of this work, it is important to understand that this will not be a foolproof solution to scams,” Penn says.

“No technology is perfect, malicious actors will continue to find new methods to attempt to scam Australians and SMS would likely continue to be a part of that.

“We all need to remain alert to the possibility that when we receive an unexpected message that may not be genuine.

“As we expand our proactive capability to detect and block scams in all their forms on our network, across phone and SMS and email, we will be able to keep Australians safer and reduce the amount of money irretrievably lost to scammers.

“We’re proud to address this complex issue with the help of the Federal Government which is providing the necessary guidance and regulatory amendment to support the development and use of this technical capability.”