ISPA takes proactive approach to “the future of voice”

Association hosting fraud workshop on Tuesday, 27 November 2012

November 23, 2012

Association hosting fraud workshop on Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Globally, service providers’ revenue from providing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services to businesses and households totalled $58 billion in 2011, up 16% from the previous year.

These and many other statistics show that VoIP will increasingly become the future of voice and in fact most voice traffic internationally is now actually VoIP. Unfortunately, success tends to attract fraudsters, and the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) is taking proactive steps to make South Africa’s VoIP industry a hard nut to crack.

The issue of fraud in VoIP came under discussion at the recent ISPA iWeek Conference in September, and a number of potential types of voice fraud were identified. From this discussion came the idea of holding an ISPA Voice Fraud Prevention Workshop. The initiative is being spearheaded by ISPA member, XConnect SA, within the ambit of ISPA’s Voice Working Group.

“As the volume of voice traffic on the Internet grows, Internet service providers will begin to face the same sorts of threat that e-commerce websites face from cyber criminals,” says Christopher Geerdts, CEO of XConnect SA. “We felt it was sensible to learn from the experience of the web community as a whole, and apply some of their successful techniques to the local VoIP industry sooner rather than later.”

Geerdts says that international premium numbers present one of the commonest types of VoIP fraud opportunity – known as “Toll Fraud”. Premium numbers operate on a revenue-sharing basis: the ISP mobile operator pays a portion of the call revenue to the company that “owns” the number, and that company thus spends marketing dollars to drive traffic to that line. Typically, a premium number would be used to gather audience votes for contestants in a television show like Idols, for example, or to enter a competition.

“What can happen is that a VoIP subscriber’s PBX system gets hacked during a weekend or at night because it now sits on the Internet, and the hacker uses the system to make multiple calls to a premium number registered by accomplices, often located in a foreign country. The hacker then receives a percentage of that revenue back from the ISP,” Geerdts explains. “But it’s the VoIP subscriber and ultimately his ISP who ultimately have to foot the bill.”

These and other scams are already growing globally, and ISPA’s intention is to build strong co-operation across the South African ISP industry now. The idea is that by sharing knowledge and information, alerting others to known offenders, improving collaboration with the police, and developing guidelines, the local industry will make South Africa seem like an unfriendly arena for this type of fraudster.

The workshop will be held on 27 November 2012 at time. The venues will be MTN’s offices in Constantia Park in Johannesburg, with a live video connection to MTN’s offices in Century City in Cape Town.

“Although this is an ISPA initiative, anyone connected to the VoIP voice industry is more than welcome to attend,” Geerdts says. “If we work together, we can make it hard for this type of fraud to take root in South Africa,” he concluded.