NTC orders telcos to deactivate, block links in scam text messages

THE National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has directed telecommunication companies to block or deactivate domains and uniform resource locators (URLs) contained in scam text messages.

In a letter to Smart Communications, Inc., Globe Telecom, Inc., and DITO Telecommunity Corp. dated Sept. 12, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel A. Cordoba said that URLs, TinyURLS, SmartLinks and QR codes from malicious sites identified by a government database must be blocked or deactivated.

“The NTC is conducting investigation; we are (focusing) on prevention,” Edgardo V. Cabarios, an NTC deputy commissioner, told reporters on Tuesday during the inauguration of PLDT and Smart’s integrated operations center.

Mr. Cabarios also appealed to telco consumers to avoid clicking on malicious links they receive in text messages, saying, “If nobody is baited to click the links, there will be no victims of scams.”

Mr. Cabarios said the NTC is also ordering blocks on subscriber identity module (SIM) cards found to have been sending spam messages.

Smart Vice-President and Head of Regulatory Affairs Roy D. Ibay said in a statement that the NTC organized a meeting with telcos to collaborate and draft a memorandum aimed at deactivating links to malicious sites.

“Smart has been conducting such efforts in the past which has led to 342 million ‘smishing’ messages blocked from June to August alone,” Mr. Ibay said.

“We support the initiative of the NTC to protect the public from phishing, smishing, quishing, and other forms of illegal activities. We will comply with the NTC’s directive,” DITO Telecom Chief Administrative Officer Adel A. Tamano said in a statement issued via Viber.

In a statement, messaging platform Viber said that the company has also conducted an internal investigation regarding unsolicited “personalized” text scams.  

“Viber always prioritizes the safety and security of our users, and the Philippines is one of our top priority countries — we will continue to invest any resources needed to support our users. We are extending our willingness to cooperate with authorities to ensure the urgent resolution of this issue,” Viber said.  

In a statement issued last week, Anton Reynaldo M. Bonifacio, chief information security officer of Globe, said that the company was able to block 784 million scam and spam messages between January and July. — Ashley Erika O. Jose

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