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Bandwidth & North Carolina State University partner for robocalling study

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George Perry
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Sometimes (not often) it’s good to find out that popularly-held beliefs are wrong. Such is the case with new research from North Carolina State University (NCSU), which has recently debunked some common misconceptions about robocalling. 

Last year, Bandwidth and North Carolina State University (NCSU) partnered on a research study, the results of which are published in the paper, Who’s Calling? Characterizing Robocalls through Audio and Metadata Analysis. Bandwidth provided North Carolina State University with the use of a SIP trunk and 66,000 phone numbers that had been disconnected by our fraud mitigation team for violations of our Acceptable Use Policy. The study, which ran from February 2019 to January 2020, allowed the NCSU research team to collect data on various traffic patterns through call detail records (CDR) and SIP signaling—the results were surprising.

One of the most surprising results of the 11 month study was that the number of fraudulent robocalling campaigns didn’t increase over time, instead remaining steady for the duration of the study. This finding was contrary  to the commonly held understanding that robocalling was on the rise prior to the global shutdowns caused by COVID-19. Also contrary to the warnings  against answering suspicious calls for fear of getting even more calls as a result, there was no increase in the volume of calls after they were answered.

Bandwidth helping to re-establish trust in communications

In the industry’s push towards reestablishing trust in the communications between legitimate businesses and their customers, Bandwidth has taken an active and influential role. We implemented a STIR/SHAKEN solution on our Tier-1 network at the end of 2019 and have completed interoperability with major carriers such as Verizon, T-Mobile, and Comcast to allow the exchange of traffic. The FCC requires service providers to implement STIR/SHAKEN by June 30, 2021.

“We want to abolish robocalling entirely, and a project of this scope puts us one step closer to achieving that,” said David Morken, founder and CEO of Bandwidth. “NC State’s research has expanded our understanding of the origins and behavior of fraudulent traffic traversing the world’s telecom networks. This research helps us examine the differences between unlawful robocalling campaigns and legitimate voice traffic. We believe data-driven analysis like this will one day make it easier for carriers and service providers to traceback the source of these fraudulent calls and intervene with call blocking techniques faster.”

“What was exciting was that we were able to identify calls that were identical or nearly identical, allowing us to group calls into groups that were clearly all affiliated with a single campaign,” said Brad Reaves, co-author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor of computer science at NC State. “So, effectively you can narrow down a big chunk of robocalls to only a few campaigns. And you can track those down. That’s a subject we’ll be discussing at greater length in the future.”

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Learn more about robocalling & STIR/SHAKEN

Want to learn more about STIR/SHAKEN and what the industry is doing to combat robocalling? Read the NC State paper, which won two awards at the Distinguished Paper Award conference, and visit our support site to learn more about STIR/SHAKEN and the steps Bandwidth is taking within the industry to build trust with businesses and their customers.

Read the NCSU paper What is STIR/SHAKEN?