When our phone numbers became key personal identifiers, we inadvertently lost control over our privacy. Here’s how blockchain technology is coming to the rescue by bringing much-needed security to our numbers.
As we learned in Blockchain to the Rescue – Part One, blockchain technology is being applied to many aspects of the telecommunications industry that have been mired in cumbersome legacy protocols and processes.
Perhaps the most important way that blockchain will revolutionize the world of telecom as we know it today is in the area of privacy and security.
Our smartphones can now perform a vast array of functions, from controlling the heat in our homes to completing financial transactions.
But our phone numbers are also universally used as unique personal identifiers, connected to even more databases than our social security numbers.
When Facebook revealed in September 2019 that 419 million phone numbers in its database had been leaked, it raised eyebrows for good reason. Put your phone number together with a few key pieces of information that can be easily gleaned from social media, and any bad actor has what they need to steal your identity and wreak havoc on your life.
Social Engineering Crimes On the Rise
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the growth in identity fraud and social engineering attacks is directly correlated to the growth in cell phone ownership.
What can a cybercriminal do with just your phone number? A lot!
A phone number is all that’s needed to find your name, email, address and anything that’s publicly available on social media sites or the Internet. Cybercriminals can then send scam messages (aka ‘smishing’) via your phone, and if they’ve gleaned a few choice pieces of personal information, their messages can be quite convincing.
Using your phone number, bad actors can impersonate you to open new accounts, upgrade for free phones and other services or switch carriers. And in the worst case scenario, cybercriminals can potentially hack into financial accounts that use text-message two-factor authentication. After redirecting any texts sent to verify your identity, they can then change passwords and gain access to your bank accounts.
Your privacy is invaded and potentially compromised when you do just about anything online – conduct a Google search, watch a show on Netflix, buy a product, check your balance or comment publicly on any social media platform.
Any business – including any of their staff – that you’ve given your phone number to can access most or all of your personal account information. And once you release your phone number, it’s like a sent email. It’s out there forever.
How many entities have your phone numbers and thus can access much of your personal information? Who in this cyberworld hasn’t been subjected to robocalls, phishing scams and other forms of social engineering and manipulation?
We can control some – but not all – of our privacy settings when we participate in our online world. Carriers have tried to use robotext blocking and anti-spoofing tools to protect consumers, but these antiquated measures have also blocked consensual messages. Current technologies that attempt to control privacy, mitigate fraud and prevent leaked information are heavily siloed, inflexible and inefficient.
In short, no one – not the FCC nor any carriers – has found a magic wand to protect against phone slamming, social engineering scams and other types of fraud that are on the rise as a result of the widespread ways in which we use our phones.
Securing Ownership – A Giant Step Toward Greater Security
Business that want to remain relevant and competitive in today’s text-savvy world must be able to receive texts from their customers.
It’s also become imperative for business owners to take phone fraud seriously. An experiment run by Somos, the Toll-Free registry, found it was disarmingly simple for a bad actor to text-enable a competitor’s phone number. This and other forms of telephone fraud can take an enormous toll on a company’s budget and their reputation.
Blockchain helped solve this problem by enabling the owners of both local and Toll-Free phone numbers to claim the ownership rights to their numbers.
Midori’s powerful proprietary solution Text ProtectTM (patent pending) protects businesses from having their numbers illegally text-enabled or ‘slammed.’ Text Protect is the easiest but most effective way for businesses to protect their phone numbers and thus their brand against common forms of telephone fraud.
The rightful owner simply attaches a multi-digit alphanumeric code to their numbers before any changes – such as text enablement – may be made. Eventually, the business owner can respond to incoming texts with simple, programmable outbound messages that can be created in a matter of minutes, which can save significant time and money over traditional phone calls.
Kicking Out the Middlemen
Eventually blockchain technology will be able to solve a whole host of other security issues. For example, by creating a kind of firewall, blockchain technology enables the owner to keep their calling and browsing history private.
By eliminating all the middlemen – Facebook, Google, Twitter and any other entities that can view and potentially sell your data – blockchain enables only the person who owns the number to determine who can connect to them.
For anyone who’s had to deal with the frustration of receiving hundreds of spam and robocalls, this is huge. Blockchain can trace the origin of a call, identify the 30 billion or so spam or robocalls made every year and then disable them when call recipients identify and reject their call.
It creates a whole new highly scalable and actionable schema that can redefine how calls are routed, how information is transmitted and how numbers are used in the query, not just in the U.S. but all over the world.
Remember: the whole point of developing new telecom technologies is to help people communicate with each other more efficiently and effectively.
That’s why we at Midori Interactive wholeheartedly support and are using blockchain technology to create a more participatory telecommunications network that will mitigate fraud, protect consumer privacy and enable us to more easily connect to our favorite people and businesses.
Noah Rafalko, Chief Enterprise Officer
Midori Interactive, Inc.